By Jay Jaffa
In: Olivier Giroud, Lukas Podolski and Santi Cazorla. Out: Manuel Almunia and Carlos Vela. One look at Arsene Wenger's summer business makes for great reading if you follow Arsenal and as the Frenchman readies himself for his 17th season in charge of the north London club, punters may even be tempted to back them to make an outside run for the Premier League title.
There is a school of thought derived from the great Hungarian manager Bela Guttmann that the lifespan of a manager should last no longer than a trio of seasons. "The third season, is fatal," he famously said and his career path mimicked the theory as he jumped from club to club and border to border.
Although a number of high profile coaches in the modern game adhered to this rule – Jose Mourinho at Chelsea and Inter, Pep Guardiola at Barcelona - some of the most decorated managers have transcended such a limit.
Sir Alex Ferguson is the obvious example of a club figurehead that has been required to build and take apart a number of teams while Carlo Ancelotti did similar at AC Milan. Wenger's longevity has put him in this rare company.
The double winners of 1997-98 led by Tony Adams and finished by Dennis Bergkamp, the 2001-02 double winners inspired by Patrick Vieira and of course the 2003-04 'Invincibles' were Wenger's three great teams.
|FEE: €23 million (£18m)
The Malaga man arrives after a successful, but turbulent year in Spain after his wages went unpaid at some points
|FEE: €12 million (£9.6m)
The Frenchman didn't get much playing time at Euro 2012, but fired Montpellier to the league title last season with 21 goals.
|FEE: €14 million (£10.9m)
The Gunners were linked with the German attacker for long stages of last season, and finally agreed a deal to sign him in April
You can forgive some followers of the club for becoming a little twitchy as Arsenal have been forced to take a back-seat in title races over the past few seasons as Wenger juggled prudent accounting and an unerring faith in youth. Indeed, by scraping into the Champions League last season, it was yet further evidence that, under Wenger, the north Londoners were losing their grip on a top four position they've held since 1996-97.
Now though, with the shackles off and three big name attackers through the door, we may be witnessing the start of another era-defining team at the Emirates.
On the face of it Wenger has bowed to the pressure of the supporters and even Alisher Usmanov by loosening the purse strings somewhat, settling deals for Podolski – a man capped over 100 times for Germany, Giroud - Ligue 1's top goalscorer - and gifted playmaker Cazorla.
In contrast to rivals Tottenham and Manchester City, Wenger has concluded his business early, giving wantaway striker Robin van Persie food for thought as he ponders a move to Manchester United.
Where it was inconceivable on July 3 that Arsenal could possibly be better off without the Dutchman, efficient and well-considered moves in the market have put the Gunners in good shape and bizarrely may leave them in better shape even if Van Persie ultimately leaves.
Of course, replacing a man whose 30 league goals maintained their top four status is tricky business, but the club have yet to cede to his demands, rather covering their own bases first - a far cry from the chaos that engulfed the club last summer.
Over the last two months, we have witnessed three impressive-on-paper signings. Cazorla could prove to be a masterstroke - a player of the ilk of David Silva and Juan Mata - yet another diminutive playmaker ready to unravel the meanest defences.
With Podolski, Wenger has sought international experience and crucially a goalscoring threat from wide - precisely what Andrey Arshavin and Gervinho have failed to provide, while Giroud may take time to adjust but he comes with a glowing reputation from a title-winning season in France. It is rare that Wenger gets a signing from his homeland wrong.
|FEE: Free Transfer
The Gunners keeper has joined Championship side Watford after eight years at Arsenal with a loan spell at West Ham
|FEE: €5 million (£4m)
The Mexican never fulfilled his potential in north London despite some strong showings as loan moves disrupted his Arsenal spell
The pieces are there: Laurent Koscielny made a case as one of the best centre-backs in the league last year while Bacary Sagna, when fit, remains the reference for Premier League right-backs.
In Thomas Vermaelen they have another stout defender who possibly lost a little confidence following a series of injuries over the last few years. Keep him fit and control his tendency to overtly press his opposite number and Arsenal have potentially the most complete centre-back pairing in the league.
And then there are the youngsters maturing at just the right time. At 22 years of age, Wojciech Szczesny has the footballing world in his palms. He was called into question a number of times last year but is still in his goalkeeping infancy - providing Wenger with the hope that he could claim the No.1 shirt for at least the next decade.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain made such an impact in his first year in the Premier League that he ended up starting England's first game of Euro 2012. The prodigal 18-year-old carries the maturity, talent and a versatility years ahead of his time to step up and feature more heavily next season.
Then there is Theo Walcott who enjoyed the most productive campaign of his career and Kieran Gibbs, another highly-rated prospect who just has to avoid the injuries that have curtailed his development so far.
If Alex Song moves to Barcelona, as has been reported, Wenger will have the chance to find the disciplined anchorman the club has been crying out for ever since Gilberto Silva departed. Find that man (and that leader) and Arsenal should close the gap above them further.
Modern football has been entrenched in a financial maelstrom for many years now and this summer has perhaps seen the greatest example of exuberant and reckless spending in nouveau-riche PSG. Yet, there are ways to overcome the big spenders and Arsenal are on the right track with their youthful nucleus and experienced frontmen.
The club are well run and once they reach a stage of self-sufficiency, where the debts have been paid off, Wenger and Co. will no longer need to sell the club's greatest assets. The cash spent this summer indicate that this time is fast approaching. If it is, Wenger is on course to build his next great team.
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