Arsène Wenger took charge at Arsenal 17 years ago, almost to the day, and he was entitled to celebrate the anniversary on Saturday night after his impressively resurgent team regained pole position in the Premier League from Tottenham with their eighth straight win in all competitions. "The result was better than any cake," he said.

It seems a long time ago now since defeat against Aston Villa on the opening day had the Emirates crowd booing the players off and calling for a change in management. Their attitude has seen a remarkable U-turn these past six weeks and there were no dissenting voices among the travelling Gooners as goals from Serge Gnabry and Aaron Ramsey lifted their team two points clear at the top of the table. Those who wanted Wenger out may care to note that Arsenal have now won 13 and lost just one of their past 16 league matches.

Ben Davies pulled a goal back for Swansea in the 81st minute but the result was the most equitable outcome to a slow-burner that caught fire only in the second half. When it was pointed out to Wenger that his charges were now eight points ahead of Manchester United he replied, tongue firmly in cheek: "Yes, and let's not forget we were in a massive crisis after our first game."

On their day, these two teams provide arguably the best and certainly the most aesthetically pleasing football to be found anywhere in the Premier League, and the fixture held infinite promise. For a long time, however, it went unfulfilled.

There were notable absentees from both lineups. Swansea were without their coveted captain, Ashley Williams and the right-back Angel Rangel. Michael Laudrup also chose to omit Wilfried Bony, his joint leading scorer, and midfield metronome Leon Britton from his starting XI.

Arsenal are said by some to lack strength in depth, but their barnstorming run is all the more praiseworthy for the unavailability of Santi Cazorla, Abou Diaby, Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Tomas Rosicky and Theo Walcott, all hors de combat. In their absence Gnabry, an 18-year-old German, had a game he will not forget after coming into the team at Stoke last Sunday. Gnabry and Ramsey, 22, were both outstanding and Wenger said of them: "Together they are 40-years-old, which I'd love to be."

The first half was full of good intentions and good passing but not much else and neither goalkeeper was called upon to make a save before the interval.

It was typical of a strangely desultory first 45 that the only genuine chance, in added time, saw Olivier Giroud, set up by Gnabry, shoot wastefully wide from left to right.

The first save of the match was delayed until the 51st minute, and then Gnabry could do no more than shoot straight at Michel Vorm from a problematic angle. His sights set, the young man was back again six minutes later with gratifying success. Played in by Ramsey's short pass, he finished with precocious assurance, steering his shot across Vorm and just inside the goalkeeper's right‑hand post.

At last both teams were up and running and after Vorm had saved at Mesut Özil's expense, Arsenal doubled the margin in the 62nd minute. Jack Wilshere won the ball in midfield, launching a sweet-passing break which culminated in Giroud finding Ramsey, who belted the ball into the roof of the net from 12 yards.

As a former Cardiff City player, the Wales international midfielder had been subjected to abuse throughout by the Swansea crowd, but now the crowing chorus came from the visiting contingent: "Aaron Ramsey, he scores when he wants."

Nathan Dyer brought a spectacular save from Wojciech Szczesny before Bony's ball over the top enabled Davies to reduce the arrears, but Arsenal survived the Swans' late rally with minimal discomfort.

Laudrup said: "The thing I'm disappointed about was that between the first and second goals we lost our shape and left too much space for their counter-attacks. Suddenly we were 2-0 down. When you play against the top teams that can happen. They don't need much time to punish you and they did."

At the moment, Arsenal are doing it every week. Of their continuing improvement, Wenger said: "Our young players have improved and we have more confidence this season as well."