Arsenal’s journey from also-rans into serious Premier League title contenders is impressive by any measure but can be clearly illustrated by two games on Tyneside separated by almost 12 months.
As Mikel Arteta and his players took the acclaim of Arsenal fans perched high above St James’ Park after an outstanding 2-0 win at Newcastle United, any notions that the Gunners would go quietly in the face of Manchester City’s relentless charge for a fifth crown in six years receded further into the distance.
Arsenal once again showed a potent mixture of quality and sheer guts to prevail amid the sound and fury of a sensational atmosphere, the Toon Army high on raised expectations that their resurgence will be rewarded with a return to the Champions League next season.
It was all a far cry from their last visit at the back end of last season when Arsenal crumbled in this hothouse, subsiding to a timid 2-0 loss that played a key role in conceding Champions League football to archrivals Tottenham.
Indeed, such was the impact of the loss that manager Mikel Arteta dug out a clip from the game in the club’s All Or Nothing fly-on-the-wall documentary series and showed it to Arsenal’s players before they left the team hotel.
“We had to feel it,” said Arteta after Sunday’s win. “It wasn’t enough just to talk about it. Not just the players but the staff as well. That feeling that we didn’t do enough that day.
“The word was pain and then the desire for revenge. When you have question marks you have to resolve them.
“When you have the emotions we had last year you have to feel them again, realise how nasty they are and approach the game differently. The boys did that well.”
It certainly had the desired effect.
“The clip showed us all of our faces, staff included, how hurt we were all feeling,” said Arsenal keeper Aaron Ramsdale. “So we had that burning desire as soon as we were leaving the hotel that it wasn’t going to be the same today.”
This will be far more palatable footage.
Here, in an even more frenzied environment and against a superior Newcastle side than the one they lost to 12 months ago, Arsenal turned the tables and once again made a nonsense of the “chokers” label prematurely draped around their necks after four league games without a win.
Arsenal held firm in a frantic start, played out to a deafening Geordie backing track, in which Jacob Murphy hit the post and a penalty awarded against Jakub Kiwior for handball was overturned by VAR.
And at the heart of it all, once more, was Martin Odegaard playing the role of inspirational leader to perfection, producing a moment of individual brilliance that not only stemmed the tide but turned it in Arsenal’s favour.
The 24-year-old Norwegian might have seen countryman Erling Haaland become the Premier League’s headline act this season but the manner in which he has guided and inspired Arsenal, despite his relatively tender years, deserves credit of its own.
He drilled a low 25-yard drive past Nick Pope for his 15th league goal of the season, an outstanding return when set alongside his other qualities.
Arsenal then dug in as Newcastle turned up the pressure, but this was anything but a backs-to-the-wall survival mission. The Gunners were a serious threat throughout and wrapped up the win when Fabian Schar turned Gabriel Martinelli’s cross into his own net with 19 minutes left.