When Arsenal signed Dennis Bergkamp in 1995, it was a bit of a watershed moment for the club.
The Gunners were, in a word, stagnant. George Graham had recently been dismissed, Highbury seemed to be home to a cup team at best and a general specter of mediocrity seemed to be descending upon the club.
At least two of those circumstances should sound familiar.
So, in a rare fit of daring and financial splurging, manager Bruce Rioch convinced the board to get the checkbook out and splash the cash on a Dutch striker named Dennis Bergkamp, who was showing some promise, but had never really settled in, at Inter Milan.
(Contrary to the beliefs of many, Arsene Wenger had nothing to do with Bergkamp moving to Arsenal. Perhaps it would have been more appropriate for the revolutionary manager to sign the revolutionary player that would inspire his best teams, but the Dutchman was an inherited piece.)
The football world was stunned.
Why would such a highly touted, prodigious talent in the prime of his career decide to transfer from a club like Inter to a lackluster, defense-first side like Arsenal? And where did the Gunners suddenly get this money from?
Well, Wenger arrived a year later, and we know how the story ends. Bergkamp retired a Gunner in 2006, after a glittering career at Arsenal that included 120 goals, three Premier League titles, several FA Cups, a Champions League final and countless golden moments.
He was sent off into the sunshine following a testimonial match that christened the Emirates Stadium, and his soon-to-be-installed bronze statue outside Arsenal's home stadium merely enhances Bergkamp's reputation as a demigod among Gunners fans.
Now, 18 years after he made the historic move of putting pen to paper, Arsenal are in a similar situation.
Unless you're just crawling out of your cave to read this article, you know that the Gunners have gone eight long years without winning a trophy.
Not once in that time have they finished in the top two of the Premier League. While Champions League football has been a staple throughout this barren run, Arsenal have oscillated between third and fourth places—abject mediocrity compared to the lofty standards that Wenger set in the first nine years of his reign.
Last year, Arsenal qualified for the world's top club competition on the left foot of Robin van Persie, and came agonizingly close to missing out, finishing only a single point higher than Tottenham.
This season, the fight will be even more fierce. A campaign that began as Wenger's worst has only picked up enough to lift the Gunners to fifth place, four behind Spurs with a game in hand.
Fans are not used to being behind their rivals so late in the season: The last time St. Totteringham's Day (when Arsenal are mathematically assured to finish above Tottenham) was not celebrated was during the 1994-95 season.
What happened that summer? Bergkamp was signed.
Think it's time for the Gunners to make a statement?
I certainly do. And there's one just waiting to be made if Arsenal could just work up the bravery to reach across North London to their sworn rivals.
I'm talking about going for the biggest prize there will be this summer. I'm talking about going for the one man on the market who can truly change both the quality of the team as a whole and the mood of its fans.
I'm not kidding when I talk about Arsenal making a play for Gareth Bale.
Sure, a move is unlikely. The chances of anything actually materializing are extremely remote. But it is not utterly impossible, and that should be enough for Arsenal to at least look into the matter.
Tottenham will undoubtedly ask for an eye-popping sum of money for Bale, regardless of who comes calling for him. If they're willing to sell to Arsenal at all, that price will vastly increase. (I am willing to bet that they'll entertain an offer from Arsenal at the right price. Money talks.)
It sounds ridiculous to say that Wenger will get in the game for a player like Bale, and I will admit that it is a bit speculative, to say the least.
But remember that Arsenal have the opportunity to get rid of a lot of deadwood this summer, and the club recently signed a £150 million sponsorship deal with Emirates Airlines. With the weight of the Emirates Stadium debt being lifted, the club has ample cash in the bank.
Obviously, the idea of Bale and his blazing speed opposite Theo Walcott and his pace is mouthwatering. As are the Welshman's Ronaldo-esque free-kick skill and marvelous crossing. Any club would benefit tremendously from the infusion of Gareth Bale.
You might have a difficult time believing it after getting this far, but I try to be a pragmatist. The probability of Arsenal, of all clubs, pulling off the ultimate coup is akin to that of Gervinho scoring 30 goals a season and winning the Ballon d'Or.
But think of the statement that at least pursuing Bale would make to the football world. It would send a clear message to fans, and, more importantly, to other clubs that Arsenal are back on the map, and ready to assert their dominance as a top club once more.
No longer will they be a "selling club." Rather, Arsenal will actively pursue the best players in the world, even when circumstances would make a move to a side like Real Madrid more likely.
For the first time in nearly two decades, Arsenal have the opportunity to create a watershed moment in the history of the club through the transfer market.
While actually buying Bale would be recorded in the history books, simply pursuing him would be enough to convince people that it's time to refocus our collective attention on the red half of North London once more.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!