Friday, June 13, 2014

It Hurts, But Cesc Fabregas Wasn't a Priority

I was made aware of the much dreaded event yesterday, when the Cesc Fabregas page on Facebook was updated with him wearing that hideous blue jersey (as seen above). By now it's common knowledge that Arsenal had a first refusal clause in the event that Fabregas leaves Barcelona, and we decided not to utilize it. 

Of course, as is normal these days, anything and everything leads to internet outrage, so while there were random news articles where disgruntled Arsenal fans were burning his No. 4 jerseys on one hand, #WengerOut started trending on twitter on the other. And while I don't condone the irrational, melodramatic morons plaguing social media, I understand the outrage for the most part. 

Here was a player who joined us at 16, played for us for 8 years, became our Captain, and left apparently to 'go home'. He was a fan favourite, and a lot of what he did on the pitch left supporters awestruck. To see him move from Barcelona to a club like Chelsea, park the bus instead of playing football, that too for the douchiest bus conductor in town (I'm looking at you Jose), it's all too painful for any Arsenal supporter to handle. It doesn't require too much creative thinking to picture Mourinho instructing Fabregas on the pitch, and this coupled with the knowledge that WE could just as easily have bought him, well it's enough to make a person sick. 

I suppose some of the outrage also arises from the fact Chelsea lost Lampard, and quickly and decisively replaced him with a world class player, showing the kind of incisiveness in the transfer market that Arsenal have never shown. At time of writing, Chelsea has already bought two of the most coveted players in world football, while Arsenal is being linked with every footballer, non-footballer, sweeper, etc. under the sun. This coupled with the fact that we never did get over Fabregas, leads to justifiable anger and frustration.

That being said, once the emotions are on the wane, it is imperative that one look at the entire situation from a logical point of view, from the manager's view of things. Before the entire Fabregas saga came into being, what would any Arsenal supporter say upon being asked what the teams biggest needs in the transfer window are? The answer is straightforward and there seems to be a broad consensus on the following: 
a) A Striker to complement and be an alternative to Giroud; b) a Right back to replace Sagna; c) a holding midfielder; and d) a back-up keeper

The availability of Cesc Fabregas does not change what the current Arsenal squad needs. Our striker woes are well documented. Giroud, despite my great love for him, isn't the type of striker who scores in the biggest of games, nor can he play every game of the season without burning out. We need another striker, a better striker, to both complement Giroud and replace him when needed. Even Giroud seems to think so. Since the departures of Sagna (with a heartwarming farewell post, I might add) and Fabianski, we need a first choice right back and a back-up keeper. And while I love Arteta, he's not getting any younger and we need a player in that holding midfield position alongside Aaron Ramsey. 
As far as getting players for essential positions is concerned, we've got our hands full. 

If we look at Fabregas, which of the above needs does he satisfy (and make no mistake, these are needs). You can make an argument that he can replace Arteta, and sure he may even do a decent job in that position. But if your biggest criticism of Arteta is that he lacks strength and pace, Fabregas isn't exactly an upgrade. Put it another way, if the question was whom would you rather have protecting your back four, a player in the mould of Lars Bender (used as an example only) or an attacking player in the vein of Fabregas, the answer in all likelihood would be the former. 

Additionally, Cesc Fabregas is first and foremost an attack minded player, and Arsene Wenger got the best out of him by building an entire team around him. And Fabregas would be back playing at Arsenal, if only we hadn't bought another player to build the team around for 42 million pounds just last summer. Fabregas leaving left a creative void which Santi Cazorla couldn't fill, but a certain Mesut Ozil can. And based on the evidence of last season, Wenger plans to build the team around Ozil's attacking talents. It doesn't make much sense to spend more money to reinforce an area of the team where you already have a world class player. 
As far as the concerns about squad depth is concerned, attacking midfielder is perhaps the one position where we have the most depth in the form of Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky, Chamberlain and even Aaron Ramsey. All these are good players, while Wilshere and Chamberlain aren't even the finished products. Arsene Wenger may get shtick for being loyal to his younger players and nurturing them, sometimes at the cost of the team, but when the players being preferred show talent (as Wilshere and Chamberlain have), it's counterproductive to buy another player for that very position. Aaron Ramsey is the most recent example of trusting a young player to play at a top level. 

The cold hard truth is that an attacking midfielder isn't our priority this summer, even if it is Cesc Fabregas. Arsene Wenger's priorities in terms of squad improvement lie elsewhere. And in a small way, he owes it to us, the fans, to do a good job in the transfer window. We (well most of us anyway) trust him if he feels that Fabregas isn't needed, but he must buy the players that are. It's not too much to ask for. 

Additionally, I hope that Barcelona is finally seen as the two-faced, disgusting, hypocritical, club that it is. For years, the players and the club administration poached Fabregas, not missing out on any chance to get him to the club. A player whom they didn't need, a player who wouldn't really fit in was scouted and seduced with terms such as 'home' and 'Barca DNA'. Where's that Barca DNA now? You bought him because you could, then tossed him aside because you realised you made a mistake in buying him. Barcelona is just like Real Madrid wherein the club buys some of the world's best footballing talents merely because it can. At least Real Madrid isn't hypocritical about buying stars, unlike Barcelona which shrouds the entire affair in some sort of footballing values driven affair. 

As for Cesc Fabregas, I wish he had gone to some other club. It wouldn't bother anyone even a little bit if he had gone to PSG, Juventus or some other European heavyweight (and there would be offers from other clubs for a player of his calibre). But the fact that he chose to go to a rival club stings. I suppose that is Fabregas' decision, and we can scream and shout all day long, but that doesn't change the fact that Fabregas made the decision to go to Chelsea. When he returns to the Emirates he won't be welcomed like the hero he once was. I still think he's an amazing player and I wish him well, but in simple terms, he isn't our El Capitan anymore. And personally speaking, I love our current No. 4 a lot more than our previous one anyway.