Arsenal 4-0 Aston Villa: Olivier Giroud's hat-trick helps Gunners snatch second from Tottenham
By Oliver Yew
Last Updated: 16/05/16 7:29am
Arsenal snatched second place from north London rivals Tottenham after they thrashed Aston Villa 4-0 thanks to Olivier Giroud's hat-trick at the Emirates Stadium.
The Gunners, who started the day two points behind Spurs, needed a favour from Newcastle and Rafael Benitez's side duly obliged, beating Mauricio Pochettino's side 5-1 at St James' Park.
Arsenal, who welcomed back Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla to the starting line-up, had a job of their own to do and they were sent on their way thanks to Giroud's powerful header in the fifth minute.
As the game wore on and the score from Newcastle echoed around the stadium, nerves began to set in for the hosts but they were well and truly put to bed as Giroud completed his hat-trick with two goals in two minutes (78, 80).
Mikel Arteta was brought on for his final appearance for the Gunners and he nearly ended his career at the club in style, but his injury-time shot hit the crossbar before rolling in off Aston Villa goalkeeper Mark Bunn.
Arsenal finish second in the Premier League for the first time since 2005 and Tottenham's demise means the Gunners finish above their north London rivals for the 21st consecutive season.
Arsene Wenger made four changes from the side that drew 2-2 with Man City last weekend and the notable inclusion was Wilshere for his first Premier League start since the final day of last season.
In front of the watching Roy Hodgson, who names his England squad for Euro 2016 on Monday, Wilshere was straight into the action, combining well with another returnee in Cazorla.
Arsenal were on the front foot from the start and they were ahead in the fifth minute after Alexis Sanchez's back-heel released Nacho Monreal down the left flank. The full-back's inch-perfect cross was met by Giroud, who headed powerfully to beat Bunn to score his second goal in as many Premier League games.
Aston Villa's fate may have already been sealed but their fans were in high spirits with many making the journey to north london in fancy dress.
The visitors, who made one change for from the side that drew with Newcastle last weekend, struggled for possession in the early stages but were nearly back on terms when Jordan Ayew skipped past Gabriel, only for the forward's pass was cut out at the far post by Laurent Koscielny.
The hosts continued to press forward as Sanchez shot wide and the loudest cheer of the half came when news of a Newcastle goal against Tottenham filtered through to the Arsenal supporters.
The home fans found their voice again, roaring their team on and Wilshere should have scored when picked out at the far post by Sanchez, but the 24-year-old could only hit the side-netting from six yards.
They were almost made to pay as Scott Sinclair was allowed to get a shot away in the penalty area, but the ball dribbled wide of Petr Cech's far-post and Jordan Lyden's cutback was intercepted by Monreal.
Arsenal continued to dominate possession in the second-half but they could not find their cutting edge in front of goal.
Mesut Ozil picked out Cazorla at the far post and the Spaniard's header nearly found Wilshere, only for Sanchez to get in the way with the England international set to pull the trigger.
Wilshere's afternoon came to an end in the 68th minute when he was replaced by Mohamed Elneny who spurned a good opportunity, firing a volley over from close range.
With news of a Tottenham goal and a red card for Aleksandar Mitrovic, nerves intensified at the Emirates but the three points were finally secured when Giroud swept home Ozil's low cross in the 78th minute.
Arsenal had their third two minutes later when Giroud beat Bunn after collecting Hector Bellerin's pass, while the scoring was rounded off in injury-time after Arteta's shot bounced off the crossbar, onto Bunn and into the back of the net.
By this time the celebrations were in full flow in the stands as news of the Spurs result came through, but there was still a sense of what might have been for the Gunners, who finished the season 10 points behind champions Leicester.
Arsenal: Cech (6), Bellerin (7), Gabriel (6), Koscielny (7), Monreal (8), Coquelin (7), Wilshere (7), Cazorla (8), Ozil (7), Giroud (9), Sanchez (7).
Subs: Arteta (6), Elneny (6), Campbell (6).
Aston Villa: Bunn (6), Lyden (6), Lescott (5), Toner (6), Cissokho (6), Sanchez (6), Westwood (7), Gana (6), Bacuna (6), Ayew (7), Sinclair (6).
Subs: Richards (6), Grealish (6).
Man of the Match: Olivier Giroud.