Arsenal 5 Aston Villa 0: Ozil and Walcott star on their returns
Two returning stars stole the show as Arsenal thumped beleaguered Aston Villa 5-0 at the Emirates Stadium to make it three straight Premier League wins for the first time this season.
Mesut Ozil and Theo Walcott were back in the starting line-up after long absences and set up an important victory, which sees Arsene Wenger's men climb above rivals Tottenham and into fifth position.
The German World Cup winner, making his first league start in four months, set up Olivier Giroud for Arsenal's early opener and the roles were reversed after half-time as Ozil made it 2-0.
Walcott added a third and there were further goals for Santi Cazorla, from the penalty spot, and Hector Bellerin as Paul Lambert's men faded badly.
Villa remain just three points above the relegation zone and are without a win in eight league matches, having failed to score in their last six - a new club record.
Alexis Sanchez was not risked but was barely missed as Arsenal exhibited their counter-attacking best in the second half and Villa's wait for a goal stretched past 10 hours.
The additions of Ozil and Walcott - the latter making his first league start since January 2014 - were the only changes Wenger made to the team that beat Manchester City last time out in the Premier League.
Both were involved early on, Walcott's pace enabling him to threaten in behind straight from the kick-off, before Ozil teed up the opening goal after just eight minutes.
The attacking midfielder showed the type of creative touch that persuaded Arsenal to make him their record signing, his smart flick-on putting Giroud clear on goal.
Giroud appeared to get the ball stuck under his feet as he went through one-on-one, but recovered to clip delicately past Brad Guzan.
Guzan was beaten again in the 26th minute, only the post preventing Cazorla from doubling Arsenal's lead as his effort bounced back off the frame of the goal .
The hosts were dominant, but Villa nearly snatched a rare goal three minutes before half-time.
A loose clearance from Laurent Koscielny allowed Carles Gil, on his maiden Premier League start, to find Andreas Weimann with a wonderful inswinging cross, but David Ospina got down well to stop the striker's header and preserve Arsenal's lead.
Villa emerged with added belief after the break but were still vulnerable on the break, and Arsenal capitalised in the 56th minute.
Walcott carried the ball out of defence at pace before finding Giroud, who poked through a delightful throughball for Ozil to slide past Guzan.
Villa were undone in similar fashion on 63 minutes as Walcott put the result beyond doubt.
Ospina found the England man wide on the left with a quick throw-out and a rapid one-two with Cazorla was followed by Walcott cutting in and finding the far corner with a curling shot from the edge of the box.
Things got worse for Villa on 75 minutes as Cazorla scored from the penalty spot, despite Guzan getting a strong hand on the ball, after the keeper had felled Chuba Akpom.
Bellerin piled more misery on Villa in stoppage-time with his first Arsenal goal, the right-back steering a side-footed effort into the bottom-left corner from the edge of the box having been teed up by Cazorla.