Why Arsenal must spend big this month or risk having nothing to cheer bar the balance sheet
Arsene Wenger rightly takes great pride in running a tight ship at Arsenal.
In fact, he becomes quite indignant should his spending in the transfer market ever be questioned.
"The job of a manager is not to spend as much money as possible," Wenger once said in a spiky reply to a question about whether he was a spendthrift manager.
"To get (Marouane) Chamakh for free - instead of getting credit, you get accused for getting him for free: 'Why did you not spend £20m for him?'
"If I bought him two years ago for £20m it's OK. But when you get him for free it's: 'Oh, he didn't spend money.'"
No, Arsene. Count yourself lucky that you didn't spend £20m on Chamakh. The misfiring Moroccan misfit (can't think of another word beginning with 'm' for really bad) is proving that you get what you pay for.
Chamakh joined on a free transfer and yet Arsenal still paid too much.
Arsenal are run on solid foundations, they've always been known as the Bank of England club and they can expect some outstanding profits this season, probably in excess of £60m.
But unlike in any other business, that is seen as a bad thing in football among many fans. It means that you have money and decided not to spend it. Sorry, but that's the truth.
There has been £35m-plus burning a hole in Wenger's pocket the last few windows yet he decided not to spend it.
A last-minute supermarket sweep in August saw Arsenal bring in Mikel Areta, Andre Santos, Per Mertesacker and Yossi Benayoun. On top of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, that amounted to nearly £40m spending in total.
But Arsenal also sold Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy for close to £70m.
The Gunners had a turbulent summer and have recovered brilliantly. I don't think there's another manager on the planet who could have got this group of players playing so well together and back into Champions League contention.
Furthermore, Wenger deserves great credit for rebuilding a dressing room spirit which had been tested by ugly transfer sagas involving Fabregas and Nasri.
It's a happier place now and Arsenal will fight to the finish for a top four place. If, having been in crisis in September, they finish fourth it will rank among Wenger's best achievements.
Who got Arsenal into such a mess in the first place is a question for another day.
The Gunners have reached the Champions League under Wenger in every full season the Frenchman has been in charge. That's a remarkable record.
That's also a big achievement with the club moving to a £350m 60,000 seater stadium at the Emirates.
But why haven't Arsenal built on that consistent success? Why not buy a player every year?
Wenger says other teams can no longer compete with Manchester City but you have to give it to Tottenham. They seem to be making a good fist of it.
In fact, they are proving that you can still compete on a smaller budget than City. Their great strides forward are brilliant for the Premier League. It shows it can still be done.
Spurs have done that by adding a quality player or two each season. Harry Redknapp has mastered it well and his side is now threatening to overhaul Arsenal's domination of north London.
Let's not kid ourselves. There's money to spend. Big money in January. Yet Arsenal's first move is to sign Thierry Henry on loan.
Henry is a legend, still loves the club and will be a vote winner. But he's 34 and not the brilliant player he once was. He's more Elastoplast than Red Bull for Arsenal these days.
It will be a popular and good signing. But why stop there? Arsenal have the money to spend big in January, give themselves a turbo boost and finish fourth.
If they don't, then they only have themselves to blame. They have the money to sign a top striker as back-up like a player on the scale of Lukas Podolski or a midfielder of the quality of Mario Gotze.
Arsenal have done so much scouting work on Podolski and a huge amount of ground work on Gotze. Both players are in Wenger's sights and at the top of his transfer wish list.
If the deals can't be done now then maybe they will happen in the summer. However, will they want to join a club that finished outside of the Champions League places?
Furthermore, will Robin van Persie stay?
What does it say about a club as big and as wealthy as Arsenal that they will not sign a left back for a month to cover their full back injury crisis?
Is that good management, careful and frugal - or being plain irresponsible?
There's no doubt in my mind that Arsenal can finish fourth. Their run has been amazing. But the reluctance to spend big is still baffling. The money is there.
Wenger has done some good deals in Januarys in the past, signing the likes of Theo Walcott, Emmanuel Adebayor, Abou Diaby, Andrey Arshavin and Jose Antonio Reyes.
I will always argue that Reyes gave Arsenal a major boost after signing in January 2004 and was a key part in the Invincibles run-in. That was way before he got homesick and went back to Spain.
If Arsenal don't spend big in January, finish fourth and record good profits in a brilliant balance sheet then we can all pay homage to Wenger's brilliance.
But if Arsenal finish fifth then someone better ensure that the balance sheet gets torn up before becoming public.
Forget economics. Football isn't about being a bank manager or getting good financial results. The results are all about what happens on the pitch.
Read John Cross's exclusive Arsenal column every Thursday and follow @ johncrossmirror on Twitter