It's official now: Arsene Wenger has re-signed with Arsenal and will retain the reins of the club until at least 2017.
The manager's coming back on board for another three years, which will take his tenure at the helm of the Gunners to 21 years by the end of this deal, was probably quite a while in the making.
Sure, Wenger waited until the end of the season to put pen to paper and make the announcement. And there were various motivations he could have had for doing so. But there was little doubt that owner Stan Kroenke, who vocally supported Wenger during his darkest days, would bring him back.
The key thing to note about Wenger's new deal is that it ties him to the club for three years. It might have been difficult to get the 64-year-old manager to sign away another few years of his life to a perennially stressful job that affords him no rest, but the length of the contract allows the club to ensure stability for the foreseeable future.
That is marketable to players, as well. Both extant Arsenal players and potential signings are likely to be encouraged to sign on when they know that the legendary manager with whom they would be working or are working is not going to abandon them after a mere season or two.
That's happened numerous times before. Take Robin van Persie, who signed with Manchester United in 2012 in large part because he wanted to work with Sir Alex Ferguson. The pair won the Premier League together in their first and only season, but Fergie then retired and handed the reins over to David Moyes.
There will be no seventh-place finishes at Arsenal with Wenger in charge. The Frenchman has ensured Champions League qualification for 17 consecutive seasons, a truly amazing accomplishment in a much-changed sport.
There have been some near-catastrophes in recent seasons, though. And though this season brought an end to Arsenal's infamous nine-year trophy drought and showed that the team could stay on top of the Premier League for longer than any other challenger, there still was the obligatory collapse and injury crisis.
At virtually any other club and in virtually any other circumstance, Wenger would have been fired long ago for failing to meet expectations. His first nine years at the club brought first- and second-place finishes, but every season since then has ended with either third or fourth place.
Much of that relative mediocrity is due to the severe financial restrictions placed on Wenger after the building of the Emirates Stadium. The massive effort required to erect and "Arsenalize" the club's home saddled it with crippling amounts of debt for several years.
But Wenger stuck to a very strict spending plan and brilliantly made do with less. No doubt almost any other manager would not have been able to repeatedly ensure Champions League qualification every single season with a fraction of the budgets of Arsenal's nouveau-riche competitors.
That period is over now. The Gunners have paid off almost all of their debt and are also free from the constrictive commercial partnerships that paid them considerably less than other clubs of comparable stature.
Several tens of millions of dollars are flowing into Arsenal's coffers every season from Emirates Airlines, Puma and other sponsors. That, in addition to the substantial cash reserve that the club is already sitting on, should make for an excellent pivot point in the Gunners' transfer policy.
Gone now are the days when Wenger would have to guard his pennies and haggle for bargains on every single player he wanted. As evidenced by the capture of Mesut Ozil last summer, Arsenal are capable of splashing large sums of money on single players.
We are already seeing big-name players linked with the club. These transfer rumors appeared in years past, too, but now they are obviously more plausible. For example, various sources such as The Telegraph are claiming that Cesc Fabregas is on his way out of Barcelona and that Arsenal are first in line to snap him up.
Even if the Gunners don't sign Fabregas or break the bank on another Ozil-type player this summer, they still need to fill several key voids in order to mount a serious title challenge. Olivier Giroud needs a partner, as does Mikel Arteta, and Bacary Sagna needs to be replaced. Another center-back would not hurt, either.
This is truly a transformative point in Arsenal's modern history. They could either be boosted by their FA Cup victory and dovetailing sponsorship deals, using them as a platform on which to create lasting success, or the trophy could be an anomaly and the club could repeat the same old mistakes for years to come.
As Arsene Wenger told Arsenal.com, "...We are entering a very exciting period. We have a strong squad, financial stability and huge support around the world. We are all determined to bring more success to this club."
The manager will be the same, but Wenger is a shrewd and intelligent man who is not stodgy for the sake of it. There is no one who can better lead Arsenal into this new era than him.
His three-year contract will enable him to add to his own personal trophy collection while setting Arsenal up for the inevitable post-Wenger era.
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