Arsenal and Chelsea both won by a margin of two goals to ease nerves and end a long Premier League slump that lasted a few weeks.
The Gunners, who last won on November 17 against Tottenham Hotspur in the North London derby, scored on two successful penalties from Mikel Arteta to beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 at the Emirates Stadium.
While the Spanish midfielder was clinical in converting from the spot on each occasion, controversy will unquestionably surround the incidents that led to the spot-kicks being awarded.
The first incident saw Santi Cazorla go down inside the box under a challenge that made little to no contact with him, as suggested by replays.
On the second decision, West Bromwich Albion felt that they should have been given a foul in the build-up to Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s run, which ended in the England international being brought down.
Regardless of their complaints, the Baggies were guilty of giving up on the play en route to Arsenal’s second goal and given that they showed absolutely no inspiration in attack throughout the night, an argument can be made that the home side had earned its luck.
In Wearside, Chelsea enjoyed a renaissance of their own, with Fernando Torres scoring twice and compatriot Juan Mata adding another to deem Adam Johnson’s strike a mere consolation in the Blues’ 3-1 win at the Stadium of Light.
Chelsea have now scored nine times in their last two outings under Rafa Benitez after scoring only once in the Spaniard’s first three games in charge.
Nevertheless, the interim manager still heard the jeers from some of the visiting supporters and has plenty to prove ahead of the team’s participation in the FIFA World Club Cup amid a hectic schedule during the festive period.
In the day’s other action, Aston Villa drew goalless with Stoke to extend their unbeaten run to four matches since last month’s 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City.
Southampton also continued their impressive form with a 1-0 home win over fellow promoted outfit Reading courtesy of Jason Puncheon, who scored the match’s only goal.
The same cannot be said about Swansea, however, as the Welsh side’s momentum came to a halt in dramatic fashion following their 4-3 defeat at home against Norwich City.
The Cannaries held scored three unanswered goals by half-time as Steven Wittaker, Sebastien Bassong, and Grant Halt all hit the target at the Libery Stadium.
Michael Laudrup’s Swans scored three of their own in the second half through a Michu brace and a Jonathan De Guzman goal but Robert Snodgrass added another for the visitors too, ensuring that they go to the cusp of breaking into the first half of the table.
Last, but not least, Queens Park Rangers are yet to win this season after being held 2-2 away to Wigan. Harry Redknapp’s men came from behind at the DW Stadium as Ryan Nelsen and Adel Taraabt both scored to answer James McCarthy’s opening goal.
However, McCarthy had the final word as his second goal tied the scores and the Latics did not concede again.
With much of match-day 16 already in the books, the implications are good for both Arsenal and Chelsea. The Gunners are back in the top six and the Blues have consolidated their grip on third place, going within seven points of leaders Manchester United ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s Manchester derby.
Villa, Southampton, and Wigan are all two points clear of the relegation zone while Sunderland, Reading, and QPR remain in turmoil.