LONDON: Arsene Wenger said that Arsenal had enjoyed a “perfect week” after they won 2-0 at Aston Villa on Sunday (Monday in Manila) to supplant Manchester City at the Premier League summit.
Arsenal reached the Champions League last 16 on Wednesday by winning 3-0 at Olympiakos, Olivier Giroud scoring all three goals, and the Frenchman set the London side on their way against Villa with an early penalty.
Aaron Ramsey doubled Arsenal’s lead before half-time, starting and finishing a swift counter-attack, as Wenger’s men leapfrogged both City and former leaders Leicester City, who host champions Chelsea on Monday.
“It was a perfect week for us,” Wenger told the BBC. “We spent a lot of energy away in the Champions League on Wednesday, but found the resources to win again here today (Sunday), in another away match.
“This season is so unpredictable that you just focus on yourself and try to play well in the next game. You know if you are consistent then you have a chance.”
Arsenal’s fans’ happiness at seeing their side go top was enhanced hours later when arch rivals Tottenham Hotspur’s 14-game unbeaten run was ended by a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of Newcastle United.
Meanwhile, substitute Divock Origi scored a 96th-minute equalizer as Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool drew 2-2 at home to West Bromwich Albion.
At Villa Park, Giroud sent Brad Guzan the wrong way from the penalty spot in the eighth minute after Alan Hutton was penalized for holding back Theo Walcott, which gave the France striker his 50th Arsenal league goal.
Ramsey made it 2-0 seven minutes before half-time, tackling Idrissa Gueye in midfield and sparking a move that saw the ball pass from Walcott to Mesut Ozil, who squared the ball for the Welshman to roll home.
In keeping Villa at bay, Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech equaled former England international David James’s Premier League record of 169 clean sheets.
Villa manager Remi Garde had been hoping to get one over his former mentor Wenger, who signed him as a player at Arsenal, but his team remains eight points adrift of safety at the foot of the table.
Arsenal went a point clear of City and Leicester and four points above fourth-place Manchester United, who lost 2-1 at Bournemouth on Saturday.
Origi rescues Liverpool
Tottenham would have moved above United had they beaten Newcastle, but they remain fifth, three points below the Champions League berths, after late goals from substitutes Aleksandar Mitrovic and Ayoze Perez took Steve McClaren’s side out of the relegation zone at Norwich City’s expense.
Eric Dier’s glancing header from Christian Eriksen’s corner gave Spurs a 39th-minute lead, but Mitrovic poked home an equalizer two minutes after coming on as a 72nd-minute substitute before Perez squeezed a winner beneath Hugo Lloris in the third minute of added time.
“We are very disappointed in the dressing room,” said Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino.
“This is our 16th league game and our second defeat. It is a bad feeling, but we need to work hard and look forward.”
Newcastle manager McClaren said his side had “answered the critics”, but warned: “We haven’t turned the corner yet. We need more performances like that.”
Newcastle had shown a marked improvement by beating Liverpool last weekend and
Klopp’s men needed a last-gasp intervention from Origi to avoid a second consecutive defeat against West Brom.
Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson marked his first start since August with a 21st-minute opener, but Craig Dawson punished an error by goalkeeper Simon Mignolet to equalize on the half hour before Jonas Olsson headed the visitors in front in the 73rd minute from Chris Brunt’s corner.
Liverpool center-back Dejan Lovren had to be stretchered off with a nasty knee injury, but the eight minutes of injury time that ensued enabled Origi to rescue the hosts with a deflected 25-yard shot.
“We created chances, made a perfect goal, then conceded those two,” said Klopp.
“But at the end I can live with it. This could prove to be a very special moment for us in the season to strike back against such a team.”
Liverpool rise one place to ninth, five points off the top four, with Tony Pulis’s West Brom four points further back in 13th.