Arsenal’s good run of recent form was halted on Saturday as the Gunners were beaten 3-1 by Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.
The home faithful were hoping that a fourth consecutive Premier League victory and one against a fellow top-four rival would set the tone for the remainder of the campaign – but it was not to be.
United were ruthless on the break but rode their luck, sitting deep and relying on the heroics of David de Gea to keep Arsenal at bay.
Looking at it objectively, there certainly were causes for concern.
The slow start to such a big game will have worried the Arsenal fans, with the home side 2-0 down before the team could even get going.
Injury to Shkodran Mustafi is the last thing the North London club needed, while some questionable distribution from the Gunners rearguard, with Laurent Koscielny particularly culpable, made for tough viewing.
However, on the whole and despite the result, Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans should be pleased with the performance put in by the players.
The Gunners had 70 per cent of the possession and 13 shots on target against one of the Premier League’s meanest defences – on another day the scoreline could have been entirely different.
De Gea’s world-class saves to deny the Arsenal attack in both halves were the difference between defeat and a potentially epic victory and on another day the London side could have scored four, five or more goals.
The control of the game will have been particularly pleasing for Wenger, with Granit Xhaka growing into his almost ever-present role in the Arsenal boiler room and Aaron Ramsey looking back to his consummate best.
Ahead of this, Mesut Oil pulled the strings for the Gunners and put in an excellent showing in a big game, Alexandre Lacazette looked sharp and Alexis Sanchez appeared more interested and motivated than he has in a considerable while.
Although no Arsenal fan can be happy with the result, if the side showed the same level of commitment and quality on a weekly basis, it is not unthinkable that the club would be pushing for major honours.
With the action coming thick and fast over the rest of the month but the fixture list throwing up distinctly winnable games, there is no reason to think that the Gunners cannot build on the nature of the performance against United and move firmly into the top four by the turn of the year.