Arsenal showed how much they have progressed since last season with their 1-0 win over Manchester City; three substitutes set up the winner after Mikel Arteta brought on more height; watch Arsenal's next Premier League game away at Chelsea live on Sky Sports on October 21; kick-off 5.30pm
Sunday 8 October 2023 21:40, UK
Title race well and truly on. And not just because Arsenal beat the heavy favourites, the dead certs, the cannot-be-caught machine of Manchester City. It's down to the fact that Goliath's rival has shown it has grown in the opening weeks of the season.
This term, Arsenal needed to show they have gone up a level after last season's heartbreak of spending 248 days at the top of the table and not getting the job done in the home straight. And Sunday's win over the champions was one of several examples since the summer to show that they have.
Grown in two ways, in fact: in depth and in height.
Let's look at the depth first. In the two league matches against City last season, Arsenal came into this top-of-the-table clash with at least one key injury - and subsequently suffered. In the February match at the Emirates, Thomas Partey dropped out with a late injury, to join Gabriel Jesus on the sidelines. In April, the Gunners went to the Emirates with no William Saliba, ruled out for the season.
This game was no different. Bukayo Saka is the one player in the Arsenal team that does not have a direct back-up - his club record 87 consecutive games and Jesus being shoehorned into that winger role the proof of that - and potentially an 'old Arsenal' would have been psychologically damaged by his injury.
But Mikel Arteta's side have got more about them this season. No issues with depth against City now - best shown by three of the substitutes coming off the bench to combine for the winner, so this team could get the win without Saka.
Gabriel Martinelli took the headlines with the winning goal that his second-half performance deserved - but Kai Havertz's role to set up the goal alongside Takehiro Tomiyasu is particularly relevant to Arsenal's progression.
Both players were brought on with 15 minutes to go with one purpose. "To give Arsenal more height," said Gary Neville on co-commentary duty. There's the second part of that growth.
For the winning goal, Arsenal - normally a side who pass and pass and pass before going wide - went long through the middle to Tomiyasu, who knocked it down to Havertz, who showed the composure to find Martinelli, who did the rest.
The added oomph that Arsenal have developed via their new signings was summed up in that moment and Arteta knows it, saying in his post-match press conference that his squad depth brought the "physicality and energy" needed to win the game.
It's not the first time we've seen this physicality from Arsenal's new players. Havertz's first two games for the Gunners against Nottingham Forest and Crystal Palace saw him win more aerial duels than anyone on the pitch in both games. Throw in Declan Rice who is statistically the seventh-best player in the league for intercepting the ball and has helped them grind out key results, especially away from home.
The Gunners are yet to concede on the road in the Premier League this season and then, on Sunday, limited the best team in the world to just four shots in 94 minutes - the lowest from a Pep Guardiola side in a single match in 13 years.
So Arsenal's growth - in physicality and in depth - has left the Premier League with a team capable of challenging this City team and showing they can learn the lessons from last season to go on and beat them, when so many thought this ran the risk of becoming a one-horse race.
And of course, it is too early in the season to say that Sunday's win for Arsenal is the start of a potential changing of the guard at the top of the table. But as the likes of Kyle Walker and Erling Haaland got in a minor scuffle with Arsenal's coaching staff at full-time, it gave the impression that City had been rattled by this growing team.
It evoked memories of the Gunners' vintage Premier League rivalry with another club from Manchester.
And if Arteta vs Guardiola and Arsenal vs Manchester City is anything like those days, then bring this title race on.
Watch Arsenal's next Premier League game away at Chelsea live on Sky Sports on October 21; kick-off 5.30pm