Bournemouth were without as many as six first-team players and so this was as close as you’ll get to a free hit in the Premier League.
Eddie Howe’s side, into the bargain, are without a win on the road since October and are even worse on their travels than Arsenal.
At home, no such trouble. With this 5-1 win they made it 12 wins, two draws and only one defeat in front of their own fans at the Emirates. Only title-chasing Manchester City can claim superiority in that department.
From an attacking perspective, this had everything Unai Emery would want. By naming an XI that could as easily have seen three or four at the back, the Spaniard maintained that unexpected element in his line-up and a degree of tactical flexibility.
While he started with three, once Sead Kolasinac went off in the second half it became a four with Mesut Ozil in the No. 10 hub.
Unusually, Ozil started in the three-at-the-back formation. A consistent feature of that shape under Emery has been his absence. He has used it when Ozil has been unfit, unwell or simply unavailable.
There were some doubts about how he would play in such a line-up but it wouldn’t take long here to settle those.
He produced a characteristic finish to open the scoring and ensure that Arsenal got off to the best possible start. That goal came when Ozil had drifted into the space on the left side of the strike line and he was found well by Kolasinac. The Bosnian wideman, as a matter of fact, is becoming somewhat of a creative outlet in his own right.
But Ozil was primarily stationed the other side to begin with, to the right of lone frontman Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and it was from that position that he conjured the second.
Alexandre Lacazette’s 2019 form has been such that he can claim to be the hottest forward not only at Arsenal but perhaps in the entire league, Sergio Aguero aside. However, he has competition for Arsenal’s man of the moment in Henrikh Mkhitaryan.
The man swapped for Alexis Sanchez has struggled for consistency, form and fitness since moving from Manchester United but he is finally finding his feet and producing his best football since arriving in this country from Borussia Dortmund in 2016.
His finish for Arsenal’s second was emphatic, off Ozil’s unselfish cut-back, and he gave a couple more assists after the break.
He was on hand to tidy up a scuffed free-kick routine between Ozil and Carl Jenkinson on the right-hand side by crossing for Laurent Koscielny to score.
And he was the man charging through the middle to give Aubameyang a training-ground exercise in beating Artur Boruc for the fourth.
It was an evening when Mkhitaryan was abundantly creative and one on which the devastating axis between he and Ozil came to fruition.
On that front, Emery’s decisions paid off. It can be sometimes difficult to predict how Arsenal will line up and who will play here. He doesn’t always give continuity in his selections, with Granit Xhaka absent here altogether and the in-form Lacazette starting on the bench.
There were a few more tweaks and adjustments here and there throughout the line-up, not least the return in a starting capacity of Jenkinson, for the first time in the best part of 1,000 days.
He did well on the right with Emery coaching him through the first half at close quarters. He was generally available when he needed to be and linked up well in Arsenal’s attack.
It would be harsh to single out Jenkinson as the reason for Arsenal’s defensive frailty. Quite simply they did not defend well as a unit.
They lost the numbers game on occasions in midfield, with Bournemouth having the ability to find space for passes and shots in the middle of the Arsenal defensive zone.
Dan Gosling hit the crossbar from one such opportunity in the second half, when this game was still far closer as a contest than it ought to have been.
The pace of Ryan Fraser and Jordon Ibe caused issues too with the Scottish winger and Lys Mousset unlucky on a first-half double chance. That was a mess largely of Arsenal’s own making, as was the goal when Mousset profited from an avoidable error off Matteo Guendouzi.
He is a very young player, though, and does more things well than badly. He will learn quickly from it.
There was a lot to be impressed by, even if Bournemouth were scarcely at the races for most of the game.
The manner in which Lacazette came on and dispatched his free-kick demonstrates that he now expects to score every time he plays. There is confidence coursing through the team when they are attacking.
Following an evening when Spurs lost and they won, it is just the right feeling to have.
Should they win the derby, they would be only one point behind their rivals. What a turnaround that could be from the situation only a few weeks ago when Arsenal were flailing and Spurs aiming for the title.
But Arsenal have earned the right to compete; it’ll be a long, slow, difficult adjustment process to a new coach and new ideas. But nights like this show that they are going in the right direction.