Giroud hits treble as Arsenal thrash Aston Villa to grab second place
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
Arsenal 4 Aston Villa 0
Olivier Giroud’s hat-trick sank relegated Villa as Arsenal signed off with a victory – and snatched the Premier League runners-up spot from rivals Tottenham.
Giroud put the Gunners in front early on and then grabbed a quickfire double in the second half to ensure that his side secured their highest league finish since 2005.
A rout appeared to be on the cards when Giroud gave the Gunners a fifth-minute lead, nodding a pinpoint cross from Nacho Monreal beyond the diving Mark Bunn.
Villa briefly threatened a response when Jordan Ayew evaded Hector Bellerin and advanced into the box, but Laurent Koscielny came to his team-mate’s rescue.
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And there were ironic celebrations from the travelling fans when Petr Cech stooped to gather what technically constituted a shot on target by Ashley Westwood.
While Arsenal looked thoroughly comfortable, they were unable to build on that early advantage in the remainder of the first half, frequently over-elaborating as they turned the screw on a frail Villa back line.
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Alexis Sanchez did pick out the run of Jack Wilshere to the far post, but the midfielder – back in the starting line-up for the first time since last season – bundled the chance into the side netting.
That pattern extended into the second half as Mesut Ozil lashed a volley across goal and Santi Cazorla teed up Bellerin, who skied wildly into the stand.
Villa, meanwhile, began to grow in confidence, sensing their chance to bid farewell to the top flight with something tangible, and Ayew broke free again before firing straight at Cech.
The home side wasted numerous chances to put the contest to bed, with Sanchez curling a free-kick off target and then setting up substitute Mohamed Elneny, who blazed his volley over the bar.
But the Emirates erupted in relief with 11 minutes remaining as Ozil exchanged passes with Sanchez and crossed low for Giroud to sweep home his second goal.
And the crowd were on their feet again just seconds later as Bellerin’s angled ball pierced the Villa rearguard and the Frenchman slid in to complete his treble.
Sanchez almost scored with a chip that Bunn got just enough on to deflect wide – but it mattered little to the Arsenal faithful, who were already joyously celebrating news of Spurs’ collapse at St James’ Park.
And the icing was added to their cake in injury time when captain Mikel Arteta, making his final appearance as a late substitute, drilled in number four with a shot that hit the bar and bounced in off Bunn’s back.
Arsenal: Cech; Bellerin, Gabriel, Koscielny, Monreal; Cazorla (Campbell 88), Coquelin; Wilshere (Elneny 69), Ozil (Arteta 88), Sanchez; Giroud.