Arsenal’s surprising and impressive 2-0 win over Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday earned them a lot more than just three points.
It has gained the north London side more respect around the Premier League and seen their manager Arsene Wenger, previously perceived to be wearied and out of touch, being hailed as a tactical genius once again.
This was a statement win by Wenger, and arguably Arsenal’s best performance in recent years, which ended an embarrassing run of 16 games without a win against Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City.
Afterwards the Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini, as reported in The Independent, observed, “It was not the usual Arsenal, they played very concentrated and defended very well for 90 minutes,” which was both a compliment and an insult but revealed how they had begun to be seen as a soft touch, especially on their travels.
Arsenal’s defence was compact and solid, keeping Manchester City goalless at home in the league for only the third time since November 2010, while the tenacious holding midfielder Francis Coquelin erected a further barrier in front of them to give Arsenal the foundation to do what they do well: attack with pace and flair.
So Arsenal are a club reborn, all their problems are now solved and full steam ahead with the title challenge for the rest of the season? Not quite.
Arsenal have the defence, which is likely to be further augmented soon, an emerging holding midfielder and their usual healthy sprinkling of creative and innovative players, but they still lack a reliable source of goals to finish it all off.
While Chelsea can boast Diego Costa, Manchester City have SergioAguero and now Wilfried Bony and Manchester United try to work out what to do with the riches of Wayne Rooney, Robin van Persie andRadamel Falcao. Arsenal are currently slumming it with their stable of good but not great strikers.
At the very end of the summer transfer window Danny Welbeck wasWenger’s surprising answer to Arsenal scoring more goals.
It almost seemed undignified for Arsenal to be investing £16 million in Manchester United’s cast-offs, but Wenger detected untapped potential.
In the intervening four-and-a-half months Welbeck has not disgraced himself at the Emirates, but he has performed exactly as you would expect and has the modest record of only four goals in 16 Premier League games so far.
You sense Welbeck can get better; he has the pace and movement, but he has never had the look of a clinical and prolific goalscorer.
Oliver Giroud has his merits, which were on display in the win at theEtihad stadium as he held the ball up well and scored the second goal.
The Frenchman is a class act, capable of linking play and causing problems for opposition defences with his presence, however, an overall record of 46 goals in 112 games, while impressive, falls short of what Arsenal need.
It would be glib to suggest that finding another player like Henry is all Arsenal need to do, because they simply don’t exist, but it only serves to prove the exceptional standard of player that helps you climb to the summit of the Premier League and stay there.
The arrival of Alexis Sanchez has provided a new source of goals this season, and he already has 12 in the Premier League, but these are more a valuable bonus.
While the win at the Etihad showed there are promising signs at the back, Arsenal still need a more prolific and convincing figurehead up front if they want to start providing a genuine challenge to Chelsea and Manchester City.