Arsenal stay top thanks to clinical Cazorla double

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Arsenal have overcome a frustrating early spell to stay top of the table with a comfortable 2-0 victory over struggling Fulham this afternoon thanks to the Santi Cazorla show, with the diminutive Spaniard scoring twice in the space of four minutes to settle a capital clash at the Emirates Stadium.

Arsene Wenger's side took on their London rivals searching for a sixth successive win in all competitions and quickly got into their stride as Jack Wilshere exchanged a clever pair of passes with Mesut Ozil inside the final third, with the German put through one-on-one with Maartek Stekelenburg from a tight angle.

Ozil could not connect properly with a tame but accurate effort, which trickled beyond the Dutch stopper before being hooked clear by Brede Hangeland a few yards short of the goal line.

The Gunners continued to probe without any great authority for much of the opening 45 minutes, often turning to Wilshere in search of another gear as the England international attempted to burst between two banks of four with some degree of success.

Fulham held firm though and even produced by far the best effort of the first half, with Wojciech Szcesny at full stretch to stop ex-Gunner Steven Sidwell's acrobatic half-volley finding the roof of the net.

Too often Arsenal's attacking options found themselves clogged up in a congested midfield area, with even Cazorla's fantastic piece of skill to floor an onrushing Scott Parker failing to lift a feeling of frustration at the Emirates heading into the break.

Arsenal upped the tempo after the interval as Serge Gnabry went close after a brilliant dart inside two defenders, before Cazorla's free-kick caused mayhem in the Fulham penalty area but somehow stayed out of Maarten Stekelenburg's goal as Bacary Sagna failed to profit at the back post.

Relief was all too brief for the visitors though as Arsenal finally ended a stubborn Fulham resistence after 57 minutes, thanks to clever play from a star-studded Gunners midfield.

Cazorla was the man who broke the deadlock after meeting a slick pass inside the penalty area from Wilshere, smashing a strike just inside the right-hand post with time to pick his spot.

The silky Spaniard was celebrating again just four minutes later as he arrowed home his and Arsenal's second from 20 yards out , perfectly placing a low, angled drive beyond a flailing Stekelenburg's late dive and into the bottom corner.

From there it was largely plain sailing for the Gunners, with substitute Lukas Podolski clattering the woodwork just moments after being introduced for the final 20 minutes.

Fulham threw Darren Bent on in the closing stages but were unable to offer either the England forward or Dimitar Berbatov effective service, with the Bulgarian marksman cutting an isolated figure for much of a difficult afternoon for Rene Meulensteen's men.

Bent managed to produce a contender for miss of the season in the closing stages, firing wide of an empty net from close range after beating Szczesny to a lofted ball over the top, as Arsenal closed out an efficient display to earn a fifth Premier League success on the spin.

A crowd of exactly 60,000 greeted a second successive 2-0 win inside five days to a chorus of "we are top of the league," and on this form the Arsenal faithful should be confident of keeping pace with Manchester City and Chelsea in a tantalising triple-tussle at the Premier League summit.

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Santi Cazorla
Premier League

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