Has Arsene become a big spender?

'SAME OLD' were once Arsenal's first and middle names. Safe and sound. No crazy transfers or wages, no Fancy Dan formations and no trophies.

Even their seasons were the same every year: promising in autumn, fading in winter and finishing with a spring flourish. It was the Arsenal way, the Arsene Wenger way: founded seemingly less on the economics of Strasbourg University than those of Mr Micawber.

Happiness was a top four place which he compared to a trophy, and got them on the Champions League gravy train every year. Misery was getting knocked off the rails by Bayern Munich which also came to feel like an annual event.

This year it was especially gut-wrenching – the 10-2 aggregate more than some Gooners could take. The 'fire drill' started earlier, discontent raged and planes flying 'Wenger Out' banners began to run out of air space.

A new low was reached in a 3-0 humiliation at Crystal Palace. Next up was Middlesbrough away on a Monday night. Another defeat to relegation-threatened opponents might have seen the Arsenal board do the unthinkable.

But on a nasty, inhospitable night in the north-east, it was Wenger who changed
the habit of a lifetime. It was hardly the storming of the Bastille, but to Wenger watchers it was revolutionary: he played three at the back!

The last time was away to Derby in 1997 and it only lasted 13 minutes before being scuppered by Tony Adams' sending off. This time it did the trick as Arsenal, playing a 3-4-2-1 formation, looked more comfortable defensively and won 2-1.

Wenger quipped: "The first time in 20 years, yes, and that shows you that even at my age you can change."

And how!

As drastic as that was, no one could foresee what was to come. A trophy! Beating Chelsea! Failing to make the top four! Cancellation of St Totteringham's Day! Not selling the star striker to a Manchester club!

And there was more. Offering crazy (£275,000 a week) wages! Spending £50 million (RM277.77 million) on a new striker and not selling the old one! And still wanting another!

Offering £87 million for an 18-year-old! (Albeit safe in the knowledge that Real Madrid's bigger offer for Kyrian Mbappe had already been refused.)

When you add them all up, the transformation really does amount to more than just an old leopard rearranging his tattoos.

Could he have listened? Could the master of the "I did not see it" excuse have finally got his eyes fixed? Or has 'Silent' Stan Kroenke had a word?

Whatever it was, Arsene appears to have seen the light. And what at first seemed an exercise in saving his own skin has for the Gunners amounted to re-armament.

And adding one new, lethal-looking weapon.

That Jose Mourinho chose to instantly rubbish the signing of Alexandre Lacazette was not just a renewal of their war games but a sign of how much he rates him.

The French international represents a significant upgrade on Olivier Giroud and may just change Arsenal from a team that likes to walk the ball into the net to one that actually puts it there.

And that Wenger is not stopping with the 26-year-old from Lyon suggests that the penny might finally have dropped that the club is owned by a billionaire and awash with cash.

His determination to hang on to Alexis Sanchez owes much to the criticism he received for handing the title to Manchester United when he sold them Robin van Persie.

Back then he got only half of the £50m that Manchester City are willing to pay for Sanchez who is now, as the Dutchman was then, only a year from becoming a free agent.

Once Wenger would have taken the money: not any more.

But even more interesting is that he still harbours hopes of landing Mbappe. With Monaco having stated that they will not even talk until £130m is on the table, Wenger has not been deterred.

You can't see the old Arsene offering that any more than you can see the club moving back to Woolwich, but Wenger must have had encouragement from his three-hour chat with Mbappe and his parents.

No one would have come across more reassuring to mum and dad than the aging Frenchman, doing his favourite uncle, safe pair of hands act over café au lait in the Mbappe living room.

The kid has suggested Arsenal might be an ideal "stepping stone" to his ultimate goal of joining Real Madrid – a statement that evoked a mixed reaction among Gooners.

If 'stepping stone' sounded like a putdown worthy of Mourinho, at least it offered a glimmer. And if he helped Arsenal win the league, he might change his mind and stay.

And, given the manic inflationary cycle football transfers are caught in, could it be that Kroenke has given the go-ahead thinking that a £130m asset could become £200m and counting by next summer?

Unlikely, but in a mad world with reports that the EPL is on the fast train to ruin, you wouldn't rule anything out.

Everton, thanks to the ambition of mega-rich investor Farhad Moshiri, may have set the pace in the summer window with a job lot of signings, but nowhere is change more surprising and fundamental than at Arsenal. The irony is that Moshiri left the Londoners frustrated they wouldn't spend.

Wenger watchers have noted that the manager has looked more relaxed this year than his struggles have entitled him to be. And you just wonder if, now armed with his new contract, he wants to have a grand finale to his epic reign: spend a bit of Stan's money and go out in a blaze of glory.

Pigs may have more chance of flying those 'Wenger Out' banners than it happening, but as he said himself on playing three at the back, even someone of his age can change.