Arsenal forward Theo Walcott celebrates with teammates after scoring against West Ham in the English Premier League, December 26. Reuters
For 68 minutes, Arsenal, without a win in three English Premier League games, flirted with disaster. But then in stepped the only-Arsenal-fans-know-just-how-good-he-is Theo Walcott, scoring a timely double to put the brakes on another West Ham's North London love-in.
Walcott scored twice in the space of three second half minutes to help the Gunners to a 3-1 win over the Hammers, who had taken the lead early in the second half courtesy Carlton Cole. Arsenal added the gloss on a phew-that-was-close victory courtesy I'm-finally-back-from-injury Lukas Podolski, who also assisted in Walcott's second goal.
The win sees Arsenal move back to the top of the Premier League table, two points ahead of Chelsea, who also won on Boxing Day.
Liverpool can go back top if they get the better of Manchester City in the late game - easier said than done of course.
At Upton Park, it was we-want-to-miss-ten-twenty-chances-in-the-first-half day with Arsenal culpable of just not putting the game to bed in the first 45 minutes.
While their play was not of the top drawer, there were so many half chances which should have ended up with the ball nestling into the back of the net, that Arsene Wenger's face increasingly started to look grumpier than the Grinch.
Olivier Giroud, quite a few times, just seemed to be an inch or two behind the ball as cross after cross missed its mark the merest of margins, with that feeling so familiar amongst Arsenal fans, of just not being able to find the goal while the other side nicks it, increasing with every passing minute.
The sucker-punch was delivered right at the beginning of the second half, Carlton Cole latching onto a rebound and slotting the ball in nicely after Wojciech Szczesny spilled a this-does-not-have-enough-venom-to-bother-an-ant strike from Kevin Nolan.
Matt Jarvis and Cole came close to doubling the lead, with the latter missing a gilt-edged please-put-the-game-to-bed chance.
Arsenal were always going to go all out in search of the equaliser, and if/when that comes, the winner, and the away side pulled level in the 68th minute courtesy Theo Walcott and a post-Christmas gift of epic proportions from goalkeeper Adrian.
Walcott received the ball on the inside right channel, cut-in to his left foot and unleashed, a well, rather scuffed shot, which rolled past a couple of West Ham defenders, before going through the hands of Adrian, much to the disbelief of the home side.
That goal just seemed to click Arsenal into gear as Wenger's side abandoned that moped for a high-powered Ferrari.
Three minutes after making it 1-1 was all it took for Arsenal to go into the lead, as Walcott, who else, headed in a cross from the returning Lukas Podolski, on as a second-half substitute for I-really-need-a-rest-to-find-my-groove-back Aaron Ramsey.
Arsenal were in full-on assault-the-West Ham-goal mode now, and Podolski missed a sitter to make it 3-1, failing to find a way past Adrian after being put through brilliantly by Santi Cazorla with an here-is-an-easy-chance-over-the-top ball.
However, Podolski would get his goal, and unsurprisingly by putting that lethal left foot into good use. Olivier Giroud, after receiving the ball inside the box with his back to the goal, held off the West Ham defenders well, before laying the ball off for Podolski to unleash, and this time it was unleashed, a low drive into the bottom corner.
Chelsea playmaker Eden Hazard celebrates after scoring against Swansea. Reuters
At Stamford Bridge, Chelsea came away with a comfortable enough 1-0 win over Swansea, thanks to a first half strike from Eden Hazard, who snuck a shot through Gerhard Tremmel, after the home side applied much pressure without a goal in the early stages.
Swansea, despite having a fair share of possession, rarely threatened the home side's defence, which completed its second straight clean sheet following the 0-0 draw at Arsenal on Monday.
Tottenham, with new permanent manager Tim Sherwood, could not build on the 3-2 win over Southampton at the weekend, as relegation threatened West Brom held Spurs to a 1-1 draw.
Christian Eriksen opened the scoring at White Hart Lane in the 36th minute with a peach of a freekick, only for Jonas Olsson to equalise two minutes later to ensure a share of the spoils.
The surprise result of the day was at Goodison Park, as bottom club Sunderland shocked Everton 1-0, who had to play with ten men, after Tim Howard was sent off for a last-man challenge on Ki Sung-Yueng. The South Korean would then convert the resulting penalty to give Sunderland precious three points.
Results: West Ham 1-3 Arsenal; Chelsea 1-0 Swansea; Tottenham 1-1 West Brom; Aston Villa 0-1 Crystal Palace; Everton 0-1 Sunderland; Newcastle 5-1 Stoke; Norwich 1-2 Fulham; Cardiff 0-3 Southampton; Hull 2-3 Manchester United.
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