Arsenal have the momentum, the form, and most crucially, the crucial recovery periods their top four rivals are craving.
Missing out on all European competitions for the first time in 25 years would not have been part of Mikel Arteta’s cunning plan, but it has bought them the necessary time necessary for evolution.
Nobody would have conceivably indulged suggestions Arsenal were competing for the Champions League places at the end of August.
The only dotted lines the Gunners had any chance of finishing above was those of relegation, and even that was looking like a stretch three games in.
Can Arsenal break into the top four this season? Comment below
Seven matches, five victories, and four clean sheets later, Arsenal are now looking down on many of the rivals who wallowed in their struggles.
And it is testament to the bold and daring transfer strategy enacted by Arteta and technical director Edu.
They believed and stood by their vision – in Edu’s case he literally did in a ruthless interrogation in front of the Sky Sports News cameras.
Edu can now switch attention to the next transfer onslaught, now he no longer has to justify their vision; it now speaks for itself.
Summer signings Nuno Tavares, Albert Sambi-Lokonga, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ben White, and Aaron Ramsey all started the Gunners’ 2-0 away victory against Leicester City, while Martin Odegaard was introduced from the bench.
Top four is no longer an unrealistic target and with the likes of Manchester United, West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur, Everton, and Leicester City all fighting on domestic and European fronts, who is to say Arsenal are not the favourites for fourth position?
Maybe Arteta and Edu, whose meticulous transfer strategy has merely completed phase one.
They will be looking ahead to next season, where the the European spotlight glares and the fixture calendar fires matches at the rate of a machine gun.
Many of Arsenal’s youngsters are blossoming in their infancy, and their experienced players either do not boast too many medals or are coming to the end of their contract.
Alexandre Lacazette in particular will be a free agent next summer, and the Gunners will need to consider options to fill his boots.
When at their best, Arteta’s side glide through opposition with dazzling football that twinkles on the eye.
But the biggest teams are not always at their best, and when Arsenal are not, teams often take points from them.
Experience is needed, but experience for the sake of experience cannot be tolerated, as Arsenal have already experienced.
They cannot fall into the same David Luiz and Willian transfer bear traps, which found Arsenal constricted by £140,000 and £220,000 per week salaries.
Serie A and La Liga are all still reeling from the effects of the pandemic and many of Europe’s biggest hitters will be letting quality players leave for free transfers or on the cheap.
When the transfer dinner bell is rung for Erling Haaland, Arsenal’s Premier League peers will be forming their own trail of pound notes to their respective stadiums, while Real Madrid and Barcelona will be doing whip arounds of their own.
Arsenal already know they would be a fishing boat amongst a sea of trawlers if they were to cast their nets for Haaland.
But their squad has been bolstered by their astute signings of this summer, and the empowerment of young stars Emile Smith-Rowe and Bukayo Saka.
For the first time since the days of Arsene Wenger, major surgery is no longer needed to make Arsenal competitors
And if they reclaim their place in the top four, the transfer pond, as well as the quality of the bait they use, will only increase.