It’s over and done with now. Cesc Fabregas is a Chelsea player.
Trying to find logic in Arsene Wenger’s thoughts on this one is a pointless task. The Arsenal manager keeps his cards so close to his chest that few at the club appear to have an idea of where he’ll move next. It’s to an extent that some have even questioned whether Wenger himself knows what his next move will be.
But this one is entirely on him, not the player, who apparently wanted a return to the club that rounded out the final years of his education and made him the player he is today.
I’m not buying the argument that the signing of Mesut Ozil last summer offsets the need for a player in the mould of Fabregas this year. How can having too many world-class players be a bad thing? Are Arsenal really in a position where they can turn their noses up at a player who will make them better in every sense?
Here’s the thing about Ozil: he doesn’t have the personality to be a leader, at least not a vocal one. He can lead with his performances, but he generally strikes as a kind of introverted genius. At Real Madrid his numbers were outstanding, but the focus was on Cristiano Ronaldo. Ozil helped pull the strings at the Bernabeu, but Xabi Alonso was equally as important at getting Real to play.
Of course, Arsenal have Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla, but Fabregas is something else. Ramsey was phenomenal last season when he made it onto the pitch, but let him have an injury-free 38-game season where he replicates that form before we declare players of Fabregas’ quality wholly unnecessary.
The popular defence of Wenger’s refusal to re-sign Fabregas is in questioning where he’d fit into the current Arsenal side. He’d play in midfield, obviously, in the central position he held for much of his time in north London; there’s no ambiguity about that. Sarcasm aside (ask a silly question, get a silly answer), no one can say Fabregas would never have gotten a game (or Ramsey or Ozil) when the club’s horrific injury record is staring back at them.
Arsenal’s problem in every title race they’ve been in since moving to the Emirates is the running out of steam sometime around the three-quarter mark; the big injuries always seem to hit during or after January, with cruel, humorous consistency. You look to other clubs in England like Manchester City and Manchester United who have gone the distance in recent seasons, but better examples would be those from the continent.
Bayern Munich’s midfield talent pool is ludicrous. Thiago Alcantara’s injury last season was more an annoyance that one which would derail their campaign. Mario Goetze stole the headlines last year ahead of his switch to Bavaria, but he was in and out of the side. Pep Guardiola had the option of fielding either Philipp Lahm or Javi Martinez in the midfield, both to much success. The point is, that team never ran out of energy; ideas maybe, or just became far too entrenched in Pep’s ideals, but they never looked like they were running on empty.
Barcelona were the same when they signed Fabregas in 2011, Real Madrid’s swelled midfield department brought them two trophies last season, while Juventus had the luxury of being able to rotate Paul Pogba, Arturo Vidal, Andrea Pirlo, and Claudio Marchisio. Strength in depth and depth in quality did nothing to damage those clubs’ pursuit of silverware and ultimate success.
The other annoyance about this Fabregas situation is that the Spaniard is an Arsenal player. Not in the sense that he was once on the books of the club, but in his style of play. Wenger doesn’t stray too heavily from the possession-based game, essentially wanting to walk the ball into the net, and Fabregas would have continued to improve on the current product. It’s a similar statement made following Ozil’s signing: Arsenal didn’t really need him. Well they did, because he has obviously helped to better the team’s play. What Arsenal definitely didn’t need was a lumbering Marouane Fellaini sitting in front of the back four, yet his signing was trumpeted by a large group.
Part of Arsenal signing Fabregas for a second time would have been in keeping him away from a rival team, but the majority of it should have been because a world-class player came on the market for what was, relatively speaking, a very good price, at £27 million.
There’s no other way to paint this other than an incredible loss to Arsenal, a reckless decision that will without doubt come back to haunt the club somewhere down the line.