Derby win over Tottenham creates blueprint for Arsenal success
Arsenal's 2-0 win against Tottenham on Saturday certainly silenced some of the team's many critics.
But it also raised the question: Why can't they play like that in every game? Consistency has always been the main problem for Arsene Wenger's men, who look capable of beating anyone when they're on form and equally capable of losing to anyone when they're not.
The win over Spurs didn't showcase Arsenal's attacking play at its free-flowing best, but was perhaps the most complete performance they've delivered in a long time. And there were several key aspects of the game that Arsenal will have to replicate every week to live up to this blueprint going forward.
Here's a look at five of them:
Playing well off the ball
Arsenal are known for playing well when in possession, which is most of the time. But in Saturday's derby, they were more impressive off the ball for once. The high pressing worked to perfection -- in stark contrast to their struggles at Manchester City -- and unsettled Spurs' build-up game throughout the match.
It seemed every player was on the same page at all times, a sign that Wenger made pressing a priority in training over the international break. If they keep it up, Arsenal will be much better equipped to compete in the big games.
Putting bodies on the line
How many times have we seen Arsenal defenders turn their backs on shots in recent seasons? There was none of that on Saturday, as they repeatedly put their bodies on the line by hurling themselves in front of the ball.
Shkodran Mustafi set the tone with a fantastic block on Harry Kane's shot and kept it up until the final minutes when he dived in front of another goal-bound attempt. That's the attitude that doesn't just prevent goals but raises the bar for the entire team and gets the crowd roaring.
Ozil tracking back!
Mesut Ozil has been perhaps the most widely criticised Arsenal player this season but was rightly praised for a stellar performance. One of his most notable moments wasn't the assist for Mustafi or any other creative pass, but when he rushed back to steal the ball away from Christian Eriksen and deny Spurs a dangerous attack in the first half. It was the kind of tracking back he has often been accused of shying away from, but no one could question his work ethic in this game.
Efficiency in the box
Arsenal's two most damaging losses this season -- at Stoke and Watford -- came in games where they dominated possession but couldn't make anything with it. In this game, they finished with just 42 percent possession but scored with their only two shots on target in the first half.
Alexis Sanchez was then denied twice by Hugo Lloris after the break, but Arsenal's early efficiency in the box made the difference in this game. Efficiency isn't something you just dial up on demand, but the Gunners certainly need more of it against their big rivals.
A proper atmosphere
It wasn't just Arsenal's players who were at their best at the Emirates. The crowd finally contributed to a proper atmosphere as well. There were hardly any empty seats, and the noise level was the loudest it's been all season (as always is the case for the derby).
It's easy to understand why so many supporters are apathetic towards Wenger's team at the moment, but they have delivered 11 straight home league wins and there's no excuse for the tepid atmosphere that accompanied most of them.
If only more Gunners fans were as passionate about supporting their own team as they are about rooting against Spurs.
Mattias is ESPN FC's Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.