Arsenal returned from their two-week international break looking to extend their unbeaten run in all competitions to 17 games, but faced a tricky game against Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
On paper, there were just four points between the two sides going into the match and Unai Emery's side were rocked by the news that Alexandre Lacazette wouldn't feature due to a minor injury. Star man Mesut Ozil was surprisingly left on the substitutes’ bench while Emery opted for three defenders at the back, with Sokratis starting alongside Shkodran Mustafi and Rob Holding.
Eddie Howe was one of the outsiders mentioned to replace former Gunners boss Arsene Wenger a couple of seasons ago and his Cherries side threatened Arsenal with their blend of pace and strength in attack.
The 21-year-old David Brooks, who had just picked up Bournemouth's Player of the Month award, looked dangerous on the left-hand side while a confident display from England’s new scoring star Calum Wilson caused Mustafi and co. all sorts of problems.
Emery's side got lucky with their opener as Jefferson Lerma volleyed the ball past his own goalkeeper from a Sead Kolasinac cross. The strike would have been a goal of the month contender if it had been scored at the right end.
However, the equaliser was never far away and Joshua King brilliantly finished off a quick-fire counter-attack on the stroke of half time, which started when a shot from Alex Iwobi had been blocked. Arsenal could have stopped the move by committing a cynical foul, and the naivety shown by the Gunners brought back memories of last season's defensive problems under Wenger.
Indeed, the real difference between Arsenal and fellow top-four challengers Chelsea and Manchester United right now is their ability to pick up points even when they don't produce brilliant performances.
Emery would have been aware that they rode their luck against Wolves, escaping with a point, and they had Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to save them on this occasion as the Gabonese tapped in Kolasinac's pin-point cross to secure a 2-1 win.
Another key difference is the presence of a top-class centre forward in Aubameyang. He's now scored 14 goals in his 16 Premier League matches played on a Sunday, accounting for 78% of his total strikes in the competition.
This season he is now the joint-top scorer in the Premier League, along with Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero. Compare that to Chelsea, who are struggling horribly to find a prolific No.9 – Olivier Giroud scoring his first goal of the season on Saturday – and Manchester United, who have seen Romelu Lukaku go two-and-a-half months without finding the net.
Come the end of the season, Aubameyang’s goals – along with those of Lacazette - may prove the difference between securing a top four spot or not. Although he's been put out on the left wing for most of the season, Aubameyang is ruthless whenever he gets a chance.
As Arsenal extend their unbeaten run to 17 games, Emery will surely be filled with pride when he sees that almost the same group of players who finished sixth last season look like they're ready to run through brick walls for him. And with the lethal Aubameyang in attack, who knows how far Arsenal can go?