Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 0: Gibbs, Walcott and Arteta help Gunners consolidate third

Arsenal 3 Aston Villa 0: Gibbs, Walcott and Arteta help Gunners consolidate third

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UPDATED:

17:32 GMT, 24 March 2012

Arsenal strengthened their grip on third place in the Barclays Premier League with a comfortable 3-0 win over Aston Villa at Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners made it seven straight league wins to make the most of Tottenham's goalless draw at Chelsea with first half goals from Kieran Gibbs and Theo Walcott.

Party time: Theo Walcott takes the plaudits after his strike

Party time: Theo Walcott takes the plaudits after his strike

MATCH FACTS

Arsenal: Szczesny, Sagna, Djourou, Vermaelen, Gibbs (Santos 68), Arteta, Song, Walcott (Oxlade-Chamberlain 77), Rosicky, Gervinho (Ramsey 68), Van Persie. Subs not used: Fabianski, Jenkinson, Chamakh,
Benayoun.

Scorers: Gibbs 16, Walcott 25, Arteta 90.

Aston Villa: Given, Hutton (Lichaj 78), Collins, Cuellar, Warnock, Petrov, Herd (Gardner 52), Albrighton, Ireland, Heskey (Weimann 65), Agbonlahor. Subs not used: Guzan, Bannan, Baker, Carruthers.

Booked: Petrov, Warnock, Ireland, Collins.

Referee: Phil Dowd.

Attendance: 60,108.

Villa rarely threatened with Mikel
Arteta cracking in a fine free-kick in stoppage time as Arsenal coasted
to victory, putting them three points ahead of Spurs, with fifth-placed
Chelsea now eight behind in the race for guaranteed Champions League
football next season.

Arsenal had made just one change from
the team which won at Everton in midweek, with Gervinho replacing Aaron
Ramsey, but were forced into another when centre-half Laurent Koscielny
suffered what was thought to be a knee injury in the warm-up so Johan
Djourou came in.

Before kick-off, there was applause
as a banner of former Arsenal midfielder Fabrice Muamba was passed among
supporters, the Bolton player now making good progress following his
cardiac arrest last weekend.

There was an early stoppage when
Djourou went down following a stray elbow from former England striker
Emile Heskey, preferred to Austrian Andreas Weimann – who scored a
stoppage-time winner against Fulham last time out.

1-0: Villa keeper Shay given is beaten by Kieran Gibbs (not pictured)

1-0: Villa keeper Shay given is beaten by Kieran Gibbs (not pictured)

The Swiss international needed
treatment for a bloody nose, but there was no action taken by Phil Dowd –
much to the annoyance of Gunners boss Arsene Wenger.

It was Villa who created the first
opening when Marc Albrighton charged down the right and into the Arsenal
penalty area, only to stumble and fire the ball over the bar.

One to remember: Gibbs celebrates his goal

One to remember: Gibbs celebrates his goal

Arsenal were soon on the offensive, with Walcott's shot blocked before right-back Bacary Sagna blasted the loose ball wide.

The Gunners took the lead through an unlikely source after 16 minutes.

Gervinho fed Gibbs into the left side
of the Villa box, and the defender's low, angled drive squirmed under
Shay Given's arm for the England international's first Premier League
goal.

Three and easy: Mikel Arteta's free-kick gave Shay Given no chance

Three and easy: Mikel Arteta's free-kick gave Shay Given no chance

Arsenal maintained momentum, and after 25 minutes, Walcott dispatched a magnificent effort to double Arsenal's lead.

Alex Song's chipped pass into the
Villa box was taken in his stride on the run by the England winger,
whose next touch was to calmly stroke the ball into the bottom corner.

Rejuvenated: Arsenal celebrate Arteta's strike

Rejuvenated: Arsenal celebrate Arteta's strike

The Gunners were rampant now, with Arteta's fierce drive from 20 yards being tipped over by Given.
When Villa did get some respite on the break, the delivery into the Arsenal penalty area was poor.
Stephen Warnock denied Gunners skipper Robin van Persie with a desperate
flying header on the line after more slick build-up from the hosts.

Villa had to come out positive for the second half, which then left gaps as Arsenal looked to capitalise on the counter-attack.

Respect: Arsenal fans and players pay tribute to former Gunner Fabrice Muamba

Respect: Arsenal fans and players pay tribute to former Gunner Fabrice Muamba

Arsenal were awarded a free-kick
yards out after substitute Gary Gardner tugged back Tomas Rosicky.
Arteta struck his effort into the wall.

On the hour, a quick thrown out by
Wojciech Szczesny sent Czech midfielder Rosicky away, who fed Gervinho
down the left, but his cutback from the byline flew across the six-yard
box.

Stopped in his tracks: Stephen Ireland brings down Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Stopped in his tracks: Stephen Ireland brings down Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

Rosicky was central to the action now, with Given beating away his 25-yard drive.
After 65 minutes, Heskey was replaced by Weimann.

Arsenal soon made a double change as Ramsey and full-back Andre Santos came on for Gervinho and Gibbs.

Comfortable win: Arsenal players toast Arteta's late strike

Comfortable win: Arsenal players toast Arteta's late strike

The Brazilian's first contribution on
his return to action from a broken ankle was to give the ball away to
Weimann, but the Austrian lost composure in the Arsenal box and fluffed
his big chance, stabbing across goal and wide.

Arsenal were screaming for a penalty
when substitute Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain scampered away down the right
and went down under a sliding challenge from Stephen Ireland, but
referee Dowd correctly ruled the midfielder had just got the ball first.

The crowd were on their feet again in
stoppage time when Arteta cracked home a 25-yard free-kick to round off
a fine afternoon's work from Wenger's reborn side.