Will ‘sale’ lead to principle changes for Arsene Wenger?

Warm weather? Check. Increased prevalence of ice cream vans? Check. Arsenal poised to sell one of their crown jewels? Check.

Whilst the sudden outburst of warm weather failed to fully convince me that summer was just round the corner, the news that Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas is likely to depart North London in the not too distant future has confirmed that this is indeed the case. With Arsenal’s transfer windows of the last five years littered by the departures of key men such as Patrick Vieira, Ashley Cole, Thierry Henry, Mathieu Flamini and Alexander Hleb, it is unsurprising to hear of Fabregas’ impending departure. Undoubtedly the talismanic star man in Arsene Wenger’s side, the 23-year-old’s anticipated exit will do nothing to dispel the notion of Arsenal’s existence as a ‘selling club’.

Although unsurprisingly tempted by the lure of Barcelona, Fabregas’ desire to leave now is clearly attributable to a lack of faith in Wenger’s principles, with the 23-year-old evidently not convinced by his manager’s ability to secure silverware within the foreseeable future. Should Fabregas leave within the next few months, Arsenal’s quest to end their trophy drought is likely to become even harder. The Frenchman is a notoriously stubborn man, but will this potential transfer act as a catalyst for a switch in the Frenchman’s ideology?

Arsene Wenger’s transfer policies of the last five years have been well-documented. Despite being admired by many, the sustainable model of investment he has implemented has yet to reap tangible rewards. Gunners fans starved of silverware have perennially bemoaned their manager’s failure to replace such key players with proven like-for-like players. Key defeats to rival clubs have been recognised as symptomatic of the lack of experience and proven quality within the side. The club have repeatedly affirmed that their manager has money to spend, so why doesn’t he choose to do so?

Wenger’s almost utopic vision of Arsenal as a trophy-winning, self-sustainable, youth player manufacturing club is what has prevented star names from moving to the Emirates. In choosing to eschew the signings of big-money players, Wenger has vindicated such a policy by pointing to the benefits of choosing to blood youth players; indeed Fabregas’ emergence and development as a first-team team player was only facilitated by his manager’s failure to replace Patrick Vieira. The development of Fabregas, who can now undoubtedly be considered as a world-class player, has been thought of as a template for the rest of Wenger’s future Arsenal side. Indeed Fabregas’ ascendancy can be thought of as a microcosm of Wenger’s ideology.

For the last few seasons, Wenger’s side have been perpetually dubbed as a “team for next season”, a comment indicative of the inherent lack of maturity and experience within a youthful side. Whilst such a policy has been to the advantage of several young players who have benefitted from regular first-team exposure, Wenger’s principles have been lambasted as the main reason behind Arsenal’s failure to win a trophy since 2005. Worryingly, the speculation concerning Fabregas has suggested that it is not only the fans, but Arsenal’s players who are losing faith in the abilities of ‘Le Professor’. In addition to the actions of Cesc Fabregas, Russian maestro has vehemently displayed doubts over his manager’s methods, telling The Sun that, “Arsene Wenger needs to buy new players – and expensive ones too. Why? Because all the talented and inexpensive players are already with us at Arsenal.”

Thankfully for Wenger, sales of key men over the last few years have always proven to be correct by the diminished form of such players at their new clubs, fuelling the suggestion that Wenger is an expert at knowing when to sell players. However, unlike the departures of some of the names listed above, for example Thierry Henry, the potential sale of Fabregas would see the departure of a quality player who is yet to reach his peak. This sale of the side’s best player denotes a lack of ambition, with this message likely to be transmitted across to other players within the Arsenal squad. We’ve already seen how Arshavin has been dismayed by his manager’s policy – what price for other top Emirates players to show signs of their discontent?

This summer is likely to be a massive summer for Arsene Wenger. The faith of his admirably loyal fans is likely to be tested like never before. More worryingly, the faith of his squad is likely to be tested too. The Frenchman will have to make some changes this summer, but whether or not this means sacrificing his principles remains to be seen.

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