Premier League contenders have cast soft touch status aside with plan for all occasions to dazzle or dig deep against rivals

It was tempting to pinch oneself when Rob Edwards, invited to pour forth about the opponents who had just eased past his Luton side on Wednesday night, set them apart from the other title contenders. “Maybe they’re the one team out of the three who are fighting at the moment that can play any game,” he said. “If it’s a physical game, if it’s a footballing game, if it’s a running game, whatever it is, they’ve got the answer. They’ve got the personalities who will play any way.”

Edwards really was talking about Arsenal and it is hard to think of a plaudit that could speak more highly of their evolution. For years they had been viewed as a potential soft touch among rivals, even if that would not always be expressed out loud. In the final decade of Arsène Wenger’s reign their football was unstintingly attractive but held back maddeningly, it often felt, by the dogma that there was an “Arsenal” way to win games and trophies. They were usually nice to watch but Mikel Arteta, four and a quarter years into the job, has transformed what that compliment should entail. It speaks volumes that this season’s attacking and defensive records outshine everyone else.

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