Arsene Wenger said that Arsenal had enjoyed a “perfect week” after they won 2-0 at Aston Villa on Sunday 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 equaliser 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 penalised 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 equalled 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 remain 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 equaliser 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.”