It’s that time of the year again, the time that football fans have been dreading since the Barclay’s Premier League got underway a little under 5 weeks ago. The talk of the title returning to the Emirates has begun! Arsene Wenger has got his team playing the flowing football that could finally threaten to give the FA Cup of 2005 some much needed company in the ever vacant trophy cabinet. It’s a sight that has become all too common for supporters in seasons gone by. Early victories, most notably last weekend’s 6-1 demolition of Southampton accompanied by a convincing win over Brendan Rodger’s new look Liverpool has fuelled early season optimism in North London. Lukas Podolski’s apparent knack of scoring as he pleases has seemingly buried the memories of Robin Van Persie’s acrimonious exit whilst Abou Diaby has finally managed to master the fine art of playing in consecutive Premier League games. Sunday’s trip to the Etihad stadium is sure to provide an indication over whether there truly is substance to Arsenal’s early season exploits.

            Whilst the men from the red half of North London will always possess the ability to keep the football purists purring there now appears to be evidence that Arsene Wenger has finally recognised that success stems from strong defensive foundations. Long gone are the images of German centre half Per Mertesacker being out paced and out classed by any striker possessing even the slightest turn of pace. Thus far, the German has established himself at the heart of Arsenal’s defence alongside the infallible Thomas Vermaelen and 1 Premier League goal conceded in 4 games tells its own story. However, Sunday’s visit to the Etihad will inevitably test Arsenal’s new found defensive strength with City’s Argentinian duo Tevez and Aguero offering an entirely different challenge to that posed by Southampton’s Ricky Lambert last time out.

            The early season form of Abou Diaby has earned the Frenchman the label of the ‘next Viera’, a term of praise reserved for any Arsenal midfielder displaying even an element of combativeness. However, in a similar manner to Arsenal’s new found defensive resoluteness, Sunday’s visit to Manchester will provide a real barometer of Diaby’s true ability to dominate a midfield battle. The match up of Diaby and Yaya Toure in midfield is sure to be a gargantuan contest and Arsenal’s defensive lynchpin will undoubtedly have his work cut out in preventing the rampaging Ivorian from wreaking havoc upon the Arsenal defence.

            The addition of Santi Cazorla to the Arsenal midfield has finally provided the answer to the Cesc Fabregas question only partially solved by Mikel Arteta last season. The sparkling Spaniard has already orchestrated Liverpool’s downfall and will be looking to inflict more misery in the North West on Sunday. Cazorla has not only demonstrated his ability to deliver countless goal scoring opportunities but he has also chipped in with a few of his own. Whether Cazorla can weave his magic when confronted with a powerful City midfield three is another question all together.

            Even at this early stage of the season, Arsenal’s trip to the blue half of Manchester on Sunday has taken on huge significance. Whilst Cazorla and co have rightly ignited enthusiasm amongst the Arsenal faithful with their early season form, it is a completely different task toppling the champions in their own back yard. Defeat on Sunday will not distinguish Arsenal’s title hopes but it could well prove the Gunners early season form to be yet another false dawn. Only time will tell.