Fourth-placed Arsenal opened up a four-point gap over Manchester United, one place below, in the Premier League standings after Bukayo Saka’s first-half strike earned them a 1-0 victory at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Looking to get back to winning ways following their midweek defeat to Liverpool — their first loss in seven games in all competitions — Arsenal dominated the opening period in the Villa Park sunshine.

Their fine, flowing first-half football deserved more than the one goal given to them by Saka on the half-hour mark — Arsenal’s 2,000th Premier League strike.

Villa did not have a single shot, on or off target, in the first half, but improved after the break, finally having an effort at goal in the 61st minute when Scottish midfielder John McGinn curled just wide.

However, Arsenal remained content to sit on their 1-0 lead until the final whistle, holding on in relative comfort to move on to 54 points, four clear of United in their bid to secure the final Champions League qualification spot.

“It was a big win,” Arsenal coach Mikel Arteta said. “We wanted to come here and keep the momentum going. The team showed a lot of personality today with the way we dominated the game.

“We have 10 games to go. What we did today is not relevant. We have to look to tomorrow and win more games. We are not there yet. We did not get that second goal today.

“The most important thing for me is that there is unity around the club, and a sense of direction.”

With United not in Premier League action this weekend, Arsenal had a real chance to cement fourth spot by securing a fifth away league win in a row in the Midlands –- the first time they have been on such a run since May 2015.

Given how many chances they created in the first half, with Emile Smith Rowe, starting his first game in a month, at the heart of everything, they should really have been out of sight by the break.

Smith Rowe fired over early on from a great position, before he set up Thomas Partey, whose strike was too close to Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez.

Striker Alexandre Lacazette was then impeded by his own man — Smith Rowe again — as he looked set to score but the pressure did eventually tell as Saka swept home his sixth league goal of the season with his left foot.

Still somehow in the contest, Villa did start to pose a threat after the break, with McGinn’s effort causing some jitters in the Gunners’ backline, as Ollie Watkins saw another effort clip the outside of the post and roll wide.

That fifth successive away win never looked in doubt, however, with the final whistle greeted with huge celebrations among fans and Arsenal players as they eye a return to the Champions League next term for the first time since 2016-17.

A second successive defeat for a below-par Villa means they stay ninth.

“No complaints on the scoreline,” coach Steven Gerrard said. “The second half was much more like us, but we did not start the game how we should.

“The run they are on, how much they have improved, Arsenal deserve respect, but if we have ambition, when at home, we have to try and grab these games from teams above us in the league.”
Striker Son Heung-min scored twice as Tottenham Hotspur rose to fifth in the Premier League table with a 3-1 win over West Ham United on Sunday that left them three points off the top four and the chance of Champions League football next season.

The afternoon got off to a terrible start for Hammers defender Kurt Zouma when he steered Harry Kane’s low centre to Son into the net in the ninth minute, the 10th own goal of the season that Spurs have benefited from.

It got worse for the French centre back midway through the first half as Son made it two for Spurs, collecting a defence-splitting pass from Kane before firing a left-foot shot that glanced Zouma’s outstretched leg before looping into the net.

Said Benrahma pulled one back for West Ham in the 35th minute, twisting his body to side-foot a volley from a flick-on into the net.

West Ham weathered a couple of early second-half chances before finding their rhythm, and they should have levelled after a sweeping move that ended when Michail Antonio volleyed over the bar in the 56th minute.

Having suffered through a poor spell, Spurs got their passing back on track and recent signing Dejan Kulusevski curled an effort just over and wide as the home side began to take back control.

Harry Kane missed an even better chance, somehow blazing the ball over after a superb pass from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg left him with only the keeper to beat.

Son came to the rescue again in the 88th minute, chasing down a long ball from Kane and firing home to send Spurs fifth in the table, three points behind North London rivals Arsenal, who are currently fourth on 54 points and have a game in hand over Spurs.

“From the start of the game we played really well, first half we created so many chances. It’s a massive three points before the international break so we are really happy,” a delighted Son told Sky Sports before praising strike partner Kane, who had a hand in all three goals.

“I just make the runs as an option for Kane. If he doesn’t pass me the ball he might have the space to pass to someone else or to shoot,” Son said. “It’s incredible to have this striker next to me.”

The result was a bitter blow for David Moyes’ West Ham as they slipped to seventh in the table, with their chances of Champions League football next season rapidly fading.

Leave a Reply