How quickly times change. Six weeks after being booed off against Aston Villa, Arsenal have opened up a two-point lead at the top of the table, their odds on winning the title have been slashed and Arsène Wenger is being described as the best manager in the Premier League by a Tottenham Hotspur supporter by the name of Lord Sugar. "A nice compliment," the Arsenal manager said when told about Sugar's tweet.
With 17 years in the job, Wenger is not exactly an apprentice. The Frenchman knows when he is on to a good thing, which is why he refused to subscribe to the view that it was the end of the world when Arsenal lost on the opening day. Wenger saw a bigger picture that is getting better all the time. Arsenal's record in all competitions since 13 March reads: played 21, won 18 (including Wednesday's penalty shootout victory against West Bromwich Albion in the Capital One Cup), drawn two, lost one. Indeed a league table for the calendar year shows that Arsenal are top, six points clear of their nearest rivals, Tottenham Hotspur, having played one game more.
"It's terrible to lose the first game of this season but that was the first one we had lost since March," Wenger said, after watching his side register an eighth successive away win in the league to equal their club record. "I was proven right by the fact that, after that [Villa defeat], we have responded in a positive way. We have improved. We have good stability."
It is a measure of how Arsenal's season has swung from one extreme to the other that Wenger is now being asked if this group of players have the ability to sustain a title challenge. "We have the desire of course. You see that as well," the Arsenal manager said. "But it's an early stage with just six games played. After the first game, I would have taken 15 points today. Let's just try to keep going.
"We have a chance. It's very open. There are maybe six or seven teams. You can even add Everton to the top four, plus Liverpool and Tottenham. It will be very interesting. Today, what has changed compared to years before maybe, is that when playing at 80% you cannot win against any team in the Premier League. You have to be between 95 and 100 – and that promises a very interesting season."
While the sceptics will argue that, with the exception of a home win over Spurs, Arsenal have not had the toughest run since losing against Villa, it is also true that Wenger has been picking from a severely depleted squad.
The Arsenal manager said he was missing "seven quality players" against Swansea. Without that injury crisis, Serge Gnabry, the 18-year-old German winger who opened the scoring here, would almost certainly still be waiting to make his Premier League debut.
Aaron Ramsey set up Gnabry's goal with a wonderful reverse pass and went on to score a superb second to steal the show once again. It was the Welshman's eighth goal in nine club appearances this season. He is in the form of his life. "His fitness levels are not normal," Jack Wilshere said. "He's naturally so fit he can score at any time in the game. He's pushing on in the 94th minute. He's got his confidence back, which is nice to see."
The same is true of Arsenal. "After the Villa game we knew we didn't acquit ourselves," Wilshere added. "The fans gave us some stick which we deserved. We woke up after that. We won in the Champions League [against Fenerbahce], which was vital for our confidence. It gave us a boost and our away run is still going, which we are delighted about."
For Swansea, who have failed to win in eight league games at home, defeat was hard to stomach. There had been nothing to choose between the teams until a four-minute spell around the hour mark when Arsenal turned it on and Swansea switched off. By the time the excellent Ben Davies pulled a goal back eight minutes from time, the damage was done.
"Today was quite similar to Man United [on the opening day] when they scored two goals in a few minutes [and went on to win 4-1]," Michel Vorm, the Swansea goalkeeper, said. "If you are not 100% concentrated in these few minutes, teams can punish you and Arsenal did."
Man of the match Aaron Ramsey (Arsenal)