Arsenal returned to the top of the Premier League and kept their title challenge on track as a much-changed Gunners side proved too strong for Luton Town at the Emirates Stadium.

The five changes Mikel Arteta made for the visit of Luton was the most for Arsenal in the Premier League this season, but last year’s runners-up still had enough quality to inflict a 19th defeat on relegation-threatened Luton.

Martin Odegaard gave Arsenal the lead midway through the first half and the title challengers were in complete control when Luton defender Daiki Hashioka scored an own goal on the stroke of half-time.

Luton occasionally threatened with the type of performance that has won them many admirers if not points this year but were kept out by a defence that also shut out Manchester City at the weekend.

The win means Arsenal overtake Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table, though Jurgen Klopp’s side will return to the summit if they beat Sheffield United tomorrow.

Bukayo Saka was absent for Arsenal and Declan Rice, Jorginho, Gabriel Jesus and Jakub Kiwior all dropped to the bench after starting Sunday’s goalless draw with Man City.

The changes hardly affected an Arsenal team chasing a first Premier League title in 20 years, however, as they controlled possession against a side who have amassed just 22 points from 31 games.

Despite being on top in the early exchanges, Arsenal barely troubled Luton goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski until Kai Havertz and Odegaard combined and the latter clinically rifled into the bottom corner on 24 minutes.

Gunners shot-stopper David Raya was called into action for the first time to keep out a cross-come-shot from ex-Tottenham winger Andros Townsend, but the hosts remained on top during a dominant first-half.

Odegaard almost turned goalscorer to provider as his delicate footwork created an opening for Emile Smith Rowe, but the Arsenal academy graduate was denied by Kaminski.

The Luton No. 1 made another save to keep out Havertz following a smart turn from Ben White and Hatters defender Alfie Doughty somehow prevented Thomas Partey from scoring with a last-ditch tackle.

But it was only a matter of time before Arsenal doubled their lead and their second came via a player making his first league start since January as Smith Rowe’s inviting ball across goal was inadvertently turned home by Luton’s Hashioka.

Given Arsenal were satisfied with their lead and Luton lacked a threat in the final third, the second-half lacked intensity, though the visitors surprisingly looked the more likely to score.

But Arsenal managed the game well enough to clinch their 21st win of the season and move to 69 points from 30 games, one above Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

For Luton, it was a familiar case of producing a competitive performance but leaving empty-handed, with time running out for Rob Edwards’ side to escape relegation.