Five reasons behind Arsenal's dramatic turnaround over the past month
What a difference a month makes.
Arsenal head into this international break with a sense of momentum and optimism -- a completely different mood compared to the previous two-week break less than five weeks ago.
Back then, the sky was falling down after the dismal 4-0 defeat at Liverpool, and the turmoil was stirred up further by a chaotic ending to the transfer window. But the Gunners have steadied the ship with six wins and a draw in all competitions since then. Although they still face an uphill battle to catch the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal are now far from a laughingstock.
Here are five reasons behind the turnaround:
You can't lose if you don't concede, and Arsenal have gone four straight league games without shipping a single goal. That's some improvement for a team that conceded eight in the first three matches. There's undoubtedly been a few let-offs and slices of luck that helped maintain that record, but it's clear the back-three formation is working well when all the key pieces are in place. Arsene Wenger's first-choice trio of Laurent Koscielny, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal has largely been excellent when playing together -- which they didn't do in the first three games -- and has brought a sense of stability to the team. Add with Petr Cech in top form as well, Arsenal's defence suddenly looks downright respectable.
Resting players in Europe
Wenger is doing his best to turn the Europa League into a positive by resting most of his starters while giving playing time to his backups and youngsters. That's a large reason for why Arsenal came through a congested fixture schedule without any hiccups in the league -- unlike Chelsea, Tottenham and Liverpool who had the Champions League to contend with. It also means players like Olivier Giroud, Theo Walcott and Jack Wilshere will be sharp and ready if Wenger has to call on them in the league any time soon.
Spreading the scoring
No fewer than 10 Arsenal players scored in their past seven games, highlighting how all the focus on Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil may be misplaced. Alexandre Lacazette is off to a good start with four goals, but his teammates have taken the pressure off the club's record signing by chipping in from all over the pitch. Four defenders have even contributed, with Hector Bellerin, Sead Kolasinac, Rob Holding and Monreal all getting on the score sheet. Sanchez may not be happy with his tally of just one goal so far, and Ozil has zero, but Arsenal are better off if they don't have to depend too heavily on the star duo.
Stamford Bridge statement
After the Anfield capitulation, Arsenal made a much-needed statement at Stamford Bridge, a stadium where they had not earned a single point since 2011. Players were rightly frustrated that they couldn't eke out a win, but the fighting spirit in the 0-0 draw was a stark contrast to the meek surrender against Liverpool and did more to win fans back than any of their six victories. Arsenal have a terrible record in big away games in recent years, but put in a performance at Chelsea that should give them confidence going forward.
OK, perhaps we shouldn't get carried away. Arsenal's six wins all came against teams they are expected to beat, and five were at the Emirates. But the cliché about there being no easy games in the Premier League is true, as evidenced by Spurs' home draw against Swansea and Liverpool's recent stalemates against Burnley and promoted Newcastle. Any team that hopes to fight for the championship must take full advantage of those stretches where the calendar offers an opportunity to go on a run and build some momentum. Since Arsenal's next four opponents are Watford, Everton, Norwich and Swansea, there's now every chance for the Gunners to keep that run going through October.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.