- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

LONDON (AP) - Mesut Ozil scored a goal and created another in Arsenal’s emphatic 5-0 victory over Aston Villa on Sunday as the London club earned its biggest Premier League win this season.

Olivier Giroud put the home side ahead in the eighth minute after a sublime backheel pass from Ozil sent the striker through on goal. With only Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan to beat, Giroud chipped it over the onrushing American.

Ozil doubled Arsenal’s lead in the 56th, finishing off a quick counterattack by slotting the ball into the low right corner in the midfielder’s first league start since returning from injury.

Theo Walcott added a third and his first league goal of the season after exchanging passes with Santi Cazorla before firing inside the far post.

“The finish was great, but it is all about three points,” Walcott said. “Everyone, the whole crowd is buzzing (and) that happens when a team is at the top.”

It was Walcott’s first league start since returning from a knee ligament injury sustained last season against north London rival Tottenham, which the Gunners face next weekend.

Cazorla converted a penalty after substitute Chuba Akpom was fouled by Guzan, who got a hand to Cazorla’s shot and nearly saved it, prompting the goalkeeper to kick a post after the penalty went in.

Hector Bellerin scored a fifth in added time, side-footing from just outside the area after Cazorla’s slick pass set up the right back.

The resounding win was even more remarkable because it was accomplished without star player Alexis Sanchez, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury. It leaves the Gunners in fifth place, a point behind Manchester United.

It was the first time Arsenal has won three consecutive league matches this season.

“We have maybe found a better consistency,” manager Arsene Wenger said. “Let’s show we can win more.”

Ozil, who has been criticized by some sections of the Arsenal support, looked to have benefited the most from the win. He looked lively and creative, and threw his shirt to applauding fans in the stands before heading into the tunnel.

Villa, on the other hand, struggled throughout to create chances and collapsed after Ozil scored.

“The disappointing thing was the second goal,” manager Paul Lambert said. “You can’t lose the ball with 80 yards and then they score.”

The defeat left the club without a win in eight matches, and Villa is now in 16th place, just three points above the relegation zone. Villa has only scored one goal during the poor run of form, on Dec. 20 against Manchester United.

The visitors had only two clear chances in the entire match, nearly equalizing as the first half was coming to a close, but Andreas Weimann’s header was well-saved by Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina, who was once again preferred to Wojciech Szczesny. Ashley Westwood tested Ospina in the final action of the match with a strong shot that Ospina had to parry.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is considering a run for the White House, was sitting in the VIP box as part of a three-day visit to London.

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