It says everything about Theo Walcott that he can score a hat-trick and create two other goals yet still not settle the argument as to whether he is best deployed as a centre-forward or a winger. And it says a lot about Arsenal that despite Walcott's feat and the fact that Olivier Giroud came close to matching it in just a quarter of an hour on the pitch against Newcastle, there is still a widespread view that Arsène Wenger urgently needs a striker such as Demba Ba.
"Let's keep those we have, that is the first target," answered Wenger when asked whether he would make a move for a new centre-forward as soon as the transfer window opens in January. That was a reference to his desire to secure a new pledge of allegiance from Walcott, who continues to haggle over a proposed extension to his contract that expires in the summer. The 23-year-old showcased his exceptional talents in spectacular style against Newcastle, yet Ba demonstrated some of the skills that Walcott still lacks and showed why Wenger is considering further investment.
Walcott does some things wonderfully. His speed has always been devastating and his finishing has improved immensely, as exemplified by a trio of perfectly-placed strikes here. But while he is sharp enough to serve as a spearhead and certainly more deadly than Gervinho, he is not strong and savvy enough to be a fulcrum for attacks, unlike Ba, who led the line superbly against Arsenal in addition to scoring twice. The Senegalese has a £7m release clause in his contract and Wenger, like Chelsea and others, seems tempted to spring it.
Even if Walcott does commit his future to the club, which the manager believes he is close to doing, Arsenal could still do with a forward of Ba's proven power to be used when Walcott's dash is best deployed out wide. Wenger declared himself impressed by Ba's "movement and his strength in the challenges as well, and up in the air" but added that "he is a similar type to Giroud and you will see Giroud develop into that kind of player".
The question is whether Arsenal would benefit from having that kind of player right now while Giroud, who has clearly been getting more accustomed to the Premier League and came off the bench to score two fine goals here and also hit the crossbar, pursues his development, especially as Ba may be available for a bargain price. All Alan Pardew can do, meanwhile, is hope that Wenger and others decide against taking the plunge.
"Demba is out of my hands, there is nothing I can do about it so what will be will be," said the Newcastle manager with pained fatalism. The size of Arsenal's win may play into Pardew's hands if it helps convince Wenger that his side is finding consistency and therefore that he should not add another new player. Wenger ventured to suggest that the "craziness" of earlier in the campaign, when swashbuckling goal sprees alternated with impotent 0-0 draws with Aston Villa and Sunderland and limp defeats to Swansea, Norwich and Bradford, may be at an end – although he confesses to being "cautious" about declaring the club's crisis officially over.
"People have been very impatient with us, we have rebuilt the team and we started well and after that we stuttered," he says. "Now we have come back. We had to rebuild the team and we have done it. It demands some understanding. How good we are will be decided in the next four or five months. It is not over yet, be patient. We can be better".
Pardew knows Newcastle must get better too. There were positives amid this display, primarily Ba's continued potency, a decent return by Cheik Tioté in midfield and the excellence of his team's other goalscorer, Sylvain Marveaux, but his injury-ravaged team still suffered their eighth defeat in their last 10 matches and now lie three points above the relegation zone.
The manager admits to being anxious. "I've never looked away from the bottom of the league, to be honest," he said. "Any Premier League manager outside of the top four or five clubs who says he doesn't look at getting 40 points first is telling a fib. We are 20 points short at the moment so we've got a bit to do.
"We've got good players to come back and we're going to make an impact in this league at some point but we don't want to leave it too late."
Man of the match Theo Walcott (Arsenal)