Since the early summer we’ve heard little from Cesc Fabregas. I suspect that’s all about to change. He arrived back in London yesterday and will take some part in the members day at the Grove later on this morning.
It’s pretty much inconceivable that the silence can continue. Thing have to be resolved one way or the other. There are two options open to him. One is that he declares he’s staying with Arsenal, the other is that he makes very public a desire to leave and go to Barcelona, possibly handing in a transfer request. I simply don’t see the second one happening.
It’s completely understandable that some fans are ill at ease with what has happened but I think Cesc’s injury at the end of the season was desperately ill-timed for us. Not least because we lost our captain and best player for the season run in. I look back and don’t see us losing to Sp*rs, Wigan and Blackburn with him in the team. However, because his recuperation took place at home in Spain it allowed those who want him back at Barcelona to start chipping away at him.
So for that to be going on while he watched our season fall to pieces must have been hard. When you score a penalty and then play on with a broken leg how disheartening must it be to watch teammates who can’t even be bothered to track a runner from midfield. Add to that the chance to return to your home country, family and friends etc, something I think has been overlooked a bit, it all added up to him wanting to go back.
Yet he has always known that any deal was 100% dependent on Arsenal. If they wouldn’t negotiate then that was that. If Barcelona couldn’t come up with the money then that was that. Barcelona have talked a lot but they’re like a yappy dog. They simply cannot back up their incessant chatter with the required finances. I’m sure they promised him the sun, moon and stars yet they prioritised the signing of David Villa above him to the point where they then had to borrow money just to keep the club afloat.
Barcelona’s tactics have been, from the start, designed to capture Cesc on the cheap with consistent attempts to damage his relationship with Arsenal, Arsene Wenger and the Arsenal fans. Players, chairmen, officials of all shapes and sizes have been hugely vocal, putting words in his mouth, try to destabilise him at this club. Perhaps they expected Arsenal to be more forgiving, more acquiescent, instead they got intransigence.
From the time of our first statement until now the message has been the same: Cesc is not for sale, we will not negotiate. And that is something that should be applauded. We haven’t given in to the bullying tactics, the barrage of media speculation and fiction chucked our way from the Spanish and the English press who have been quite willing to help Barcelona do their dirty work. We have stood firm in the face of truly appalling behaviour, kept relatively quiet when it must have been so tempting to go off on one (e.g – when Wenger was asked about Puyol last weekend), and maintained a dignity throughout this as Barcelona looked increasingly desperate, like a hobo scratching around for pennies to buy a bottle of Chateau Lafite Rothschild when all they could afford was ‘Tesco Value Fortified Wine’.
There are those who point to the statements of loyalty made by Torres and Gerrard, both of whom considered leaving Liverpool this summer. Yet which club pursued them in the same way as Barcelona pursued Cesc? Which club had the same attraction to them that Barcelona has to Cesc? Gerrard is already at his ‘childhood’ club, Torres left his to come to England and is hardly going to make a backwards step at this stage of his career. How many of us are doing jobs we love yet go through periods of disillusionment with our employer? He is only human after all and the lure of this Barcelona team must be enormous. So it’s by no means the same thing.
Yet we do need something similar from Cesc. He is the captain of this football club after all. I’ve read lots of stuff this summer across Arsenal websites and those who state with all their might that he should be replaced as captain are wrong. Taking the captaincy away does what, exactly? Demotivates and humiliates the player in the most public way. The other players in the team respect him, for his personality, for his ability and for the way he leads the team by example every time he walks onto the pitch. If they have no issue with him as captain why should we? There is no Gallas style split in the dressing room.
And those who would question his commitment should he stay clearly haven’t watched Cesc Fabregas closely since he made his debut on the 28th October 2003, nearly seven years ago. He wants to win every game he plays. He is a driven, ambitious and committed footballer, why would that change now?
