Arsenal fans were left bitterly disappointed when news broke last week that former captain Cesc Fabregas would not be returning to the Emirates after three years at Barcelona, instead moving to Premier League and London rivals Chelsea for a £30million fee.
Most interestingly, the Spain international revealed that Arsene Wenger had refused the opportunity to re-sign him via a clause included in the deal that brought the 27 year-old to the Nou Camp in summer 2011, informing reporters; ” We spoke with Wenger and he said that with Ozil they had this position well covered.”
You can certainly understand it from Wenger’s point of view. Arsenal’s new sponsorship deal with Puma deal may give Le Professeur the largest transfer budget in Gunners history for the coming window, but of all departments of the Emirates roster that require his attention this summer, central midfield is not one of them.
A star-studded striker is the most important acquisition of all – Wenger knows the fans won’t stomach another season where limited depth in the final third, though lack of investment, proves to be their fatal flaw. Similarly, a defensive option in midfield is a must if the North Londoners are to improve upon their miserly five points claimed against Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool this season, whilst the departures of Bacary Sagna and Thomas Vermaelen to City and United respectively require a new right-back and added depth at centre-back.
Likewise, Wenger has continually demonstrated throughout his career a refusal to blockade the paths of young first team talents, in this regard referring to Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere – in my opinion, the mentioning of Mesut Ozil is a misnomer. Had Fabregas returned to his former club this summer, the progress of at least one of the two would have resultantly been stifled, at least in theory.
But this is not just any old central midfielder that came Arsenal’s way this summer. A former World Cup winner whose only crime at Barcelona was failing to outshine Andres Iniesta and Xavi, Fabregas is still one of the leading central midfielders in world football.
Are Arsenal really in a position to turn down world-class talents at £30million a time? Or are me and Arsene Wenger talking about different Arsenals here?
The North Londoners ended the season on a high with their first trophy in nine years, and the fact they spent more time at the top of the Premier League table than any of their divisional rivals will give fans hope that further successes are just around the corner.
But in truth, not beating an exceptionally ordinary Hull City side in the FA Cup final would have constituted such a travesty that Arsene Wenger would be searching for new employment by now, and like clockwork, Arsenal’s league campaign decisively imploded as soon as they were confronted with a mixture of a growing injury list and a run of heavyweight fixtures from late January to early March.
The idea that the Gunners were ever genuine contenders for the English crown is a fallacy – it’s no coincidence that they eventually recorded a fourth-place finish for the sixth time in the last nine years. If Arsenal’s dormant state in the Premier League title race is ever to come to an end, signing players of Fabregas’ calibre is a necessity – in fact, it should be a contractual obligation on Arsene Wenger’s part.
After all, although the Gunners gaffer clearly has the utmost faith in Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, at this moment in time, neither come close to matching the now-Chelsea playmaker in terms of established quality or experience. The Welshman is still an unknown quantity – one half-season of excellent form and a winning goal in an FA Cup final does not make him a bona fide world-beater – and quite frankly, I agree with Paul Scholes’ scathing assessment that we are yet to witness a significant improvement in Jack Wilshere since he first exploded onto the Premier League scene as an 18 year-old.
Furthermore, added competition for places can never be a bad thing – in fact, it’s arguably been Mesut Ozil’s most positive impact on the Arsenal first team since joining the Emirates last summer. His £42.2million arrival has kept the likes of Ramsey, Santi Cazorla, Lukas Podolski and Theo Walcott on their toes.
The prevailing concern is that, in rejecting Cesc Fabregas, Arsene Wenger has once again demonstrated a refusal to act clinically in the transfer market. The Spaniard’s return to north London may have stifled the progress of others, but until the Arsenal boss favours mimicking the pragmatism of his divisional rivals over personal loyalty to certain individuals, the Gunners will be caught in a perpetual state of transition, where the club’s vast potential is never fully realised.
You may agree with that analysis, you may be outraged by it, but one thing is for certain – a world-class central midfielder available for just £30million, Arsenal won’t be presented with a better transfer opportunity this summer.