Despite the Premier League campaign being just 11 games in, for Arsenal and their supporters, it has already felt a season of two very distinct halves.
After three matches, three defeats, nine conceded and none scored, there was understandable concern that Mikel Arteta’s project may have come off the track to the point of no repair.
Eight games later however and the picture is markedly more positive.
Since that 5-0 demolition to Manchester City at the end of August, the Gunners are unbeaten in the league, the longest run of any side in the top flight.
But Saturday’s trip to Anfield to face Liverpool marks this second version of 2021/22 Arsenal’s biggest test yet.
When City swatted them aside, the chasm between the title contenders and the pretenders has never appeared wider, but a win over the Reds on Merseyside would show that gap is shrinking.
Arteta and Edu have regularly suggested that the club’s £150million summer spree was carried out with one eye on the future.
“We signed six players who are under 23, which means a lot in terms of our planning,” technical director Edu explained in September.
“Normally, people like to see just one window, so I have to say it is the bigger picture because we started planning this squad a year ago in terms of consolidating the team and to try to get a better foundation.”
Aaron Ramsdale, Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi Lokonga, Martin Odegaard, Takehiro Tomiyasu and even record signing Ben White were brought to the Emirates with the aim of building a long-term foundation for success.
But each has shown in their own right, that they are ready for the challenge right here and right now.
After missing out on Europe last season, Arteta revealed he held talks with much maligned co-owner Josh Kroenke who issued a promise to the Spaniard going into his second full season in charge.
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“He’s very supportive, very passionate about the club and he wants to take the club to a different level,” Arteta explained. “That’s the ambition and that’s why he’s here.”
Earlier this month, Kroenke said of the start to the season: “Do we feel good about where we are? We feel better about where we are, we don’t feel good. Our fans still deserve more.”
A win at Anfield will make everyone feel even better about the direction of Arsenal under Arteta.