First-half goals from Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey secured a 2-0 victory over Aston Villa as Arsenal climbed to the top of the Premier League table. 

Arsene Wenger's came out on top on another frustrating day for Villa boss Remi Garde, who played for the Gunners under his fellow Frenchman, as the hosts missed the chance to close the gap on their relegation rivals. 

The supporters inside Villa Park were boosted by a bright start from their side when Scott Sinclair sent a powerful early strike straight at Petr Cech.

Optimism was soon replaced with disappointment when Theo Walcott sprinted in behind Alan Hutton, who put both hands on the England international to persuade Kevin Friend to point to the spot after the referee had take a few moments to consider his decision.

Giroud, whose hat-trick secured a vital Champions League win over Olympiacos in midweek, continued his fine form by sending Brad Guzan the wrong way with the penalty in just the eight minute.

Arsenal could have been further ahead when Guzan failed to correctly judge the flight of a free kick, but the Villa defence recovered to clear the danger from Giroud's header.

Villa rarely threatened before the break, with Cech able to look on comfortably as Idrissa Gueye fired wide from the edge of the box.

The visitors found a crucial second goal prior to the interval, as Ramsey won possession from Gueye despite appearing to get little of the ball with the tackle, and the Welshman finished a counter-attack just seconds later by slotting home after the Villa defence had parted to gift space to Mesut Ozil.

Garde's men responded with extra pace to their play after the break, but their hopes of reducing the deficit early in the second half were dealt a blow when Rudy Gestede headed wide of the post.

Arsenal struggled to retain the control they enjoyed in the opening 45 minutes, and Cech was left breathing a sigh of relief when an unmarked Sinclair sent a header over after being found by Hutton.

Leandro Bacuna then threatened with a curling effort which drifted just over after being gifted space on the edge of the box, but Villa's failure to score while on top would cost them as Arsenal improved once again.

A third goal almost arrived late on when Ramsey and Ozil combined to find Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the substitute's deflected effort was tipped wide of the post by Guzan.

Villa were unable to set up an uncomfortable finish as Adam Traore sent a shot into the side-netting to the relief of Arsenal, who could be replaced at the top by Leicester City on Monday, and the loss leaves the Garde's side eight points adrift of safety at the bottom. 

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13/12/15

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