They started as they left off last season. Not just the champions, Manchester City, who were attacking, imperious and awesome at times but Arsenal also.
The Unai Emery era got off to a defeat which was maybe predictable enough given the opposition but after all the expectation of the Spaniard’s levels of preparation, the analysis, the drills and organisation the defensive failings were all too familiar to what he inherited from Arsene Wenger.
It will take time to undo bad habits and it is hard to see players such as Granit Xhaka and Shkodran Mustafi fitting in.
Arsenal tried to go toe-to-toe with City but were just not up to it – not yet anyway – and, for example, they eventually abandoned the routine of trying to play the ball out from the back as they constantly gave away possession under pressure. When goalkeeper Petr Cech played it long there were ironic cheers.
Arsenal looked like what they are – a team searching for an identity and a way forward. City looked like what they are – a team determined to retain the Premier League title and laid down another marker of that intent with goals from Raheem Sterling and Bernardo Silva in each half.
The only criticism would be the number of opportunities City spurned because this could have been a far more emphatic score-line and probably deserved to be.
Sterling’s goal encapsulated Arsenal’s enduring frailty as he ran across goal easily evading Hector Bellerin and Matteo Guendouzi, with milky efforts to stop him, and shot right-footed past Cech for his 50thPremier League goal.