Arsenal on the ascendancy
A decade ago, Arsenal were walking on air.
They went through the 2003/04 Premiership campaign without a single defeat, clinched the title, and looked set to dominate the English game for years.
Suddenly, the malaise descended, and the club have been gripped by tentacles of doubt since.
The stars left, leaving voids that were often unfilled, either because Arsenal had no money to spend or manager Arsene Wenger didn't see the need to.
Since that historic campaign, the Gunners have won just two major trophies, both in the FA Cup competition.
As for the league, the annual ritual of flattering to deceive continues. This season, the feel-good factor is back.
The arrival of playmaker Mesut Oezil for a club record-transfer fee of £42.5 million ($89m) last term lubricated an engine that had been creaking for years, due to a relative lack of transfer activity.
It smashed the previous record by more than two-and-a-half times, set when they paid £16m to bring attacking midfielder Santi Cazorla to the Emirates Stadium about a year earlier.
When Wenger followed up with a £30m capture of Alexis Sanchez last month, the statement of intent was signed, sealed and delivered.
For the third time in three years, Wenger, known for his reluctance to splash out on big players, has shattered Arsenal's record fee paid for a player.
Last Sunday's 3-0 win over Manchester City in the Community Shield is hardly a breakthrough, given that City were missing a host of stars, but the least the victory will do is to add a spring in their step.
Sanchez caught the eye with his silky touches. Defender Calum Chambers, just 19, put in a steady performance in central defence that belied his youth.
Midfielder Aaron Ramsey picked up where he left off last season.
On the Wembley turf, no one in an Arsenal shirt put a foot wrong.
Theo Walcott will soon return from the knee ligament injury he sustained in early January - the Gunners led the league table at that point - that ruled him out of the remainder of last season and the World Cup in Brazil.
Quietly, Wenger has assembled a superb squad packed with outstanding talents in the final third of the field.
If Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker can continue a solid partnership in the heart of defence, Arsenal won't have that many chinks in their armour.
Of course, an over-reliance on striker Olivier Giroud remains a cause for concern but, with the wealth of attacking power at his disposal, Wenger has a right to feel confident without a proven back-up No. 9.
A little more depth in central defence, and a quality defensive midfielder won't hurt either.
Wenger said: "I have more attacking options than I had for a long time - that's for sure.
"Three, four or five years ago, every year we lost a big player. In the last two years, we added players like Oezil and this season like Alexis, so of course that strengthens the squad.
"I am, of course, very ambitious but I'm a bit cautious because I have quite a good experience."
The Frenchman may preach caution, but he struggles to stop the optimism oozing from his camp.
Last season's standout performer Ramsey is already talking about winning the league crown.
Goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny hails this team as the strongest side he has seen during his time at the Emirates.
For years, Wenger has coaxed his young sides to punch above their weight.
Now, on paper at least, his squad qualify as heavyweights by pure merit.
Talk that this is the best squad since the Invincibles of 2003/04 remains premature, however.
Last term's fourth-placed finish was marred by some heavy defeats that suggest the mental side to their game still needs attention.
They conceded five goals away at Liverpool, six away at Chelsea and Manchester City.
They struggled to keep their confidence level at a constant.
But belief is mostly influenced by vibes on the training ground. And, right now, they resemble a class who can't wait for the school excursion to start.
They are luring the big names to the club again. Rivals look increasingly wary of their presence.
No one can blame Arsenal for feeling that they are nearing a tipping point.
I am, of course, very ambitious but I’m a bit cautious because I have quite a good experience.
- Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger
- Arsene Wenger
- Calum Chambers
- Mathieu Debuchy
- David Ospina
- Alexis Sanchez
- Nicklas Bendtner
- Lukasz Fabianski
- Carl Jenkinson
- Park Chu Young
- Bacary Sagna
- Carlos Vela
- Thomas Vermaelen