We all knew it was going to happen. Even the most optimistic of Arsenal fans will admit as much. Cesc Fabregas finally returned “home” to Cataluña yesterday, to the surprise of nobody, and to the relief or despair of every Gooner. So what’s next for the midfield maestro, the club he’s joined, and the club he left behind?
As a Spurs fan, my opinions on the team down the road are usually far from objective. But for once I have something very positive to say about Arsenal. Perhaps my new-found cordiality is borne out of the empathy I feel, given recent events involving a little blonde Croat. The comparison is a poor one, for Arsenal fans have been tortured with this ‘transfer saga’ for three summers now.
But here’s a crumb of comfort as you enter life without your club-captain matador…
No longer will the Emirates home dressing room be dogged by a self-important misery guts who doesn’t want to be there – this can only have positive effects on the morale and camaraderie of an Arsenal team that hasn’t looked anything like a unit since Patrick Vieira left for Juventus in 2005 (which, coincidentally, was the last time Arsenal won anything).
And without Fabregas, Arsene Wenger (or possibly his successor) can finally start to focus on rebuilding a team capable of major honours. The Gunners might, for a time, be hampered by the departure of Fabregas (and possibly Nasri), but with Wilshere stepping up to the plate and Ramsey coming on strong also, Arsenal have a midfield core that blends European technique and British determination. Fabregas undoubtedly had the first of these ingredients, but the second was decisively lacking, particularly in the big games. Around this dynamic British duo, a solid team of versatile, dependable players can be built – though Wenger probably won’t be the one to do it…
In time, Wenger will also leave North London. He may be one of the best technically-minded managers in world football, but his persistence with a morally ‘superior’ brand of football has only hindered the club’s progress. Isn’t it plain to see that Arsenal were more successful when they played a style of football that was less…well…tippy-tappy? Into his shiny shoes will step a manager willing to compromise on the sexy football and introduce some steel; perhaps even a desperately needed defensive midfield destroyer! When that happens, and it will, the trophy cabinet might start to sparkle again.
“Good luck warming the bench at the Nou Camp”, I hear many a Gooner cry in a notably sour tone. Yes, you’d all take some satisfaction in that, but Fabregas’ buttocks won’t be firmly planted for too long. Because while he might only make Barcelona a few millimetres better than they already are at present, the former Arsenal man will slowly begin to fill his considerably large boots and become the lynchpin of the Catalonian side in the future.
There’s been a lot of negative talk regarding Fabregas’ chances of getting ahead of Xavi and Iniesta in the Barcelona pecking order. I think those chances are significantly better than some people are presuming. La Liga will allow him to play to his strengths, and he’ll become a better footballer for it. In terms of raw ability, Fabregas has everything Xavi and Iniesta have, minus the ice-cool temperament which enables calm, composed and progressive passing sequences. That will surely come with experience, and when it does, young ‘Fab’ will be able to take the place of the aging Xavi, who’s now the wrong side of 30.
In short, the position of those wonderfully gifted footballers is not insurmountable, particularly for someone as equally gifted as Fabregas. Let’s not forget that Iniesta played second fiddle to the likes of Deco, Ronaldinho and Giuly for a long time before finally earning his spurs and taking Barcelona to the very peak of world football.
There’s a bright future ahead for Arsenal without Fabregas and Fabregas without Arsenal. When the dust is settled and the trophies and medals since 2003 are counted, both will realise they never really needed each other anyway!
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