Arsenal FC have carried the reputation as an easy target in recent years; that they’re not capable of fighting off clubs from taking their big players. That they were the most susceptible of the old Top Four to be relegated from that privileged status at the echelon of the Premier League. Well, symbolically, that reputation has been laid to rest with the realisation that Cesc Fabregas is indeed not going to be granted a move to Barcelona.
It’s hardly surprising that Arsene Wenger has undergone scrutiny for a lack of trophies over the last few years. However, when taking everything faced into account, it has been a masterplan in disguise. It was always going to require a period of transition following the feats of ‘the Invincibles’ in 2003/04. That team had reached its peak by 2005, and with many of the players ageing it was time to rebuild.
The club’s difficulty to maintain a sustained title challenge, while going through this period, may have proved an unwelcome surprise, a sacrifice not worth enduring for some fans, however in the grand scheme of things, it was a hardship they had to endure. Their frailties in competing for trophies were exacerbated by the progress made by Chelsea and Liverpool in particular. What had normally been a two-horse title race between Man Utd and Arsenal was now much more competitive. This meant that drastic changes had to be made at a problematic time, but it was necessary, and having held on to their Champions League status with successive campaigns, it would now appear they are ready to reap the rewards.
Vieira’s generation underwent a mass exodus (Pires, Ljungberg, Campbell etc.) followed by a subsequent period of unfulfilled, and unhappy, ‘stars’ moving on (such as Hleb, Adebayor, Toure), who felt their ambitions weren’t being matched, who perceived a lack of exuberant (a more apt word might be outrageous) transfer spending, which clubs like Chelsea, Man City or Real Madrid were pursuing as their own method of business, as a chink in their armour.
The players looked to jump ship in a bid to move on to apparently greater things. And it painted a picture of a club no longer strong enough to fight and keep their players. Up until now, as despite Barcelona making Francesc Fabregas their number one target, there has been no move. If Arsenal is in fact a selling club, how on earth can they insist upon not allowing Fabregas to go to his dream, hometown club?
The reason it seems is that the notion of them as a selling club has been nothing more than an illusion. Arsenal fans have bemoaned many of the player exits that have been permitted, and though some of that interest was not welcomed by the manager, his handling of each drama has proven another masterstroke by the Frenchman. When given the option of holding onto these players, who openly encouraged interest from other clubs, or letting them go, he generally opted for the latter. Many perceived this as a sign of weakness, but just as any other football club should be treated, it is essentially a business (if you’re not balancing the books, something’s wrong) and among many talents Wenger gives the impression of being a shrewd businessman.
There was no point in holding onto a cluster of players who were only undermining the morale of the club, and, most importantly, they were essentially replaceable. Toure was past his best, Hleb had a number of similar understudies who could take his place, and Adebayor would only be second choice to Robin Van Persie as the club’s lone frontman anyway. So receiving £40 million from Man City and £15 million for Hleb, though disruptive, was in fact a good deal for Arsenal too.
Each were sold for substantial profit (after all, Toure and Adebayor were purchased for less than £4 million) and at a time when their wage demands were escalating drastically. So what appeared to be a revolving door policy at Arsenal has been suddenly shut closed this year when Barcelona decided they wanted to make Fabregas the newest addition in an already glittering array of stars. So why did they say no this time? Because he is irreplaceable.
This is where the difference lies. Previous enquires by clubs for some players may not have been met with great opposition, but that does not mean that it was the standpoint of the club to sell. Each situation is analysed at its own merit. Wenger is aware when the right time to sell is, and selling Cesc Fabregas is not an option right now.
Just like when David Dein was offered £100 million by Chelsea for Thierry Henry in his prime, some players are indispensable. And though this is not to say he won’t sign in the future, it will not be this year, or maybe even next year. Not until others like Aaron Ramsey have gained more experience. Fabregas is central to the success of the team, just as Henry was, so at any price, it’s bad business.
The team has been built around his leadership more so than anyone else. Rumours of selling Fabregas and paying half of what they get to lure Ozil may well be an interesting idea, maybe it would even let them strengthen elsewhere with what money would be left, but for however good Ozil has shown himself to be, no-one can replace Fabregas’ role at this point.
They have stood firm on their position that Fabregas is not for sale. They’re in no rush to sell him and why would they be? With four years left his market value will be the same in two years as it is now. And Barcelona should be wary. The new president of Barcelona Sandro Rossel made it pretty clear Arsenal are peeved with their pursuit of their celebrated 23 year old starlet, amid what can really only be described as tapping up.
In general, Arsenal tend to be amicable in doing business, no matter who is departing (think Thierry Henry’s move to Barcelona), and they would preferably not have Fabregas eventually leave under a storm of controversy. However, if Barca’s efforts to lure the player continue to infringe upon preparations for the new season then, in the future, they may decide to ditch friendly negotiations and instead opt for encouraging a bidding war for the player. And with an endless list of wannabe suitors, it will only end up costing Barcelona more.
Written By Darren Doherty