Mesut Ozil helped Arsenal shake off the hangover of a midweek pounding in Germany with a starring role in a 3-0 win at Aston Villa but stuttering Liverpool lost 3-1 at West Ham United in the Premier League on Saturday.
Arsenal’s record signing came in for particular criticism after his team’s lame 2-0 defeat by Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday, but he came alive before halftime at one of the London side’s happiest hunting grounds.
Ozil’s first away goal in an Arsenal shirt put them ahead after 32 minutes, he then teed up Danny Welbeck to open his account for the club two minutes later before an own goal by Villa’s Aly Cissokho ended the game as a contest after 36.
Victory extended Arsenal’s unbeaten run at Villa Park to 16 matches and lifted them to nine points from five games – three points behind leaders Chelsea who on Sunday visit a Manchester City side in sixth spot on seven points.
Last season’s runners-up Liverpool, who unlike Arsenal enjoyed a winning start to their Champions League campaign this week, slipped to defeat against West Ham after conceding two goals in the first seven minutes at Upton Park.
Winston Reid and Diafra Sakho put the Hammers ahead and, although Raheem Sterling replied before halftime, Morgan Amalfitano’s late goal condemned Liverpool to a third league defeat in five games this season.
Southampton are a point ahead of Arsenal after a 1-0 win at Swansea City, who had Wilfried Bonysent off in the first half.
Victor Wanyama’s 80th-minute goal moved the impressive Saints into second place with 10 points, the same as Villa who until Saturday’s first-half capitulation had been unbeaten.
Alan Pardew’s job prospects looked gloomy as Newcastle United trailed 2-0 at home to Hull City but two late goals from Papiss Cisse earned a 2-2 draw at St James’ Park where fans waved “SackPardew.com” posters.
A sensational Nikica Jelavic volley and a thumping strike from Mohamed Diame had put Hull in control but Cisse’s double lifted winless Newcastle off the bottom with three points.
Arsenal have been balancing Champions League and Premier League duties for more than a decade, while for Liverpool’s players this season is something of a step into the unknown.
So Saturday’s results were not entirely surprising.
While Arsenal were woeful in midweek, they produced the perfect response to criticism of their display in Dortmund, although a sickness bug that swept the Villa camp helped Arsene Wenger’s men ease to victory.
“Ashley Westwood was being sick in the warm up and Andreas Weimann was getting it during the game. Nathan Baker and Darren Bent were also out with it,” Villa boss Paul Lambert said.
“To play Arsenal you need everyone fit.”
There was little early sign that Villa were suffering during an even opening half hour.
It was the home side who almost struck first when Ciaran Clark’s header from a Tom Cleverly free kick was superbly saved by Arsenal keeper Wojciech Szczesny.
But former Real Madrid playmaker Ozil, taking up his favoured role just behind striker Welbeck, lit the touchpaper for an exhilarating spell of football by Arsenal.
Welbeck played a perfect through ball and Germany international Ozil made no mistake with a cool sidefoot finish.
Ozil’s inviting cross was then struck high into the net by a grateful Welbeck, who wasted chances against Dortmund in midweek and on his debut against Manchester City last weekend.
Villa were stunned and fell further behind a minute later when Cissokho diverted a Kieran Gibbs shot into his own net.
“We had a very, very good first half, we were in control and dominated the game,” Arsenalmanager Arsene Wenger told the BBC.
“I think the first goal was a big blow for Villa and they couldn’t recover. This was a very important result for us.”
Liverpool had lost only two of their previous 23 meetings with West Ham in all competitions but had no answer to the fired-up Londoners on a drizzly night in east London.
They have now lost consecutive league games following last week’s home defeat by Villa and manager Brendan Rodgers admitted “it’s not quite happening for us”.
Winston Reid nodded West Ham ahead from close range after two minutes and Liverpool were reeling five minutes later when Sakho’s cross aimed for the head of Enner Valencia went directly into the goal with keeper Simon Mignolet stranded.
“We made a slow start and before we knew where we were we were 2-0 down,” Rodgers told reporters. “We should be better than what we were today. Our performance level wasn’t anywhere near what I would expect today.”
Sterling’s well-struck shot gave Liverpool hope of turning things around but apart from a couple of shots by Mario Balotelli and Fabio Borini in the second half they never really threatened a comeback.
In the day’s early kickoff Niko Kranjcar’s superb late free kick rescued a point for Queens Park Rangers in an entertaining 2-2 draw at home to Stoke City, for whom former QPR striker Peter Crouch was on target.
Burnley drew 0-0 with Sunderland, a result that leaves both clubs seeking their first win of the season.
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