Following the grim stalemate at Newcastle United in the Premier League, Tuesday's 1-0 win over the Serie A club saw the side keep consecutive clean sheets for the first time since the start of March. Even then one of the fixtures had been a home tie with Leyton Orient in an FA Cup replay.
There were few plaudits for the victory over Udinese, which depended to some extent on excellent saves from Wojciech Szczesny after Theo Walcott's early goal. That was unjust on Arsenal. Their equilibrium, after all, had already vanished with the sale of Cesc Fábregas and the absence of the suspended Samir Nasri, who seems bound for Manchester City. While Udinese have also had to part with good players this summer, Arsenal are a club accustomed to greater status. So far as the Champions League is concerned, they had, for instance, led Barcelona in the 2006 final until a leveller in the 76th minute.
It is not beyond possibility that Wenger's side will be eliminated at the Stadio Friuli next Wednesday, but the moroseness being expressed wilfully ignores the impact of the away goal that Arsenal should be capable of scoring in Italy. Perhaps, too, minds have to get accustomed to the idea of this Arsenal team scrambling and coping as they did while establishing an advantage.
That target was achieved despite continuing adversity. The injuries took their toll, with the substitute Johan Djourou having to be replaced so that Wenger was virtually obliged to give a right-back, Carl Jenkinson, his debut on the left. The teenager had been on loan from Charlton to Eastbourne United and Welling United last year.
There is cause to argue that Arsenal need more experienced cover for Kieran Gibbs than a 19-year-old fielded out of position, but in the context of Tuesday's match the manner in which Jenkinson and others scrambled to a victory was impressive in its own way.
Wenger should wonder just what is required to earn approval. When his side glitter they can be accused – with some reason – of brittleness, but a resolute showing against Udinese is regarded as sustained mediocrity.
Arsenal may well be in difficulties overall and they had better not assume that they have the freehold on a place in the Premier League's top four, but little signs of encouragement are not to be shunned. Gervinho, shown a red card on his debut at Newcastle, was certainly an asset and the return of Thomas Vermaelen to full fitness has contributed to the clean sheets in the past few days.
It remains true, nonetheless, that Arsenal are far from being the force of old. Whatever happens in the transfer window, Wenger needs more from men already on the books. While Walcott's work was uneven against Udinese, the Serie A side at least had to take him into account. He realises that, at the age of 22, it is time for him to become a mature and consistent influence.
"I was the oldest on my table at Newcastle at dinner," he said of the weekend trip. "It was quite funny. I have been around for a long time now, so I know what it's all about and if I can help anyone out I will happily do that. This team has always been known for being young but we can't use that excuse any more. We have to win something.
"The win [on Tuesday] is very positive and we kept a clean sheet, which is important. A lot of young lads came on and did very well. It's a good result and we have players to come back as well, some more competition. There will be more competition at their place because they have to come at us. It's going to be tough but we are looking forward to the battle."
It is unwise of Walcott to antagonise Fabio Capello with the account in his book of the severity of life with England while he is still in the squad. Readers would not have been surprised at blood-curdling warnings from a manager who had just seen his winger ignore instructions. After missing an England team meeting because he mis-remembered the time Walcott, in addition, should have anticipated the intimidating stare that awaited him when he knocked on Capello's door. "I have so much respect for Fabio," the player said prudently on Tuesday.
Walcott is at least getting a sympathetic hearing from his club manager when he expresses a wish to play in a central role. "The boss has always promised me I will get a chance to play up front," he said, "so it's been six years and if I keep on scoring and doing well, I'll maybe get a chance up front with Robin [van Persie]. I'm not demanding anything, but I'm giving the boss something to think about."
Even so, Wenger's mind will focus most of all on a return with Udinese that comes in days of turmoil for Arsenal.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010