Wenger leaves the panic buys to others
Consider Liverpool's substandard line-up against Arsenal.
There's a case to be made that Theo Walcott, Danny Welbeck, Kieran Gibbs, Gabriel Paulista and even Tomas Rosicky might have offered superior alternatives to Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers' starting 11 in the 4-1 loss last Saturday.
Gibbs could have propped up Liverpool's left flank, which went AWOL for two of Arsenal's goals. Walcott, Welbeck and Rosicky boast solid attacking support and Paulista makes Kolo Toure look like a mannequin in cement slippers.
All six started on the bench for Arsenal.
The gulf in talent between the sides was replicated in their respective dugouts.
While Rodgers morphed into Paris Hilton with platinum credit cards in pre-season, his Arsenal counterpart Arsene Wenger bought slowly and sensibly.
There are few, if any, panic buys at Arsenal. Instead Wenger continues to make a fool of the impetuous managers around him.
His rivals still confuse the transfer market for a supermarket trolley dash; grabbing every product in the hope that one or two provide substance.
Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal headed straight to the damaged goods section for Radamel Falcao, where he found Rodgers rummaging through the bargain bin for Mario Balotelli and Rickie Lambert. At least Lambert was discounted. The others came with inflated prices and use-by dates.
Van Gaal and Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini also assumed that luxury items such as Angel di Maria and Eliaquim Mangala were guarantees of improvement. They were symbols of wealth, certainly, but not golden tickets to glory.
Wenger, on the other hand, doesn't believe the hype. He's not duped by slick marketing or blinded by starry names. His buys must tick boxes.
Arsenal's two biggest signings came with clearly defined roles. Alexis Sanchez added a physical explosiveness missing from Arsenal's pretty, but occasionally pedestrian, game.
Mesut Oezil was signed to play seamstress, knitting the patterns of play and joining Santi Cazorla, Olivier Giroud and Welbeck together.
Indeed, the resurgence of Giroud epitomises Wenger's perseverance and notorious stubbornness. When he commits to a course of action, he doesn't deviate. Social media's trolls do not concern him.
Like Sir Alex Ferguson before him, Wenger doesn't go in for introspective analysis. He's right until he's proven wrong. He yields to no one.
It's a unique relationship between boardroom and dugout, but one that is paying dividends after a decade of disappointment.
The accountants no longer rule the Emirates. Wenger hasn't been leaned on to sell a playing asset since Robin van Persie slipped away in 2012.
He was allowed to stabilise and strengthen, but the money rarely clouded his judgment. Becoming a cash cow hasn't turned him into one of the Kardashians.
He bought proven, relevant performers and blended them with existing personnel, without ever compromising his commitment to youthful potential.
How many managers with £200 million ($402m) to spend would back a teenager from the academy at right back?
Hector Bellerin has just turned 20. He was Arsenal's best man against Liverpool.
Another academy graduate, Francis Coquelin, anchors the midfield and sparked the Gunners' drive towards the top three.
But it's their centre forward that best illustrates Wenger's finest virtues.
For so long, Giroud has been labelled a nearly man, an artisan among artists.
He was always in a state of flux, always on the verge of being replaced by a new and improved model. He was Wenger's short-term stop-gap to just about everyone.
Giroud and Sanchez now have 38 goals between them this season.
The Frenchman's fabulous strike against Liverpool exuded confidence. He's not a makeweight anymore. He's the main man.
Wenger's perseverance paid off. He was entitled to gloat when he said Arsenal are blessed with the most effective strike partnership since Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Robert Pires.
While City, United and particularly Liverpool sharpen the hacksaws to cut away the deadwood they shouldn't have acquired in the first place, the Gunners are quietly assembling their best squad in a decade.
Their evolution is not yet complete. A goalkeeper and another holding midfielder are still required.
But Arsenal will bide their time and leave the panic buys to others.
Wenger buys what he needs, not what his critics want.
Wenger: Team spirit smells like success
Manager Arsene Wenger is convinced something is finally happening at Arsenal again - and everyone can "smell" it.
The Gunners romped to a 4-1 win over Liverpool at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday, which was a seventh successive Premier League victory and moved them up into second place.
While Manchester City could reclaim second by beating Crystal Palace this morning (Singapore time) and the title looks out of reach as Chelsea remain seven points ahead with a match in hand, there is no doubt when Wenger has all of his squad available, Arsenal are capable of giving anyone a run for their money.
Although there was disappointment at failure to progress in Europe following elimination by Monaco, the prospect of an improved league finish and successful FA Cup defence remains very much on the agenda.
Wenger, who was often criticised over the direction of his team following almost a decade without a trophy, feels finally things are starting to come together.
"We have a good mentality and good cohesion in the team," he said.
"There is something happening, that shows you that they are ready to fight for each other.
"You can see that, you can't cheat on that, people smell that. It, of course, is a good basis and, defensively, we are getting better."
Following a poor start to the campaign, Arsenal were expected to struggle to sustain a place in the top four.
Wenger, though, will not get complacent.
"I am old enough to know that things are never as comfortable as they look, but what is true is that it's in our hands. How well we deal with the situation now will be important," he said.
Wenger has his sights set on getting as close to Chelsea as possible, with the leaders set to come to the Emirates Stadium on April 26.
"I am a competitor and what that means is you have to go as high and as far as you can. When you go home if somebody was better than us, then 'well done', but we have to have given our best until the end and that is what I would like to do," he said.
"Let's give everything to do it and see what happens.
"We are in a good position, with four games at home and only three away.
"We are on a good run, so I would say that it will be down to how we can maintain that focus and level of urgency between now and the end of the season."
Wenger admitted that he has been impressed by the workrate of both Hector Bellerin and defensive midfielder Francis Coquelin, who were each drafted into the first-team as cover for injury, but are now an integral part of the side.
Asked if either man was in his thoughts at the start of the season, Wenger said: "Honestly, no. But my job is to remain open-minded and make decisions when you have to.
"I picked Bellerin against Liverpool because of his pace. I thought (Daniel) Sturridge would play and then Sterling would have gone on the flank.
"Because of his low centre of gravity, Sterling changes direction very quickly and Hector is short as well."
Wenger added: "I think you also have to give credit to players who get less, such as Coquelin.
"In the first half, he broke up many attacks in a convincing way.
"But, honestly, I couldn't say that in my head (at the start of the season) Coquelin was one of the first-choice players." - PA Sport.
I am old enough to know that things are never as comfortable as they look, but what is true is that it’s in our hands.
— Arsene Wenger