Anfield thumping put Gunners back in their place but there’s a chance to prove they are taking steps back towards the Champions League places with a win at Old Trafford
There was a feeling when Arsenal were on their eight-game unbeaten run that their clash with Liverpool would always be the real marker of their progress.
That it was all well and good beating Norwich, Burnley and Watford, and even Tottenham and Leicester sides who have had their struggles this season.
But that Jurgen Klopp’s team would be the true test of whether or not they were ready to challenge, as some were suggesting, for the top four again this time out.
Of course, the 4-0 hammering that ensued delivered a reality check to those Gooners who had dared to dream.
And it left those who hadn’t been quite so easily convinced nodding sagely that they were always going to be put back in their place as a team still very much in transition.
The truth is that there are several other teams Arsenal need to haul in before they should even start thinking about mixing it again with Liverpool and, by extension, Chelsea and Manchester City.
West Ham for starters, given the Hammers finished two places ahead of them last season and are above them again this time out.
And despite everything that has been going on at Manchester United this season, how many Arsenal supporters would confidently back their side to get a result at Old Trafford.
It’s one that could easily go either way and will, as such, be a far greater barometer of the level Mikel Arteta’s men are now at than the Liverpool game was ever going to be.
United, of course, have a superior squad to Arsenal’s and, yes, they finished second last season.
But just as a 1-1 draw at league leaders Chelsea will have injected a little confidence back into the side in the early days of the post-Ole Gunnar Solskjaer era, so the walloping at Watford that cost the Norwegian his job just a week earlier laid bare just the many issues there are for Ralf Rangnick to address in the weeks and months ahead.
Arsenal FC via Getty Images)
What will be key to any result for Arsenal, then, will be controlling the Old Trafford crowd and if the visitors can get their noses ahead it will ramp up the heat on a group of players already under serious pressure and scrutiny.
There’s no denying Solskjaer had shortcomings as an elite-level manager but that was no excuse for the way his players tossed it in under him.
That’s something that won’t be lost on many United fans and if Emile Smith Rowe, Martin Odegaard and, if fit, Bukayo Saka can find a way to open up the struggling defence then the flak will almost certainly start to fly.
If Arsenal can come away from Manchester with all three points then that defeat by Liverpool and the manner of it is something many fans will be able to live with at this stage of the rebuild.
And they will also have given themselves and their supporters massive belief going into a busy and important few weeks.
If they lose, though, then not only will they have conceded points to a rival in the race for positions four to seven, they will have delivered another message to their supporters that the gap they hoped was closing on the teams they used to mix it with is still as wide as it has been in recent seasons.