When Pepe Reina placed a Barcelona jersey on his Spanish World Cup winning team-mate, Cesc Fabregas, it conjured up an unwanted image for Arsenal fans. It may have been a practical joke amidst the joyous Spanish celebrations but it showed their captain in Barcelona’s colours, a sight they had been dreading all summer. Barcelona’s pursuit of their former youth team player has carried on where it left off last summer. It is now a transfer saga destined to rival at least the longevity of Cristiano Ronaldo’s switch to Real Madrid. Fabregas, however, remains an Arsenal player and Arsene Wenger is unyielding. “I always said Cesc Fabregas will be our captain next year and that we want to keep him.” With the Spaniard set to resume training this week, will he commit to the Gunners the only way he knows how? Will he inspire Arsenal once more, grow in authority and break the club’s cycle of trophy-less seasons?
Barcelona who provided seven of Spain’s World Cup winning squad would desperately like to add another to their ranks. The Catalan midfielder unquestionably has the inimitable Barca/Spain style of play. As a central midfielder Fabregas is creative, technically superb and a gifted ball player. Despite the ringing endorsements of current Barcelona players such as, Andres Iniesta it is difficult, as with the Spanish national side, to see where Fabregas would fit into their star studded team. Moreover with Barcelona’s reported financial problems sparked by a rapidly increasing wage bill it is questionable as to whether the side which describes itself as ‘more than a club’ has the resources to recruit Fabregas.
Questions over Fabregas’ position in a squad simply do not arise in north London where he remains critical to the Gunners’ plans. They reportedly dismissed Barcelona’s initial bid and have signalled their reluctance to enter into any negotiations. For a transfer which seemed inevitable it now appears increasingly unlikely that a move will occur this summer. Wenger has accordingly challenged the player to reaffirm his commitment to Arsenal by leading them to major honours. “The biggest achievement for him now is to help us win the championship.” It is a prospect that would eclipse any potential honours secured at the Camp Nou. Does this talismanic midfielder not owe the Arsenal faithful and the club which has nurtured his talents a fervent commitment to challenge for honours once more?
William Gallas’ antics may have propelled Fabrgeas into the role of captain sooner than anticipated but it was always probable for a player whose influence and authority has grown year on year. If some fans and pundits had questioned Wenger’s reliance and belief in youth, the progression of this man alone has done something to justify that policy. He has become the complete midfielder for Arsenal, the creative heartbeat of the team, assisting goals, scoring many himself whilst combining defensive qualities too. Like all good captains he has the ability through his performances to inspire the fans and his team-mates. It was against his potential suitors in the Champions League that brought his most memorable performance of last season. Having been demonstrably outplayed during the first half, Fabregas’ presence was crucial as Arsenal fought back to secure a draw in which he converted a late spot kick and bravely persevered with a broken leg. It came as little shock that in his absence their hopes of continuing in that competition and maintaining their title push evaporated.
Fabregas indisputably owes plenty to Wenger and Arsenal. He is acutely aware of this and duly dedicated Spain’s World Cup triumph to his club side and its manager. Whilst speculation surrounding the player will continue Fabregas will know the most effective way of eradicating that conjecture is through his performances starting at Anfield on the league’s opening weekend. Arsenal fans will just hope that when he said, “I am really proud to have been an Arsenal player,” it was a minor slip of the tongue.