Arsene Wenger will face the same questions until the day he can hold up a trophy in front of his inquisitors and remove the 2005 FA Cup triumph as the last entry in his and Arsenal’s list of honours.
The Arsenal boss knows there are still doubts about his team’s resilience and staying power – but he can deliver the answers with increasing confidence after a 2-0 win against Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on Saturday that left Arsenal five points clear at the top of the Premier League.
After a victory that not only dented Liverpool’s impressive start to the season, but also eased any worries after respective home defeats in the Champions League and Capital One Cup by Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea, what were the key points Wenger had to make?
“It was vital to win because had we not won people would say Arsenal cannot win the big games at home,” he said.
Wenger knows what Arsenal’s detractors say about his players – and he has always been a passionate advocate of not only his team’s natural gifts, but also their inner strength and belief, even when the evidence suggests the contrary.
And his statement after this fine win, when many were suggesting Liverpool were in the sort of form to provide a tipping point after those losses to Dortmund and Chelsea, suggests he knew what the reaction would be had Arsenal not taken the three points.
Knives would not have been out but there would have been knowing glances, suggestions that the excellent form after that opening day defeat to Aston Villa was merely a false dawn before the fade.
Instead, led by inspirational captain Mikel Arteta, Arsenal delivered a display that supported Wenger’s insistence that they would bounce back after the Chelsea loss – while perhaps putting Liverpool’s own ambitions this season into some perspective.
The Gunners have earned 25 points out of the last available 27.
They are the only team to score in each of their Premier League matches this season.
Arsenal was never going to shackle a striker of Luis Suarez’s ability completely, but Wenger was right to suggest his defence did a fine job on the Uruguayan and his previously prolific partner Daniel Sturridge.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny did everything that was asked of them. Another test awaits this weekend when they face Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie at Old Trafford but they can draw belief from this.
In midfield there was much creation to admire from Mesut Ozil but the goals came from Santi Cazorla and Aaron Ramsey, showing that an end product can come from elsewhere even when Olivier Giroud, whose touch has been so sure this season, does not hit the target.
“Five points clear is positive and nice but it is very early in the season,” Wenger said.
It may be something of a distant memory but the Frenchman remembers what it takes to win a Premier League – and how not too many conclusions can be drawn early in the season.
There can no question, however, that Arsenal’s mood – and that of their supporters – were lifted greatly by events on Saturday.
Chelsea started the day hoping to put pressure on Arsenal but slipped surprisingly at Newcastle United in the early kick-off. The Gunners followed that defeat with a powerful statement of their own.
Wenger will know more after the trip to Old Trafford but they will go there in a rare position of strength against a Manchester United side still in the process of the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era and getting to know his successor David Moyes.
There have been some grim moments for Wenger against United in recent years but he may just sense this could be the time to make a psychological point if Arsenal can keep their belief.
So there are more questions.
Can Arsenal win the Premier League? Of course they can.
Will Arsenal win the Premier League? Perhaps not, but five points clear as the season edges into November is a position worth being in.
And this has been a strange season so far. Chelsea looked to be gathering momentum then lost on Tyneside. Manchester City have been fragile away from home. Manchester United is not yet at their best.
Arsenal has been the best team in the Premier League so far this season and in their two sternest tests, at home to Spurs and Liverpool, they have collected six points without conceding a goal.
“Is Aaron Ramsey the new Cesc Fabregas? No. They’re completely different types of players but Aaron is playing very well,” said Wenger.
The question was put to him after the comparison was made following Ramsey’s performance in the Liverpool win, decorated by another magnificent goal, sent high past goalkeeper Simon Mignolet on the hour to put Arsenal on their way to three points.
Ramsey has five goals and three assists in his last six Premier League appearances.
There is no need to compare the Wales midfield man with anyone this season. He is very much his own man, maturing fully after carefully piecing his career together and fulfilling his promise after the broken leg sustained against Stoke City in February 2010.