Like the well-oiled cogs in a luxurious Swiss watch, Arsenal’s luck may finally be turning.
No-one thought this was possible, but Arsenal – somehow – have finished top of their Champions League group here in Switzerland.
How? Well, they comprehensively completed their job in Basle as Lucas Perez scored a hat-trick to secure a comfortable win in their final Group A game.
But the real miracle came 354 miles away in France as Ludogorets grabbed a gusty 2-2 draw against Paris Saint-Germain to see the Gunners leapfrog the French champions into top spot.
For years Arsenal have bemoaned their luck in Europe’s elite club competition.
Tough draws and near misses. On Tuesday night, their fortune had turned full circle.
And credit to Arsene Wenger for making it happen. They say fortune favours the brave.
If that’s true then Wenger was paid in full.
Wenger was bold in his team selection, picking big hitter Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil for a game that, at least before the game, looked a dead rubber.
The Arsenal manager spoke on Monday of maintaining the momentum gathered by two consecutive Premier League wins that have – for now – underlined their championship ambitions.
You couldn’t help that worry, though, that on a freezing cold night there was a risk attached to the duo’s inclusion.
Wenger, however, was much more conservative elsewhere on the pitch as Rob Holding, Lucas Perez and Kieran Gibbs were all given opportunities to stake claims for more first team football.
Wenger knew what would be in store if either of his star attackers picked up injuries on a night when playing them was probably unnecessary.
The Gunners knew the size of the improbable task ahead of them at St Jakob-Park.
Winning against Basle was the least of their worries; Ludogorets grabbing a historic and unlikely win over group leaders Paris Saint-Germain was the real key to them finishing top of the pool.
Whether finishing first provides a significant advantage ahead of Friday’s draw for the knockout stages is an altogether different argument.
And the Gunners provided a start that was just as bold as Wenger’s decision to select Ozil and Sanchez as they took an eight minute lead.
And who were the orchestrators? No prizes for guessing.
Arsenal were already in the ascendancy as Ozil and Sanchez nonchalantly exchanged passes in the centre circle.
Suddenly Sanchez put his foot down on the accelerator before finding Gibbs with a sumptuous lofted pass.
Credit to Gibbs, who kept his composure to square to Perez who hammered beyond the back-tracking Eder Balanta into an empty net.
Wenger’s gamble had paid off; Arsenal ahead in small part to their dynamic duo.
Arsenal’s joy was nearly short-lived as Basle saw an effort ruled out in the 11th minute, Marc Janko deemed offside after tapping home the rebound fromDavid Ospina’s save from Renato Steffen’s header.
Not that Basle’s chance put Arsenal off their stride as they stormed into a two-goal lead in the 16th minute.
Perez hadn’t scored a Champions League goal before, but he notched his second after finishing off a free-flowing Arsenal move involving Sanchez, Ozil and Ramsey before Gibbs, in an identical position to where he set up the first, saw his shot saved by Vaclik to leave his Spanish colleague to tap home.
By now the flood gates had well and truly opened.
Again, the home side mustered a response, Adama Traore firing an audacious shot with the outside of his left boot inches wide of Ospina’s far post.
And as news filtered through to the Arsenal bench about Ludogoret’s opener in Paris, you couldn’t almost sense Wenger’s glee at his Ozil/Sanchez throw of the dice paying off in the most unlikeliest of fashions.
Sanchez and Ozil were certainly in the mood, too. No look passes, reverse through balls – the full repertoire was on show here in Basle.
That’s not to say the Swiss were being embarrassed.
They were threatening but clearly lacked the cutting edge to cause Arsenal’s defence – even without first choice trio Hector Bellerin, Shkodran Mustafi and Nacho Monreal – serious problems.
Ospina did well to stop Steffen’s curling left-foot effort in the 40th minute as Basle looked for a route back in.
Basle’s keeper, though, wasn’t fairing so well as he gifted Perez his hat-trick just two minutes after the break.
Latching onto Sanchez’s cheeky flick, former Deportivo La Coruna striker Perez fired what looked a tame drive towards the far post only for Vaclik to make an utter hash of his attempted save as Arsenal increased their advantage.
By now the floodgates were well and truly unlocked, Ozil setting up Alex Iwobi to tap home from two yards in the 53rd minute.
As a footnote, Sanchez found Ozil before the German’s killer pass. What a night these two were having.
Arsenal fans would have been questioning Wenger’s decision to play his two aces. Wenger’s players emphatically answered those questions for him.
But the Arsenal manager’s heart was in the mouth in the 66th minute as Sanchez was left in a heap following a meaty challenge from Eder Balanta, that earned the Basle defender a booking.
The Chilean looked in plenty discomfort as he clutched his ankle before picking himself up gingerly.
Wenger quickly ordered Olivier Giroud and Mohamed Elneny to strip; he’d seen enough.
Sanchez hadn’t, though, as he crashed the resultant free-kick onto he underside of the bar before trudging off beaming ear to ear.
There was time for substitute Seydou Doumbia to reduce the deficit in the 78th minute but even that couldn’t wipe the smile off Arsenal faces.