It’s been a while since I was so incredulous at (what might be) Arsenal’s decision in regards to a potential transfer move, or lack thereof. The latest buzz has Cesc being linked with Chelsea after, apparently, Arsenal decided to pass on the buy-back clause in his contract with Barcelona. The number that being bandied about is 30m GBP. There is so much value to Cesc Fabregas returning to Arsenal that I’d suggest any figure under 50m GBP is good business. Let’s take a look – feel free to skip the history lesson if you’re short on time.
Ancient History: Why Cesc Left
Let’s get something out of the way: I don’t fault Cesc for leaving us when and how he did. The 2010-11 season, his last with us, was remarkably similar to our 2013-14 season (with the exception of this one bringing home a trophy). We were in the quadruple hunt til the Spring, then in a span of two weeks we spectacularly we lost the Carling Cup final (to lowly Birmingham), we were trounced from the Champions League (by a superior Barcelona side) and knocked aside by ManU in the FA Cup. Our league title hunt fell apart and we only managed to finish fourth. Not exactly inspiring, particularly when considering the woeful seasons prior.
Meanwhile, Cesc was courted aggressively by Barcelona and their Spanish stars, the latter of which he was in constant contact with on international duty. Spain is Cesc’s home and Barcelona’s manager was literally his childhood idol: Pep Guardiola. Cesc had just been party of his country’s first World Cup win in 2010 and he was regarded as a hero in his home country. With the good times rolling for both Barcelona and Spain, it’s not surprising Cesc opted to return, leaving behind an Arsenal team that was stagnant in results on the pitch. This was no mercenary move motivated by money – this was just a man who made a pretty understandable choice considering the circumstances.
Fast forward to 2014. Barcelona now have no Pep (heh) and Cesc has not managed to become a regular feature in the Catalan side. Barcelona have made it clear Cesc is welcome to leave and now Cesc has set his sights on coming back to a league he knows pretty well.
Cesc is in his prime, having turned 27 a month ago. He is a playmaking central midfielder with incredible vision: capable of some of the silkiest long-through-passes you’ll see. He is an inspired leader, as he demonstrated as Arsenal’s captain, and a tough tackler who knows what is expected in the English game. He is also positionally astute; he never got enough credit for his defensive work covering for Alex Song, who liked to roam casually out of the defensive midfield position. Much like Mikel Arteta, he knows how to pace the game by being smart on the ball and drawing (or outright buying) fouls. And perhaps most importantly, Cesc is a midfielder who makes runs into the 18-yard-box to seek out offensive opportunities – Aaron Ramsey demonstrated how vitally important this quality is during his stellar season. Cesc’s skill set will still allow him to play at the top level well into his 30s, and I suspect eventually you’ll see him drop deeper into a Scholes/Pirlo role, quarterbacking the midfield from the deep-lying position.
Put simply, Cesc is world class.
Why Wouldn’t We Sign Cesc?
Why would Arsenal not buy a world class player? Well, as it often seems to be with our profits-first club, the money is a stumbling point. 30m GBP is a lot (despite being rumored to have a 100m war-kitty-transfer-chest, as usual) and we need other players – a striker, a combative defensive midfielder, a rightback, and a central defender. Plus we have a lot of midfield players. But that should NOT stop us from bringing in a top player like Cesc.
“We Need Other Positions More”
Yes, we definitely do. But we’re also the sixth richest club in the world with some of the highest ticket prices in Europe. We pay lip-service to the idea that we compete for the Champions League, Premier League title, and multiple domestic trophies. If a club in that position can’t afford to spend the necessary money on all the weak areas of a team, then they simply are choosing not to compete. If Arsenal wants to be a profit-maximizing club satisfied with a 4th place League finish and a quarter-finals knockout in the CL, with the rare trophy (remember, 1 FA Cup in 9 years), then absolutely! But if this club wants to talk about being a serious competitor on all fronts, you don’t balk at the opportunity to sign a proven World Class player for 30m – particularly in an inflated market that values guys like Lallana for almost as much.