Would those who are so quick to slag off the team, the manager, and everything else, not consider that perhaps Cesc saw some of the same issues they did as they demand he be stripped of the captaincy and sold? I don’t believe that his heart won’t be in it if he stays at Arsenal this season. Perhaps it’s an unfortunate phrase to borrow but he’s just not that kind of player. It’s impossible for him to go onto a football pitch and do anything other than try and win the game for his team.
Those who speak about his connection with Barcelona also overlook his connection with Arsenal. Do people think that because he might have wanted to go home that he has no feelings for Arsenal or Arsenal fans? That’s not the case. I know for a fact he loves Arsenal Football Club. If he ended up thinking he couldn’t achieve what he wanted to in the game at Arsenal then that leaves others with questions to answer too.
We don’t need an explanation from Cesc. The nuts and bolts of it are clearly apparent to everyone – we just need him to say he’s staying and then we can focus on the rest of the season, distracted only by the bits and pieces that crop up in any normal campaign.
So, let’s see what pans out in the next couple of days. I’m not suggesting people should just forget what’s gone on this summer, just try and understand it, and remember that the ambitions we all share, for Arsenal to win trophies and successful, are best served with Cesc Fabregas in our team.
In other news Theo and Thomas Vermaelen speak about Cesc’s return and a little about his situation. Vermaelen says:
He’s a leader of the team. He is the skipper and the boss gave him the armband because he is important. The way he plays, not just with his feet but also the work he puts in, is hard for anybody to match. He is a complete player. Cesc knows we want him to stay.
There’s not much you can add to that. It’s interesting to note how quickly Vermaelen has developed into one of the leaders of this team. Intelligent, articulate and a man whose performances and commitment inspire those around him. We often talk about spine of a team being crucial, from Vermaelen to Cesc to van Persie ours is more or less complete. It requires one more factor and that’s the goalkeeper. Old ground here, I know, but it’s important.
As a shot stopper Almunia is as competent as any other Premier League keeper, what we’re lacking back there is the organisational skills of someone like Lehmann or Seaman. The old back four spoke about the calming presence of Seaman, how they knew where he’d be, how it allowed them to play with more freedom. Jens was a demanding character, how often did we see him berating a defender for failing to pick up a man or simply doing as Jens commanded? Different styles but the same effect.
None of the goalkeepers at the club have anything approaching that. There’s no command of the area, defenders don’t know from one game to the next if the keeper is going to come and sweep up (as Jens did) or stay on his line, and little in the way of fear/respect. If you know your keeper is going to bite your head off you’ll stay focussed. The only fear surrounding our current crop is that they’ll make a mistake. If you go into games wondering if your keeper is going to throw one into his own net or hand a quick free kick to the opponent it must be hard to work with. It certainly doesn’t make it easy to form a tight, cohesive defensive unit of which a keeper is a vital part.
That’s why, for me, a new keeper is so crucial for the new season. Reflex tests and making brilliant saves in training is all well and good but if you have all the presence of a dwarf ghost when the pressure’s on you, and your team, will be found wanting. We witnessed it on countless occasions in recent years. Why we haven’t done anything about it yet is beyond me. I know we’ve been trying and that deals are complicated things. It’s not as easy as buying the morning paper but I honestly believe that if we go into this season with Almunia or Fabianski as first choice we’re lowering our chances of winning things significantly.
The base of our spine is weak and if a spine is like a chain then a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link and then Anne Robinson will come along with her ginger face fur and nobody wants that. Buy a keeper, AW, please.
There’s not much else going on. Some rumours surrounding Tomas Rosicky and Galatasaray which are, as yet, unfounded. There have been whispers that Rosicky was a player we were willing to let go but only if another target was brought in. If the increased rumours about his departure are true then I hope there’s a correlation between that and a possible new arrival. Of course it could just mean more chances for Jack Wilshere and while I’d be happy to see him make a breakthrough I’d hope we wouldn’t weaken our squad any further.
Anyway, we should get more from Arsene today, there’s always a bit of gossip around the members day, so hopefully there’s plenty to talk about tomorrow.