Match report: Villa 2-4 Arsenal
Villa suffered a first home league defeat of the season - despite a Ciaran Clark-inspired revival.
Clark twice put Gerard Houllier's men back in the match with his first senior goals.
But the Gunners ran riot in the first half and deservedly went two goals up through Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri, while Maroune Chamakh and Jack Wilshere strikes in the second period sealed the points for Arsene Wenger's team.
With Arsenal licking their wounds from consecutive defeats to Tottenham Hotspur and Braga, a backlash was always on the cards.
Unfortunately for the home side it was more fierce than expected.
Yet again circumstances beyond Houllier's control forced the Villa manager into a rethink.
Gabby Agbonlahor (illness) and Marc Albrighton (appendicitis) added to the Frenchman's growing casualty list, although it allowed Houllier to welcome back John Carew from a calf problem and hand a home debut to Robert Pires against his former club.
Ultimately, though, Arsenal's passing and movement were so sublime in the first period that the changes in Villa's personnel mattered little.
The warning signs came as early as the first minute when Brad Friedel blocked Chamakh's angled drive with his legs and James Collins was well placed to clear the decks.
But Arsenal kept coming. On three minutes, Tomas Rosicky fired wide across goal after collecting Wilshere's deft through ball, before he, Nasri and Chamakh all missed the target from edge of the box.
The only response Villa could find came midway through the half, although Ashley Young should have done better with a close-range half-volley. Stewart Downing cut in from the right and when Clark helped on his floating cross to the back post, Young couldn't keep is effort down.
The pressure finally told on 38 minutes when Arshavin got the better of Luke Young and James Collins, moved in field and slotted a shot across Brad Friedel.
Few would argue that the visitors didn't deserve their lead, but for Villa things were about to get worse before they got better.
Moments before the break, Friedel had to be at full stretch to keep out Chamakh's bullet header - and there was still time for Arsenal to add to their advantage.
It was a goal to sit back and admire. Arshavin displayed his impeccable vision, picking out Nasri on the edge of the box from a corner.
The ex-Marseille man connected sweetly with a volley which found the bottom corner via a slight deflection.
While Arsenal's dominance undoubtedly left Houllier unhappy, he will have been delighted with the response from his players.
Just seven second-half minutes had elapsed when Tomas Rosicky headed Stephen Warnock's cross into the path of Clark.
The 21-year-old - a centre-back by trade before flourishing in a new midfield role - took one touch and struck a firm half-volley past Lukasz Fabianski.
Claret and blue heads were up - but unfortunately not for long.
A third goal arrived for Arsenal when Rosicky slipped in Chamakh, who stole a march on Dunne to stab home a close-range effort.
And on 71 minutes Clark did it again. This time Dunne headed a Downing corner into the danger area and Clark executed an exquisite back header which bounced in off the bar.
If he was delighted at notching his first goals in claret and blue, the former reserve skipper will be regretting not making it a hat-trick.
Bacary Sagna struggled to clear Luke Young's delivery but Clark couldn't turn a left-foot shot inside the near post.
However, as Villa pressed forward they became exposed and Wilshere was able to convert a fourth injury time goal - a diving header from Kieran Gibbs' lobbed pass - to rubber-stamp an Arsenal victory.
VILLA: Friedel; Young, Dunne, Collins, Warnock; Pires, Bannan, Clark, Downing; Young, Carew. Subs: Ireland (for Carew, 66), Delfouneso (for Pires, HT), Guzan, Beye, Hogg, Lichaj, Herd (for Bannan, 85).
ARSENAL: Fabianski; Sagna, Koscielny, Squillaci, Clichy; Song, Wilshere; Arshavin, Nasri, Rosicky; Chamakh. Subs: Van Persie, Walcott, Denilson (for Arshavin, 85), Djourou (for Rosicky, 90), Gibbs (for Nasri 85), Bendtner, Szezesny.
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