Gabriel Martinelli scored in a second successive English Premier League game as his early double saw Arsenal punish injury-hit Leeds United, winning 4-1 away at Elland Road.
It was the only Premier League game to go ahead on Saturday after Aston Villa’s match against Burnley was postponed due to a number of positive Covid-19 tests, and it was an entertaining encounter.
On Christmas Day last year Arsenal were 15th in Premier League and only four points above relegation zone. Twelve months on and they are guaranteed to be in the top four on 25 December for the first time in five years.
With a number of games postponed this weekend, sitting four points clear of West Ham in fifth.
Leeds also remain in 16th, five points clear of the bottom three, although the teams below them do hold games in hand.
Martinelli’s double and Bukayo Saka’s deflected effort made it 3-0 before half-time as the Gunners ruthlessly capitalised on an error-strewn Leeds performance.
Raphinha pulled one back from the penalty spot in the second half, before Arsenal substitute Emile Smith Rowe wrapped up an emphatic victory for Mikel Arteta’s side late on.
The scoreline could have been greater but for an impressive performance by Leeds goalkeeper Illan Meslier, who made fine stops to deny Saka, Alexandre Lacazette, Thomas Partey and Kieran Tierney.
Arsenal managed 11 shots on target in the first half, the most by any side in the opening 45 minutes of a Premier League match since Opta started registering such statistics in 2003-04.
All this was achieved without striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who was left out of the squad following a disciplinary breach.
For Leeds, the defeat caps a difficult week that has included a last-gasp defeat at Chelsea and 7-0 hammering at Manchester City, though their cause has not been helped by a crippling injury list which has now robbed boss Marcelo Bielsa of 10 players.
It meant Robin Koch was forced back into action for the first time since the opening game of the season despite not being fully match fit, while the substitutes bench was made up of academy players, including 15-year-old Archie Gray.
Things then got worse when Jack Harrison was forced off after 30 minutes and replaced by 20-year-old Crysencio Summerville.