If a single player embodies the shift in perceptions, momentum and general altered gravity at Arsenal it is surely Per Mertesacker. Around the time Arsenal were losing three times in four matches in the spring – defeats in the FA Cup, Champions League and to Tottenham in the Premier League that threatened to garrotte their season – Mertesacker was being linked with a move after a difficult start to his career in England.
Eight months later, Arsenal have lost only four times since and Mertesacker has again been linked with a move – this time to the European Champions Bayern Munich – while Arsenal have already begun to talk about a protective contract extension.
It is a transformation that lends some extra weight to Mertesacker's words in support of Mesut Özil after Tuesday night's Champions League victory against the half-speed makeweights of Marseille. Özil had a mixed night, missing a penalty, creating a goal for Jack Wilshere and failing to dispel a wider impression that after a bravura start his levels have dipped very slightly.
"He's made good progress, I think," Mertesacker said, praising in particular Özil's ability to drive the way Arsenal move out of defence. "He is in good form, you can see especially [against Marseille] he was always a threat and he never gave up, despite the penalty miss. We are very delighted with him. In the transitions from defence to offence he is always a threat – you can play the ball he's the one who goes deep all the time."
There have been some peripheral murmurings about Özil's goal return to date – he has scored in only one Premier League match, the 4-1 win at Norwich – but Mertesacker is unconcerned. "He gets himself into good positions so the goals will come, for sure. He can look like his head is going down, but we don't care, we just go on and what he did then especially with the second goal, when he got in that position to cross the ball for Jack [Wilshere], he's always a threat."
With regards to his own position, Mertesacker confirmed there has been a little feeling out over the possibility of a new contract. After a difficult start in 2011, Germany's captain has become a genuine leader in a team that for a while seemed to lack a sense of galvanising muscle.
"I missed completely the pre-season [in 2011] so it was really hard to come in. The window shut and I had to work straight away so it took me a while to respond to that level, but the manager always stuck with me and said, yes, you are intelligent enough to cope with the problems.
"I'm very delighted here with the club. The first year was a very tough challenge for me but the club and boss always stuck with me in a very special way so I think it's a little reward that we talk. I've got one and a half years left so there's no rush. It seems to me that some guys are delighted with my performances. So I'm pleased with the situation."