Erik Ian Larsen: Adios Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal can finally move on
Written by Erik Ian Larsen on August 15, 2011 22:15
I could wax lyrical about Cesc Fabregas until my fingers fell off. I’d have little nubs and wouldn’t be able to properly high five ever again, but it’d be worth it because of how good Cesc Fabregas has been for Arsenal in the last decade.
I still have vivid memories of his leg-breaking penalty kick against Barcelona to secure a Champions League draw on the road at Nou Camp. It was a powerful moment in his career and endeared the Catalan captain to Arsenal fans like few before. He arrived when he was just a 16-year-old boy, and in the years since, he’s grown into a man and an Arsenal legend. I have nothing but respect and admiration for who he is as a player.
Yes, seeing Cesc in a Barcelona jersey cuts me in dark, torturous places, but I’ve lost the ability to feel pain about it anymore. This pointless, drawn-out saga has undercut the club for years, and today, on what should be the saddest day in a very long time, I just feel relieved. Disappointment too, but relief that this idiotic situation has finally come to its inevitable end.
The uncertainty about whether or not Arsenal’s captain was going to be in an Arsenal jersey put everyone, including the manager trying to keep his squad focused on trophies, in a difficult situation. Good for Arsene for finally pulling the trigger. It wasn’t easy to sell him, just like it wasn’t easy to retain him last year, but both moves were the right ones to make.
There are a lot of people to blame, including Cesc himself for signing a contract he wasn’t prepared to fulfill, but I just don’t care anymore. It’s time to move on. Cesc isn’t an Arsenal player anymore, and spending the rest of the year bitching about what our team would look like with him is counter-productive. Barcelona is our competition, Cesc is our competition now too, and while I’ll applaud his success for the rest of his career, when he plays against Arsenal, I hope he loses.
Arsenal finally has the chance to move on, to stop clinging to a player who was slowly trying to separate from the club. There will be other players, loyal players like Jack Wilshere who come up through the club’s youth ranks and can’t fathom leaving Arsenal for anywhere else. Players like Alex Song who come to Arsenal and would never dream of leaving the manager who gave them the opportunity to be great. Those are the players who now deserve our songs, our support, and our words.
Make no mistake, Cesc’s departure leaves a massive hole in the club. But being a fan is about more than winning trophies; that has no impact on a true fan’s love and loyalty for Arsenal. We just want to see our team grow and mature and consistently improve.
There will always be periods of stagnancy (the biggest clubs in the world have gone decades without trophies … Arsenal’s six years doesn’t seem so bad), but what should never change is the culture of greatness. Cesc leaving Arsenal can’t change that culture. It’s fitting that the pomp and circumstance of the 125th anniversary of the club is happening this year, because it’s now serving as an elegant reminder to fans old and new that this club is richer than whatever depressing things have happened in the past six years. Or in the past six days.
There’s a lot of pressure now placed directly on Arsene Wenger—like there wasn’t enough already—to pull this team together and to evolve beyond his and his team’s reliance on Cesc. And if Wenger is willing to reinvest Cesc’s transfer fee for a legitimate replacement(s) who will continue on with the style and tradition that Cesc helped Arsenal attain, the culture of excellence will persist.
I love what Wenger has done this summer—Gervinho’s been a huge surprise, Carl Jenkinson is a promising prospect, and Ryo Miyaichi has me more excited about a prospect than I’ve ever been … seriously—but losing a top player and doing nothing to replace him will send a message across the football community that Arsenal isn’t a club for the best players in the world. It’s merely a stepping stone.
There’s equal pressure on the current squad to try to replicate and mitigate the brilliance that Cesc provided. No one player should tactically fill that void. The dependence on Cesc had become a strategic burden in the past two years, and playing a more unpredictable style, attacking from all sides of the field, will give us something new this season that could help us win the Premier League.
But it’s utterly dependent on the quality and talent of the players currently at the squad and any new signings Wenger makes before the end of the month (please, for our collective sanity, buy a striker and a centreback). Do they have the consistency to contribute on a regular basis? For some, like Robin van Persie, Jack Wilshere, Thomas Vermaelen, Bacary Sagna, and, from the looks of it, Gervinho, the answer is unequivocally yes.
But for others, including players that Wenger may still bring to the club, I doubt their capacity to play with passion and determination (and without injury) for a full season. I think Arsene will rue his resistance to spending money early this summer, possibly paying a bit above market value for players he wants (heavens, no).
We are in an awkward position, still on the outside of the Champions League group stages, where good players that we potentially could’ve signed earlier in the summer may now be waiting for the Udinese tie to finish up before making a decision. That hesitation could very well cost Arsenal from making the group stages at all. So, once again, it’s your move, Arsene.