Arsenal’s hunger and fire as they pursue a first Premier League title in almost two decades burns so brightly that Pep Guardiola was moved to hold it up as an example to his all-conquering Manchester City.
When Guardiola launched an angry broadside in all directions to provoke improvement from the reigning champions after City’s 4-2 win over Tottenham, Arsenal was the name that played across his lips with regularity.
It was the most significant indicator of Arsenal’s progress and growing maturity under his former right-hand man Mikel Arteta that Guardiola made it clear who he regards as their serious title rivals – even warning they would “destroy” City unless they improved.
And if anyone was in any doubt exactly why Guardiola was delivering his warning, they need only look at the manner of Arsenal’s magnificent victory over improving Manchester United in a thriller at Emirates Stadium.
The bare statistics state that Arsenal’s 3-2 win, secured by Eddie Nketiah’s 90th-minute strike, puts them five points clear of City with a game in hand.
Dig deeper, however, and the wider significance of Arsenal overcoming a United side heading firmly in the right direction under manager Erik ten Hag becomes clear.
Arsenal, in the eyes of those who have seen them wilt under pressure in recent years, are having to prove themselves on a weekly basis. The good news for the increasingly optimistic Gunners fans who dream of a first title since ‘The Invincibles’ of 2003-04 is that Arteta and his players are doing it.
Why should there be lingering doubts about the pedigree of a team that have won 16 and only lost one of their first 19 league games, with Sunday’s win setting the record straight against the only team to beat them in the top-flight this season?
And there were other factors at work that made this Arsenal’s biggest test this season and, arguably, their biggest win.