So to Old Trafford where, a week on Saturday, Arsène Wenger's team face Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals for what will be the first game in a two-part skirmish for the spoils of English football this season. After a brief interlude Wenger v Sir Alex Ferguson is back on.
It has been a while since United and Arsenal have been carving up the major trophies between them. Not much has changed for United over the past five years but Wenger admitted last night that for Arsenal it felt good to be back at the sharp end again with two games against United that will go a long way to deciding the destiny of the Premier League and the FA Cup.
After the disastrous defeat to Birmingham City in the Carling Cup final on Sunday it has been a much better three days for Wenger. He saw Chelsea beat United in the league on Tuesday – which means that if Arsenal win every one of their remaining 11 games they will be champions, simple as that. And there was the small matter of a thrashing for Leyton Orient last night and a Nicklas Bendtner hat-trick.
The Arsenal manager said that while Chelsea's win at Stamford Bridge was welcome he still felt his side, four points behind United in second place, would have stayed in the race whatever the score. "It's down to our results," Wenger said. "I have said that for a long time, it depends how consistent we will be with our results. That will decide the league.
"I know that we play Manchester United at home [on 1 May] and of course we will see where we stand when we play against them. What is important is that we are strong at home. Since November our results have been very consistent at home. It is not special that we are playing United, what is important is that we are in the race."
He admitted that it would be "difficult to say" how he and United would approach the FA Cup tie in nine days' time. "For us it will be after Barcelona [in the Champions League] and for them it will be before the Champions League [second leg against Marseilles]. Of course the result against Barcelona will have an effect."
There will be no Cesc Fabregas playing in Saturday's game against Sunderland, Wenger said, though the captain has a chance to play against Barcelona next week. "I don't think he will be involved on Saturday – no chance," Wenger said. "But we will try with him on Sunday and Monday and have a final test on Monday morning."
There was more detail on the injury to Robin Van Persie, which is to a ligament at the back of his right knee. Wenger said he was optimistic about Van Persie's recovery but that it will not be healed before the international break towards the end of this month.
For Bendtner it was a strange night. He did not look bothered at the start and some of his more careless touches were greeted with groans from the home support. He left the pitch to a rapturous applause on 66 minutes having wrapped up his third goal from the penalty spot and put himself in contention to start against Barcelona on Tuesday.
Certainly Bendtner impressed more than Marouane Chamakh who, having score the first goal, did precious little else to tell Wenger he is the natural replacement for Van Persie. Was Bendtner the favourite to start in the Nou Camp? "It puts him in contention to play against Sunderland," Wenger said. "Frankly for us that is a vital game. If we beat Sunderland we are in a great position so all our focus is on that game."
Leyton Orient, for their part, were never in this tie. By the time their supersub Jonathan Tehoue came on after 65 minutes his team were four goals down. The captain Stephen Dawson and the impressive Dean Cox worked hard but this game had gone in the seventh minute when Chamakh turned in Tomas Rosicky's cross.
"They were ruthless really with the first three goals," said Russell Slade, the Orient manager. "Three attacks, three opportunities and three goals."
Bendtner's first was a header from Kieran Gibbs's cross for which the striker had to generate all the power to get the ball up and away from Jamie Jones in Orient's goal. His second was a shot curled in at the far post with his right foot just before half-time.
A foul on Gibbs by Alex Revell provided the penalty for Bendtner's third after the hour. On as a substitute Gaël Clichy scored only his second Arsenal goal. There was an Arsenal debut for the 19-year-old Conor Henderson on the left side. The next nine days will provide much tougher tests.
Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia; Eboué, Squillaci, Miquel, Gibbs; Diaby (Clichy, 66), Denilson, Henderson; Bendtner (Wilshere, 66), Rosicky (Nasri, 62), Chamakh. Substitutes not used Sagna, Djourou, Arshavin, Szczesny (gk).
Leyton Orient (4-1-4-1): Jones; Whing, Forbes, Chorley, Daniels; Carroll; Revell (Mpoku, 79), Crowe (Spring, 65), Dawson, Cox; McGleish (Tehoue, 65). Substitutes not used Omozusi, Chambers, Butcher (gk), Cestor.
Referee L Mason (Lancashire).
Four memorable United v Arsenal FA cup ties
1979 Final: Man United 2-3 Arsenal Terry Neill's side were 2-0 up with four minutes left before United levelled. Alan Sunderland then scored a late winner.
1999 Semi-final replay: Arsenal 1-2 Man United Peter Schmeichel's penalty save forced extra time. Then Ryan Giggs ran half the pitch for the winner.
2003 Fifth round: Man Utd 0-2 Arsenal Giggs missed an open goal as Edu and Sylvain Wiltord settled matters.
2008 Fifth round: Man Utd 4-0 Arsenal Goals from Wayne Rooney, Darren Fletcher (two) and Nani earn revenge.
Revised sixth-round draw
Saturday 12 March
Birmingham City v Bolton Wanderers
Manchester United v Arsenal
Sunday 13 March
Stoke City v West Ham United
Manchester City v Reading