For all their flaws and unsolved problems, this team have renewed the air of optimism at the Emirates

A strange and unfamiliar noise swirled around the Emirates Stadium at full-time. Strewn across the turf in red and white was the human rubble of a crushing injury-time defeat. Takehiro Tomiyasu and Ben White were out cold. Thomas Partey, hand outstretched, helped them up. And as Arsenal’s exhausted players slowly winched themselves to their feet, the four sides of the ground rose to applaud them: a gesture of approval, pride, perhaps even defiance. Yes, Arsenal had lost to Manchester City again. Yes, it had been largely self-inflicted again. But somehow this did not feel like the other times.

To anyone who lived through the really bad years, who has seen this stadium at its most toxic and disenchanted, who has seen successive generations blanched and brutalised, this in itself was bracingly new. We can argue about how good this Arsenal side actually are, about whether their recent boost in form is any more sustainable than the ones that preceded it. But right now there is a little halo of hope around this club, and it feels like the most fragile and the most important thing at once.

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