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Arsenal Transfers: Santi Cazorla Deal Completes Arsene Wenger's Quiet Revolution

GDANSK, POLAND - JUNE 17:  In this handout image provided by UEFA, Santi Cazorla of Spain talks to the media during a UEFA EURO 2012 press conference at the Municipal Stadium on June 17, 2012 in Gdansk, Poland.  (Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images)
Handout/Getty Images
James DudkoFeatured ColumnistAugust 7, 2012

Almost without anyone noticing or acknowledging it, there has been quite a revolution at Arsenal, in terms of spending on players.

Santi Cazorla is now officially an Arsenal player, after the deal to sign the ex-Malaga star was confirmed by Arsenal.com. The signing is the latest step in a radical shift in the club's spending policy under Arsene Wenger.

Very quietly, Wenger has moved the club away from relying solely on cheap, youth-based buys and has steadily added a series of expensive, established stars.

According to Sky Sports, the fee to bring Cazorla to north London is said to be around £16 million. That would make Cazorla Arsenal's record signing and is a huge investment in a single player, by Wenger's standards.

Yet while this outlay might come as a surprise to many who see Wenger as notoriously frugal, Cazorla is just one of three deals already this summer, all reportedly in excess of £10 million, according to transferleague.co.uk.

He joins international strikers Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski as part of a major summer spending spree. It's a splurge that goes against the grain of Arsenal's transfer activity during most of the last seven years.

However, Wenger has quietly been changing that pattern, and this trio of deals represent the second consecutive summer of major spending. Last year, Wenger reportedly spent more than £10 million each to bring Gervinho and youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to the club, according to transferleague.co.uk

Deadline day brought even more lavish spending. Mike Arteta, Per Mertesacker, Ju-Young Park and Andre Santos arrived for a combined cost of close to £30 million, according to more figures from transferleague.co.uk.

For years, Wenger vehemently defended a squad-building model based on developing young potential, acquired at a cheap cost. That's been the party line anyway, until now that is.

Seven trophy-less seasons and unprecedented levels of pressure appear to have force a fundamental shift away from that policy. The transfer fees and ages of the latest batch of target reveal just how acute the change has been.

Giroud is 25, while Cazorla and Podolski are both 27. Per Mertesacker was 26 when he signed for the Gunners, Andre Santos 28, and Mikel Arteta recently turned 30.

That's a dynamic shift from a manager often bitterly criticised for his faith in signing teenage players with the potential to become world class performers. Wenger will never reject the youth production line entirely, and nor should he be expected to admit to guessing wrong with his most recent crop.

For those who have always believed in Wenger's principles, days like today create a strange mix of emotions. Primarily, there is excitement about the arrival of a player of Cazorla's caliber and his ability to spark an EPL title challenge.

On the other hand, it's also easy to feel a little sad that the club has not stayed truly and fully committed to developing youngsters in first-team roles. However, with starlets like Pedro Botelho and Oguzhan Ozyakup quietly moved on, it's hard to dispute there has been a dynamic change in the players Arsenal are content to build around.

Those who have chided Wenger for failing to spend big must now consider their demands answered, at least in part. Certainly those arguments about lack of ambition begin to lose credibility.

Whatever side of that debate Arsenal fans are on, it's clear the club is adapting to the harsh realities of seriously competing with the spending power of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea.

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