Arsène Wenger's soul-searching has accompanied him beyond the trauma of the summer months but it was rare and startling to hear him go public with some of his insecurities. The Arsenal manager's admission that he would consider his position at the end of the season if he felt he had failed to get the maximum out of the team provided as much of a talking point at Carrow Road as Robin van Persie's latest masterclass.
Wenger gave the interview to L'Equipe "two or three weeks ago" – it was published on Saturday morning – but he said that his thinking had not changed in the interim; Arsenal had not played for two weeks, due to the international break. The Frenchman has made no secret of the agonies he has endured; he has described the summer and the season's early weeks as his "most difficult" period, likening it to a descent into hell.
However, in the interview he also appeared to concede that his post‑Highbury project had failed. Following the departures of Cesc Fábregas and Samir Nasri, the club had started a "new cycle" and needed to "rebuild again". Wenger said: "When we left Highbury, I thought long-term with a very young team. It didn't work."
Wenger cautioned against too much importance being attached to a "little sentence" and he stressed his wholehearted commitment to the club, which nobody doubts. He might have argued that any senior employee who cared deeply for his company would consider their position if they were falling below standard. Wenger is under contract until the summer of 2014. "I will stay and that is it," he said.
The victory at Norwich was a fighting display, reinforced by another positive performance from his players. Arsenal created the chances to have secured these points several times over and they have now won 10 and drawn one of their past 12 matches in all competitions. Wenger feels that his new signings have settled, even if that assessment was overly generous to the centre-half Per Mertesacker, who endured a nervous afternoon. He was horribly at fault for Steve Morison giving Norwich the lead.
Wenger's candour and humility in confronting the issue of his future betrayed angst and fragility. As he rebuilds, the positive interpretation is that his hunger and quest for perfection permits no scope for slipping below expectations. The negative reading takes in the effect on a team of the manager starting to voice doubts.
Van Persie's form has underpinned the revival, even if his future is also delicate. The striker's contract talks are on hold until the summer, when he will have 12 months left but Arsenal's prayers are for him to avoid injury. Not for the first time, it was frightening to think of how the team might fare without him; if he could enjoy a full season, their hopes would soar.
Van Persie has provided cutting edge and belief, and his Premier League goals tally in 2011 has moved to 31 in 29 appearances; it is 13 in 12 this season, with 10 in his last five. The sponsors ought to courier the man-of-the-match champagne to his address before kick-off. Comparisons to the continent's finest feel justified but, encouragingly for Wenger, there have been signs that Arsenal's support cast is responding.
"We are playing beautiful football and the likes of Robin up front make our jobs so much easier," said the winger Theo Walcott, who was excellent against Norwich. "He is one of the best strikers in the world at the moment and we just love playing together. But it's not just Robin. The whole team is gelling. There's a lot of players in form."
This might have been a hammering for Norwich; the central defender Russell Martin had made a hat-trick of saving clearances in front of his goal-line by the 24th minute. But he was reminded that there were no margins for error when he lost the ball to Aaron Ramsey and watched Alex Song spring Van Persie in for the winner.
"I feel we have come back in a stronger position [after the early season] and the team is growing from game to game," Wenger said. "We have some way to go to show that this is the right way but what I wanted to say was we will see at the end of the season how far we can go. I'm very positive but how much do we want to be really successful? That's what we have to show."