Time for Arsenal to issue transfer ultimatum?

Barcelona vice-president Josep Bartomeu yesterday announced that there was “no rush” to sign Cesc Fabregas, and that the club would be willing to wait until the last minute of the transfer window should they need to in order to gain the services of the Arsenal skipper. Speculation surrounding Fabregas’ future has dominated the headlines for two summer transfer windows now, and the Spaniard has made no secret of his desire to return to his boyhood club despite the protests of Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal board. Last season Arsenal rejected two bids from Barcelona believed to be in the region of £30m, however their valuation of the midfielder appears to have dropped this year and in their most recent attempt to lure Fabregas to the Nou Camp, the European champions were only willing to offer around £27m.

We are led to believe that at the right price, Arsenal would reluctantly allow Fabregas to leave the club, and it had been expected that Barcelona would return with an improved offer that the two clubs would agree on. However Arsenal cannot afford to wait until the last day of the transfer window to decide whether or not the offer on the table is good enough for their talisman. A player of Fabregas’ calibre would need to be replaced, and a sufficient replacement will take time to locate and almost certainly come at a hefty price. For the sake of Arsenal’s progress in the transfer window then, Wenger must obtain the funds from Fabregas’ sale sooner rather than later. Arsenal must emphasise to Barcelona that if they wish to sign Cesc Fabregas then an offer needs to be made relatively soon – Bartomeu’s plan to hold out until the last day of the transfer window is simply not an option.

Cesc Fabregas is not the only player who has been linked with a move away from the Emirates this season, and with Gael Clichy already completing his £7m move to Manchester City, and an alleged interest in Samir Nasri from all of the other ‘top four’ clubs, the Arsenal board must surely have some targets or potential replacements in mind should they lose two of their top players. Wenger has often been criticised for his refusal to spend big sums of money in the transfer market, however the sale of either Fabregas or Nasri would provide the Frenchman with the kind of money that he has been short of, particularly since the club moved to the Emirates stadium in 2006 – a project costing almost £400m.

Arsenal are rumoured to be interested in a number of big names this season which would suggest that Wenger is willing to dig a little deeper into his pockets in order to strengthen his side. The signing of French forward Gervinho from Lille was considered a signal of intent from the Arsenal board, however the sale of Gael Clichy emphasises that the club must be willing to sell in order to buy. Whilst Gael Clichy may be seen as a player that is ‘easily replaceable’ by some Arsenal fans, the likes of Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas would undoubtedly be missed, and would ultimately be incredibly difficult to replace.

The likes of Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are just two of the names that Wenger is rumoured to be interested in bringing to the Emirates and despite their youth, these players are likely to be valued at over £20m. Arsenal are also likely to be looking for a goalkeeper that they can rely on, as well as defenders that know how to defend. The likes of Gary Cahill and Christopher Samba have been linked with a move to the club throughout this transfer window, but again these kind of players will come at a price for Arsene Wenger; a price that is likely to need funding through the departure of one or two key players.

With regards to Cesc Fabregas, there seems to be two options available. Wenger can either allow Barcelona to bide their time and make an offer when it suits them, or he can give them a deadline or a time frame within which an agreement would need to be made between the two clubs. Opting for the former would mean that, come August 31st, should Barcelona meet their valuation of Cesc Fabregas, Wenger would have little option but to allow his captain to leave – without replacement. Of course this offer could still be rejected, but then the club would be holding Fabregas against his will and this, as we have learned through the likes of Dimitar Berbatov and Fernando Torres, will almost certainly have negative repercussions on both player and club.

It seems clear that in order to benefit in any way from the sale of Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal must insist on a deal being agreed well before the closing of the transfer window. Although the process of identifying a suitable replacement for their playmaker is sure to be underway, Arsenal cannot afford to hold out as long as Barcelona are willing to. Should Fabregas stay at Arsenal, Barcelona know that they have the likes of Iniesta, Xavi and Mascherano to fall back on. Should he leave, Arsenal know that they do not have players of this ability to step in. Arsenal must make it clear that any plans to bide time over signing Cesc Fabregas can be forgotten; Barcelona must make an offer soon, or not make an offer at all.