Ahead of Liverpool’s visit to the Emirates this weekend, the Telegraph’s chief football correspondent, Jason Burt, has claimed that Arsenal are ‘the one side who can stop City’s march to the title’.
Something is happening, and it’s not just inside Arsenal.
Outside, in the papers, pundits, commentators and journalists are starting to take Arsenal seriously.
They, like us, can see that something fundamental has changed in this Arsenal side under Mikel Arteta. From struggling as fans called for his head this time last year, Arteta has found the ‘on’ switch and firmed up Arsenal’s soft underbelly that we tried to deny existed for so long.
He has created a side that responds to adversity by fighting back rather than crumbling. He has found a way to get the players to believe in him and, perhaps more importantly, in themselves.
Slowly, with every passing 90 minutes, the scars of the previous 15 years, of the f**k-ups and failures, fade. We stop expecting Arsenal to blow and it and merely fear they might on occasion.
Some scars run deeper than others.
If you need proof that this is a different type of Arsenal side, one we haven’t really seen since we moved to the Emirates, you just have to look at the press coverage the club has been getting.
Gone are the broken cannons, the chaos and crisis headlines.
In has come pieces like Burt’s double-page spread in Saturday’s Daily Telegraph Sport section.
“Are Arsenal already the only team who can stop Manchester City from winning a fifth Premier League title in just six seasons?” Burt asks.
“The likelihood is that City will be top of the table – as they face struggling Southampton at home today – before Arsenal kick off against Liverpool tomorrow.
“When the fixtures were released, that encounter would have been earmarked as one in which Liverpool would have expected to be attempting to keep pace with City.
“Instead, it is Arsenal who are trying to do that and, remarkably, who will go into the game as favourites. And that has not happened for them against Liverpool since Arsene Wenger was in his prime.”
Reading the entire piece, it was hard to argue with anything that Burt wrote.
There were no snide digs that have become so common place in sports journalism when it comes to Arsenal, just a well-reasoned piece that makes the argument very well that Arsenal should indeed be taken seriously.
But as Burt also points out, “With Arsenal the added complication, the big variable, is that this is completely new territory for this manager and for this group of players.
“Arsenal finished second in 201516 but were arguably last truly in a title race in 2007-08.
“It feels like this weekend may reveal whether they are in one again – and whether they are becoming the only credible opposition to what may otherwise turn out to be a Haaland-led City procession which may, ultimately, prove unstoppable in any case.
“The game at the Emirates takes on more meaning, for them, for Liverpool, and for rest of the league.”
It’s hard to argue with that, either.