Arsenal played with the style, pace and confidence of their glory days of nearly a decade ago to crush Norwich City 4-1 and underline their Premier League title credentials at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday.
The Gunners, without a trophy since 2005, gave their fans renewed hope that the famine could end this season, with Jack Wilshere and substitute Aaron Ramsey scoring outstanding goals as they moved two points clear at the top.
Arsenal’s record signing, Mesut Ozil, also scored his first league two goals for the club he joined for ￡42.5 million (US$68.80 million) from Real Madrid at the start of the season.
Across London, Chelsea beat Cardiff City 4-1 to move into second place, but the win was marred by their controversial equalizer, which came after Samuel Eto’o kicked the ball away from goalkeeper David Marshall, who was bouncing it before clearing.
The ball ran to Belgian forward Eden Hazard, who scored to cancel out Cardiff’s 10th minute opener.
In the second half, referee Anthony Taylor sent Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho from the dugout because the Portuguese continually criticized the officials that Cardiff were wasting time.
Liverpool slipped one place to third after drawing 10-man Newcastle United 2-2, while Manchester City climbed to fourth after winning 3-1 at West Ham United with two goals from Sergio Aguero and a late strike by David Silva.
Champions Manchester United finished the day in eighth place after Southampton scored at the death to force a 1-1 draw and silence the home fans at Old Trafford.
With the top teams having all played eight matches, Arsenal have 19 points, Chelsea and Liverpool 17, with Manchester City on 16. United are eight points off the pace.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger was delighted with their performance and told Sky Sports: “We had periods when we were absolutely outstanding and periods when we suffered as well because Norwich played well and they are a good side.”
“But we scored a fantastic first goal and the goals after that were absolutely amazing. We took advantage of Norwich getting tired in the last 20 minutes in a very clinical way, but they made it difficult for us,” he added.
Liverpool led the table for a brief spell after their early kickoff at Newcastle, with skipper Steven Gerrard scoring his 100th league goal by converting a penalty.
Newcastle played for the whole of the second half with 10 men after French defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa was sent off shortly before halftime. Although they trailed twice, Liverpool dominated the depleted home side and deserved more than a point.
Newcastle went ahead with a stunning 25m strike from Yohan Cabaye, but Gerrard equalized from the spot after Yanga-Mbiwa was sent off for hauling down Luis Suarez.
Newcastle defender Paul Dummett put his team ahead in the 57th minute with his first goal for the club on his second league appearance.
Daniel Sturridge equalized with a header 17 minutes from time — the 126th goal in this fixture — a record tally between any two sides in the Premier League’s history.
Gus Poyet’s tenure as Sunderland’s new manager got off to a terrible start when they were crushed 4-0 by Swansea City, leaving them bottom of the table with one point from eight games.
In other action, Everton beat Hull City 2-1, while Stoke City drew 0-0 with West Bromwich Albion.