It’s startling what four wins and a £42.4million signing can do for you. Rewind the clock 17 days and Arsenal were pinned up against a wall mocked by all and sundry; taunted as a laughing stock. Today they’re title contenders.
Jose Mourinho considers them so. Describing Mesut Ozil as ‘the best number 10 in the world’ the Chelsea boss confessed this week that he feared loaning Demba Ba to the reinforced Gunners would end up making him look like a prize numpty, and I understand that. The Senegalese front man would have bagged a hatful playing in front of the King of the Assist.
The German superstar is a brilliant footballer who will improve Arsenal greatly, and when their first choice attacking midfield trio of Santi Cazorla, Theo Walcott and Ozil line up it won’t just strike fear into opponents, it will leave some of them paralysed by it. Ahead of them, Olivier Giroud won’t stop smiling.
But do I see Arsenal as Premier League winners this season? No. I think it’s too soon.
While they’ve made a giant leap in the right direction, the Gunners still remain thin on numbers and must rely on avoiding further injuries to stand any chance.
If between now and January they get lucky, I may revise my view, but the loss of two, three or four players is going to hurt them significantly more than it would hurt United, City and Chelsea.
That said, pre-Ozil - and despite frequent media frenzies claiming otherwise - the Gunners had actually been heading in the right direction anyway.
Ignoring the occasional blip, the men in red have been striving incredibly hard to wipe away unwanted preconceptions.
People used to say they couldn’t be bothered to defend as a team. Yet since losing to Spurs in March their work-rate has been far higher, there’s greater focus on organisation, and the collective spirit is as robust and harmonious as I’ve seen it in years. They’ve conceded a meagre nine goals in the last 16 games.
People used to say they always tried to walk the ball into the net. Yet last season they were the sixth most prolific crossers in the Premier League, and even without a world class striker to lead the line, the side are currently averaging two goals a game this season.
Non-believers take note: since January 1st Arsenal have the best Premier League record in the country, collecting 46 points from 22 matches.
Already on an upward curve, Arsenal’s decision to sign Ozil, a world class player in his prime, will only serve to accelerate that progress.
It reminds me of 1995, when I was a player at Highbury. Back then we had a decent side, but we weren’t quite good enough to challenge for the title. Then we signed Dennis Bergkamp and perceptions quickly changed. Three years later the double had been claimed.
The Dutchman’s individual class helped take that Arsenal team to the next plateau, but it was his presence that was just as important.
Other talented players could see the impact he was making, and wanted to be part of it. Eager to play on the same side as Dennis, Marc Overmars, Robert Pires, Emmanuel Petit, Freddie Ljungberg and the great Thierry Henry didn’t have to think twice about signing up for the north London revolution. The rest is history.
This is why Ozil’s signature is so significant. He can have the same impact on others as Dennis did.
Expecting the title this season is possibly over-ambitious, but when January comes around - and after that next summer - keep an eye on the names who express an interest in joining the upwardly mobile Gunners. Persuading the world’s elite to join his club won’t be something Arsene Wenger has to worry about for a while.
Has the laughing stopped? I think it has.
Bet now on Arsenal to win the title at 14.00
Read more from the former Arsenal professional Adrian Clarke