As well, people underestimate Cesc’s ability to play the defensive midfield role. As I touched on, with his elite level of quality, he’s capable of transforming that position much like Pirlo/Scholes with their clubs. Arteta was not bought as a defensive midfielder but has performed in that role exceptionally, excepting the 2013-14 season where he looked shy of pace. Cesc is a similar in style to Arteta, but far better overall, and would be as much as a defensive midfield purchase as he would an attacking one.
“We Have Too Many Midfielders”
Not as many as you think. Arteta was slow and off the pace ALL season. It was his worst in an Arsenal kit to date. His age is catching up to him (32), as is more than a decade of playing in England and the injuries that have come with that. Flamini is aging too (30) and fell off towards the end of the year. Rosicky is a brilliant soldier for the club but he too is creeping upwards in age, turning 34 in October. Cesc can play in the positions all three of these players do, while being both an improvement in quality and a simultaneous reduction in age.
How about Wilshere, Ramsey and Özil? Wilshere and Ramsey can benefit from Cesc’s experience. Ramsey could be the future of the Arsenal midfield, but as much as I love him, he’s objectively only had one season where he was a true impact. Next year I guarantee he will be marked tighter and tackled harder as opponent’s look to rule him out of games and he may find it tougher to put up those numbers. Wilshere has yet to kick-on and his development has slowed in the last two years. Özil has all the right attributes but has yet to establish himself as justifying his price tag. Cazorla? A great offensive talent, but he doesn’t have the grit to play defensive or central midfield; particularly in games where Arsenal doesn’t dominate possession.
What Else Would Cesc Bring?
Cesc’s purchase is about one critical thing: depth. Arsenal gets injured. Period. Every single season we lose a number of key personnel due to injuries – this has to be EXPECTED at this point. It is absurd to say “well, we would win the league if we weren’t hurt” because we already know our better players will be crocked for portions of the season. It shouldn’t be a surprise – Wenger overuses our best players – and in a World Cup year, they’re going to have even less offseason rest before getting back into the thick of it. Cesc would add tremendous depth and the ability to squad-rotate without losing significant quality on the pitch. If you look at our opponents, particularly cash rich City and Chelsea, you see the difference a deep bench makes when it comes time for the dense fixture schedule of February, March and April.
And please do not dare talk to me about “it would kill the development of X player” because that is a lame argument. Good players don’t need to babied, they make the team on merit. Fabregas came up through an era of Vieira, Gilberto Silva and Pires – and is a better player for it, not only by proving his own worth despite those stars, but also by learning from them in the process. Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gnabry, Eisfeld, Zelalem, and all the rest of them need to rise to the occasion or else they simply aren’t good enough for the level Arsenal FC plays at.
Plus, allowing Cesc joining another Premier League rival would make our opponents tougher. Sir Alex Ferguson always practiced a transfer policy of ensuring his additions and subtractions did not strengthen his rivals – United benefited hugely from it. If we can get a valuable world class player, instead of our opponents, doesn’t that justify the price of admission?
Cesc’s Added Value
You also have to remember the current Arsenal formation, the 4-3-3, was built around Cesc. Now I’m not saying Cesc should return and be the first name on the teamsheet – I think the current players deserve the starting roles until proven otherwise. But there’s never a guarantee a new player is going to adapt to the way your club plays… unless they’ve already done it before. 30m GBP (or whatever the price might be) is not a gamble – it’s a purchase on a proven player who knows the club, knows London, knows the league, and knows the team. This is about as much certainty as you can possibly get in a transfer target.
Players that represent improvement with minimal risk have additional value. Cesc’s ability to easily slip back into the Arsenal team makes the 30m an even more affordable price in addition to the immense quality and experience it would buy.
If We Pass on Cesc, We’re Fools
I don’t know Cesc Fabregas but I can virtually assure you he’d want to come back to Arsenal first and foremost. He has always been respectful to the club and its fans, both as a player and as a former-player. He loves Arsene Wenger. I am certain he wants to come back to Arsenal and help us compete for the trophies we say we’re trying to win.
If Cesc Fabregas is available to buy for a price less than 50m, we MUST sign him. Yes we need other players, yes we have plenty of quality midfielders, yes it’s not exactly cheap. But Cesc returning would make us stronger and help us compete for major titles – and that’s the whole point of entering the transfer market. Arsenal Football Club, bring Cesc home. Don’t be fools.