11 years ago Arsene Wenger boldly claimed that his team would go the year unbeaten.
Journalists and opposing fans lined up to laugh at his delusion and criticize his arrogance.
They chuckled in delight as Arsenal subsequently suffered six loses over the course of the 02/03 campaign.
A season later, it was Arsene who wore the smug grin of invincibility. As a manager, he has been defined by his ability to see things that others don't, whether this is a sign of genius or madness is always debatable.
Eight years of glory stands in defence of his visionary football intelligence; eight subsequent years of pain fuel criticism of his tactics, his transfer policy, and his status as Arsenal manager.
Now after a summer of disillusionment and growing exasperation from Arsenal fans, he seems to have done it again. When all doubted, the club announced the record signing of Mesut Ozil.
He is the big name that those with Gooner blood have yearned for, but is he the key to attracting their greatest desire, silverware?
Common opinion has been that Arsenal have craved the type of physicality in midfield, missing since Viera's departure in 2005. Most pundits have pointed to the lack of solidity and organisation in the defence. Fans have cried out for a world class striker.
Wenger has never thought like the common man, and in splashing £42.5 million on another petite playmaker, he has either demonstrated his adherence to a philosophy of cavalier football or made a glaring mistake in overlooking his teams weaknesses. But which is it?
Ozil is undoubtedly world class. During his Real Madrid career, he has arguably been their second best player, after Ronaldo, and were it not for their obsessive courtship of Señor Bale, his departure would be unthinkable.
A quintessentially modern playmaker, his combination of elegance, touch, and vision earmark him as a player well suited to Arsenal's style.
47 assists justify his creative capabilities and it is easy to envision him developing a great understanding with like-minded midfielder Cazorla.
Arsenal fans can take great pleasure from the thought of the two of them sharing playmaking responsibilities, whilst Walcott offers them a constant option for the through ball and Giroud becomes an increasingly more productive target man.
From Ozil's perspective, in a World Cup year, Arsenal offer first team football, Champions League, and a fondness for fluid, one-touch counter attacking football that he has been versed in, both at Real and for Germany.
For all Ozil's attributes, he brings the same skill set that Arsenal's current personal possess. In Rosicky, Cazorla, and even young Alex Oxlade Chamberlain, there is already an abundance of players in his mould. Wenger's critics have already began circling, with Danny Murphy, on Football Focus, expressing the conception that Arsenal were in greater need of "strength and power."
For almost a decade, the formula for success against the Gunners has been to "get stuck in." Aston Villa's aggressive pressing game, in their 3-1 defeat of Arsenal, was an exemplary example of this, even unsettling the combative, Wilshere.
The ambitious attacking of Arsenal's full backs made Agbonlahor suddenly look like Messi against the vulnerable centre backs. So, was failing to address these issues a laughable oversight from Wenger? He will point to the signing of Flamini, mocked widely, as a key in improving the balance of the team.
Flamini quietened naysayers with a promising performance against Spurs, and has the positional sense and grit to again provide the centre backs the type of protection once offered by Gilberto Silva.
He will certainly prove to be worth more than Arsenal paid. Wenger's frugality is often rooted in his belief in the potential of his current players. For example, many fans look at Giroud and see a decent striker, whose 14 Premier league goals in his debut season represent a good return, but nothing special. Wenger looks at him and sees a future world beater.
Wenger is all about the future, but Arsenal fans are losing patience. Wenger has lost much in recent years. In Van Persie and Fabregas, he has lost his best players. In bottle throwing tantrums, he has lost his composed demeanour.
Arsene Wenger: Genius Visionary or Deluded and Stubborn? At times he has resembled Heath Ledger's joker, a wry smile selling the media a joke to which only he knows the punchline.
One thing Arsene will never lose is that stubborn determination to follow his mind, no matter how much it contradicts the common consensus.
It is this instinct that allowed him to foresee Henry's transformation from ineffectual winger to world class striker, but it also allowed him to entrust the club's defence to the likes of Philippe Senderos and Giles Grimandi.
Wenger has always been prepared to invest in and trust young, attacking players (Henry was £11 million, Arshavin £15 million, and Reyes £17 million), but he still refuses to reinforce where his team seem to need it most .
He'll live and die by his beliefs. Ozil's debut against Sunderland could mark the dawn of new era for Wenger, but if the defence reverts to its tentative ways and the midfield lacks balance, it could be the beginning of the end.
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