The rumour ignited on Twitter – where else? – and quickly gripped. Arsène Wenger was so furious with his Arsenal players for managing to turn a 2-0 victory into a 3-2 defeat in the final 10 minutes at Wigan Athletic last April that he got the team bus to dump them at Wigan train station and ordered them to make their own way back to London.

The truth was rather less dramatic. Arsenal regularly take the train from Euston to and from their matches in the north-west because it is quicker and this occasion was no different. Yet Wenger's rage was very real. Had his team won at Wigan, they would have sat three points behind the league leaders Chelsea with three games to play. Chelsea still had to go to Liverpool. But the result killed off any lingering hopes of a first championship success since 2004.

In the wake of the euphoria of their breakthrough victory over Chelsea at the Emirates Stadium last night, the experience serves as a salutary lesson. It feels as if we are constantly talking about the learning of lessons with Arsenal. Maybe it is because of their youth, but there is little doubt that the steps forward taken against Chelsea would be quickly retraced if they were to go to the DW Stadium tomorrow night and lose again.

"These games are very important, just as big as the ones against Chelsea," said the winger Theo Walcott. "We need to go to Wigan and show what champions are made of and try to win. We have to go on a run of wins. If you want to be champions, you need to go to places like Wigan and win.

"Everyone was buzzing after the Chelsea result but it's gone now. We can't dwell on it. We could be disappointed if we win against Chelsea and then lose at Wigan."

Arsenal had not played since their 1-0 defeat at Manchester United on 13 December due to their home game against Stoke City on the Saturday before last being postponed and they positively overflowed with energy. They pressed Chelsea from the first minute to the last, and they did not allow them to find a groove.

The Stoke postponement had also fired fury within them. They knew that they had let themselves down at Old Trafford and, having revved themselves up to make amends against Stoke, they were denied the opportunity when the heavy snow fell in north London.

Cesc Fábregas, the captain, wrote in the programme about his frustration at the game being called off. His attitude was that if you are not going to have a winter break, then the matches must be played whatever the weather, while Walcott confirmed that "there was a bit of anger".

Arsenal unleashed the pent-up emotions against Chelsea, and it was as much the diligence and focus of their defensive work that caught the eye. Walcott suggested it was unusual for Arsenal to maintain such levels for the 90 minutes and the challenge now is to repeat them when they play again inside 48 hours.

"Everyone got their duties right and it was just nice to see in an Arsenal team for a change," Walcott said. "All 11 players defensively were pressing at the right moments and we made Chelsea look quite average at times.

"When we've got the ball, we're fantastic but when we don't, it's a different story. But against Chelsea, we showed how great we were off the ball. We need to do that in every game and come Wednesday, we need to do it again because it's going to be tough. We lost there last season and we have to travel a long distance to get there as well."