LONDON - Arsenal swept back to the top of the Premier League as two goals in the space of 60 seconds clinched a 2-1 win at Aston Villa yesterday.
Arsene Wenger's side had slipped down to third after title rivals Chelsea and then Manchester City took turns at the top over the weekend.
But Arsenal reclaimed pole position, moving one point clear of second placed City, thanks to a quick-fire double at Villa Park.
England midfielder Jack Wilshere opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a cool finish from Nacho Monreal's pass.
And the Gunners struck again less than one minute later when France striker Olivier Giroud showed great technique to control Wilshere's pass and fire past Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan for his 12th goal of the season
Christian Benteke reduced the deficit with a diving header in the 76th minute, but the Villa striker's first goal since September came too late to spark a fightback from the hosts.
A bad night for Villa was capped by an injury to Nathan Baker that saw the young defender taken to hospital with a mild concussion after being stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask.
Wenger was impressed with Arsenal's spirited display against a Villa side who finished strongly.
"It was vital because the first half was more about playing, and the second half was more about fighting," he said.
"They made it very physical, put the ball up high in the air and we had a very good resilient performance in the second half. Overall, we have shown again both sides of the game."
Asked how he rated Arsenal's title chances, Wenger added: "Let's take care of our performances. We have got to go forward and always get the points.
"Then we can see if we can make a difference with the other teams."