Arsène Wenger said that Arsenal could revel in the football of supporters' dreams after he watched his team take a grip on Champions League Group F with a 2-0 home win over Napoli.
Inspired by the record signing Mesut Özil, who scored the opening goal, Arsenal were two up by the 15th minute and into a glorious first-half stride. Wenger said that his players had played their best stuff in years. They eased off in the second half to spare Napoli, who endured a desperately disappointing evening but it did nothing to take the gloss of the home side's performance. Arsenal sit top of the group, with six points from two matches.
"The first half was absolutely amazing, fantastic," Wenger said. "It had everything; the collective, individual skill and finishing. It was everything that you dream to see when you sit in the stands watching football. We played the first half at a great pace with belief, authority, great finishing and movement. Overall, that's the game we want to see.
"The second half was a bit more cautious and handbrake-ish because we played more not to make a mistake and not to score. We played with more maturity, and less drive going forward. But in patches, when we went forward, you could see that a third goal was there if we really pushed for it.
"I don't know when we last played this well. Certainly at home, it's one of the best halves we have played for a long time. I would be tempted to say when we last played Barcelona here [in February 2011] but when you play at home in the Champions League, the team comes and tries to play as well. In the Premiership, most of the time it's against a team who defends and waits for you."
Rafael Benítez, the Napoli manager, was without the striker Gonzalo Higuaín owing to a muscle injury but he admitted that it did not matter as Arsenal had been practically flawless. He did, though, not disguise his unhappiness at his team's sloppy start and overall levels.
"A player like Higuain, we would miss a lot but when you play against a team that does everything perfectly, you can miss one player or two players but it doesn't do a lot," Benítez said. "I didn't like what we did at the start. Arsenal started well with pace and intensity and we didn't do that.
"We lost the ball in several occasions and when we did, we paid for those mistakes. The team must understand the approach must be different. They must have more pace and intensity. We just have to work to get the team to where we need to be."
Wenger said that he had made the late decision to use Jack Wilshere only as a second-half substitute, as he did not want to "overload" him in light of the injury problems from which he has suffered in the past. The manager has been guilty, he has admitted, of over-playing Wilshere at times.
But his options in midfield appear mouthwatering, with Mathieu Flamini nullifying the threat of Marek Hamsik and Aaron Ramsey excelling from his starting position on the right. It was Özil, though, who was the star turn. His goal, a stunning finish from Ramsey's cutback, was his first since his £42.5m arrival from Real Madrid.
"Ozil was like the team – he had an outstanding first half, where you had everything that you want to see from a great player," Wenger said. "Individual skill, team play, finishing, final ball. Just sit there and enjoy it. We are just lucky to have got him. He enjoys to play football with his partners and he has integrated very quickly with the team mentality.
"With Wilshere, I am a bit more cautious this time than I was before. You can't play with the same 11 players in all the games. It's important that I rotate without losing the balance of the team."