Arsenal maintained their perfect record in Champions League qualifiers under Arsene Wenger with a tidy 2-0 win over Fenerbahce, allowing them to skate through to the group stage with a 5-0 aggregate advantage.
The Gunners did lose in the process of winning, which will be explored later. But despite a summer that has borne no fruit so far in the transfer market and has consequently seen tremendous pressure on the players and the manager, both worked in tandem to achieve a necessary end.
Let's take a look at what we learned from the performance.
Few Arsenal players have generated as much controversy and venomous, sulfuric vitriol as Aaron Ramsey.
It took the young Welshman (he is still just 22 years old, remember) over a year to fully recover from Ryan Shawcross' malicious tackle several seasons ago. At the end of last season, however, even his most ferocious detractors were forced to admit that he had become a vital cog in Arsenal's midfield.
Now Ramsey appears to be poised to thrash off the old fetters once and for all. This year he is getting much more involved in attacking positions, and Arsene Wenger is right about his second goal, telling the media that "...a year ago he would not have taken that chance the way he took it here." (h/t Arsenal.com)
Whereas Ramsey used to be an all-action runner with no real bite, he is now taking games by the scruff of the neck and putting his stamp on a team that now largely relies on his skill.
Very few, if any, Arsenal fans would be discouraged if the club somehow inked Real Madrid winger Angel di Maria in the next few days. There have been potent rumors of a transfer for a while—Paul Breen-Turner of talkSPORT claims that Real reacted "favorably" to Arsenal's approach.
However, there was a credible argument against signing the Argentine: He would add to virtually the only area of the squad that has any depth to it at all.
However, Lukas Podolski has twanged his hamstring and will be sidelined for three weeks, according to Wenger. Arsenal will have no out-and-out left wingers, other than Serge Gnabry and Ryo Miyaichi.
While it is never wise to make large signings based on very short-term needs, Podolski's knock highlights just how thin the Gunners are, even in one of their deeper areas. Something should be done.
Arsene Wenger and his medical staff need to take a serious look at why so many of their players are getting injured with such alarming frequency.
Every game seemingly sees several important squad members go down. Tomas Rosicky, Carl Jenkinson, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all went down after the season began, with the latter joining Thomas Vermaelen and Mikel Arteta on the sideline with a medium- to long-term problem.
After the Fenerbahce game, Jack Wilshere, Lukas Podolski and the night's star performer Aaron Ramsey left the Emirates with varying degrees of malady, according to Wenger's press conference.
All clubs have players who get injured, but why is this happening at such an elevated rate at Arsenal?
Perhaps it is due to the style the players play or the repeated physical strain of playing in every game when there are no suitable backups. Whatever the cause, this is clearly unsustainable.
Bleacher Report's own Michael Cummings got it right after the match: Wojciech Szczesny displayed both his most positive and negative facets within minutes of each other.
During the first half, he pulled off a world-class double save to deny Emmanuel Emenike, pushing his bullet of a strike against the post and then spreading himself to block a shot seconds later that was called back for offside.
Yet when forced to think and rationalize his decisions in his mind, Szczesny still struggles. On one occasion, he flailed at and missed an eminently punchable ball in the box, and on another he flew miles off his line to deal with a nonexistent threat and almost increased the danger.
Unfortunately, Lukasz Fabianski is very similar in this regard. Perhaps playing Szczesny more will assist his development and alleviate this troubling issue.
Countless gallons of ink have been spilled and innumerable keys pounded by writers expounding on the issue of Arsenal's failed summer. Perhaps now more than ever, the club's need for new players is blatantly obvious.
While Jack Wilshere will probably feature on Sunday in a minor fixture colloquially called the North London Derby, Arsene Wenger was less certain about Aaron Ramsey after this match. Losing the Welshman would obviously be quite a blow, but what's worse is what his injury would necessitate.
With Lukas Podolski out as well, Santi Cazorla will have to start on the left wing. That means the midfield will be comprised of Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and—uh, who? Emmanuel Frimpong, who didn't feature at all in preseason?
No more typing need be done: Arsenal must sign at least one player who can plug this gap within the next few days.
Whatever a supporter's current opinion about the competency of Arsene Wenger, he or she must admit, if they are of stable mind, that the boss has built an extraordinarily consistent machine which never seems to give out.
Sixteen consecutive years in the Champions League is a stupendous accomplishment on a variety of levels. No individual can access Wenger's enigmatic brain, but it cannot produce a foundering king of self-harming austerity, as the Frenchman is commonly caricatured.
His remarks after the game were wholly appropriate:
Of course it's an achievement because if you look at the clubs in Europe who have done it, there are only three clubs that have done it in the whole of Europe. I hear a lot that it's not enough and I agree with that. But still it shows that we have been remarkably consistent. Our ambition is much higher than that and I take that on board from everybody.
The logical counterpoint is that Wenger and Arsenal have not taken any affirmative steps to actually demonstrate the fabled "ambition" that is frequently discussed. But there is no harm in appreciating the continuing accomplishment of a truly remarkable manager.