Daniel Sturridge and Jack Wilshere pose together for a selfie. Players set club loyalties aside as international teams prepare for the World Cup. Across the globe, though, fans remain totally devoted to the clubs they support. At the end of every football season the professional stars are afforded some time away from the club game. This summer, some will lounge on the beach while others head to Brazil. Fans are afforded no such luxury. The break between seasons is an incessantly torturous period for football loyalists. As football media kicks into overdrive, fans are tormented with a torrent of transfer rumours that mostly never materialise. So far, the most interesting of these is that of Cesc Fabregas. By JULIAN KESLER and MARK LAZARUS.
The Spanish playmaker is no longer wanted by Barcelona, his boyhood club, which signed him from Arsenal in 2011. Arsenal fans are distressed by the prospect of their former captain signing for city rivals, Chelsea. The trauma is exacerbated by manager Arsene Wenger’s decision to inform Barcelona that he will not exercise the buy-back option on Fabregas.
Is Cesc Fabregas still a world-class talent? The statistics do not suggest that he is a player in decline. Over the last two seasons, Fabregas has created more goal assists in the Spanish League than any other player. While in the Premier League’s record books, only Eric Cantona has a better assist-per-game rate than Fabregas.
Arsenal fans want him back. They know Wenger had the option to re-sign him. They want to reunite with their former captain, who walked out on them. Wenger is right not to take him back and Arsenal fans must move on. Signing Fabregas simply to block a move to a direct Premier League rival is a waste funds that could better be spent elsewhere, on a new right-back and centre-forward, specifically. Had Fabregas been tipped to join an Italian club, Arsenal supporters would not be too bothered. Where is the Schadenfreude among fans at Wenger’s snub and Fabregas’ reality that “the grass isn’t always greener on the other side”?
In case you have forgotten, (like so many Arsenal fans), the Barca-Fabregas saga was ugly. It was no secret that he was desperate to go back to the club he happily left at 16. In London, Fabregas had everything; Wenger’s trust, fans adoration and the captain’s armband. Then the Barca shirt incident happened and sports pages were flooded with comments from Barcelona players calling for Cesc’s spiritual return because of his mythic “Barca DNA”. But since the recent season ended, nobody at his spiritual football home has publicly implored him to stay.
It is easy to understand Arsenal fans’ torment at the prospect of Fabregas playing for Mourinho’s Chelsea. His departure was the first of many to strengthen Arsenal’s competitors; Van Persie at Manchester United and Samir Nasri at Manchester City.
Fabregas may have been on course to be a club great. He chose not to. Wenger is right to let Chelsea buy him. Will Fabregas succeed at Chelsea? Yes, and he could be their player of the season, perhaps for two consecutive seasons but in all likelihood, he could be sold to PSG soon after this. That is how things work at Stamford Bridge. Over the long term, his legacy is dashed and perhaps a club of Arsenal’s stature, with such a saturated midfield, should not welcome him back with open arms.
Arsenal’s team does not require the creative input of Fabregas. Wenger has more than enough creative talent in the midfield, including Mesut Ozil, the player that Mourinho last year described as “the best number 10 in the world”. Ozil (9), Ramsey (8), Giroud (8) and Cazorla (8) created 33 goal assists in the Premier League last season. What Arsenal needs is a prolific goal scorer. If Wenger is to compete for the league title, he will need to sign an established centre-forward and not unearth one from the depths of the French second division. His refusal to spend big money on Fabregas is perhaps an indication that he knows what he needs. DM
Photo: Barcelona’s Cesc Fabregas. (REUTERS/Paul Hanna)
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