Memo to Arsene Wenger: If Barcelona offer you anything like the sort of money you’ve been saying Cesc Fabregas is worth this Summer, take it. Not only that, but pack his bags and give him a lift to the airport.
Arsenal haven’t even had the relative bad fortune of standing still as a football club over the past few seasons. They’ve gone backwards. Much of this can be attributed to the obsession that the club have in keeping Fabregas.
Fabregas is the tail that wags the Arsenal dog. When he plays, he plays in a team that is specifically selected to give him the free role on the pitch that he craves. That often means that other players have to sacrifice a certain part of their game in order to cater for the whims of Cesc. This isn’t unknown in modern football of course. Wayne Rooney famously stepped into the shadows at Old Trafford to accommodate not only the footballing skills, but the personality of Ronaldo. He wanted centre stage and the plaudits that accompanied it. Rooney, on the other hand, just loves to play. So he would have been fine with that. But his game suffered for it.
Sir Alex Ferguson once famously said he wouldn’t sell Real Madrid ‘a virus’. Yet he was happy to flog them Ronaldo when he noticed how Rooney’s game was suffering because of the formers pre-eminence at Old Trafford. Question: who benefitted the most from that deal? Since Ronaldo’s departure, he and Real have won nothing, where-as Rooney has recently enjoyed another Premier League title winners medal, as well as playing in his third Champions League final. More to the point, however, Rooney has never usurped Ronaldo, never become the star at Old Trafford, the leading light, the centre of attention. No-one at the club has such hallowed status, they play as a team and they win trophies as one.
Ronaldo, of course, has done plenty in Madrid since he arrived there. In the 2010/11 season, he scored 40 league goals for them, a club record. He has shone in a team that has been built around his expensive talents. But, whisper it again, despite all those goals, the glamour and the glory… they didn’t win anything noteworthy.
Neither will they again, I suspect, until he has left the club. Certainly not the Champions League, a trophy that Barcelona can monopolise over the next five years simply because, again, they play as a team and Lionel Messi is part of that team, not the headline act.
Fast forward to Fabregas. If he stays at Arsenal then, despite his porcelain hamstring, they’ll win matches, score goals, headline Match of the Day with a sunny September afternoon performance against Norwich; Fabregas will hop, skip and jump across the pitch and be indulged in the sunshine and Arsenal’s 4-0 win will evoke false hope of a trophy, at last, this season. But it’s too little, too often and it isn’t working, whether he plays or not.
Arsenal lost the 2011 League Cup Final because of Fabregas. Because, once again, Wenger had to pick a side that didn’t include him. And that is the root of the clubs problems. He misses so many games that they are lacking the consistency that all great sides need-consistency of selection, style and performance. He’s in and out of the side so often that there is little chance of them ever putting together a team and way of play that is familiar to all of the players, one that can yield good results, week in, week out, regardless of opposition.
Whether he is playing or not, Fabregas is holding Arsenal back. I’ll say this with confidence, had they sold him to Barcelona last Summer, Arsenal would have won a trophy this season, no doubt about it. Why? Because they would have had a more settled side, players and a Manager whose every thought was not dominated by visions of Fabregas, fit or not, staying or not, playing or not, coming off or not?
Real Madrid and Arsenal both indulge their star men and both clubs have suffered for it. I suggest Arsene Wenger makes the very best use of Cesc Fabregas he can this season by selling him to Barcelona. He’ll forget the pain of doing so when they’ve won something in 2012.
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