Cesc Saga Continues As Arsenal Seek To Take Charge

No pre-season would be complete without the annual side show that is the future of Cesc Fabregas. Reports of business lunches and multi million pound bids fill the back pages, just as they had last season when Arsenal took a hard line and refused to entertain a £32m offer. Yesterday’s report from Dan Roan (whom We Are The North Bank’s NonFlyingDutchman respects as a stand-up journalist having worked with him) on the BBC website seemed to signal a revised outlook from the Arsenal management; if Barcelona make a decent offer we are prepared to let him go.

Whilst this has signalled a flurry of conjecture among Arsenal fans, to many it’s not news at all. Despite last season’s statement on the website that a bid had been turned down and no counter offer made it remained implicit that had Barcelona offered closer to the player’s value, we would have had to have thought about it. This is no ordinary situation as Cesc is not publicly agitating for a move; it seems that his only incentive to leave is the opportunity to rejoin his boyhood club. Of course, it’s far easier to play that card when your boyhood club just happens to be the best side in the world.

Purely looking at this from the perspective of the team it seems essential that we don’t let him go. As wearethenorthbank.com examined towards the end of last term, Arsenal are significantly more productive with Fabregas in the team. Cesc is our heartbeat, he creates and scores goals. Even if Barcelona offer us market value – given that Jordan Henderson went for somewhere upwards of £16m it would have to be in excess of £45m – who do you buy to replace him? Juan Mata stories aside, there would have to be a real fear that Cesc’s departure would signal a need for a bigger restructuring programme than the one we assumed would take place anyway.

It’s also worth looking at this from another perspective. It’s no secret that Fabregas suffers with his hamstrings; the main reason his performance were slightly below his usual level this season was the continued disruption he suffered. In the last three seasons our captain has only appeared in 74 of our 114 league games. Whilst Fabregas has often been the most committed player in the side and has pushed himself to get results, 64% of games is not a good enough return from captain and talisman.

To follow on from the point that Cesc has often been seen to carry the side, something he reportedly complained off himself, there could be an argument that a side without his looming presence might just flourish without him. Players like Wilshere, Nasri and Ramsay may feel liberated from the need to filter everything through the No.4 and will attempt to take more responsibility themselves.

Finally, there is the tacit understanding that we cannot hold onto him forever. Everybody knows that he wants to go home and we will never change that. Do we really want to go through this every summer? With a good financial future we need to move away from being passive in the transfer market. All the time this saga is hanging over us it’s harder to assume a stable and progressive outlook. There is some sense in taking the money now and investing it in players which may forge a greater solidity and resolve throughout the side.

This of course brings us back to the thorny issue of money. Barca have been very careful to say that they only have so many Euros and therefore that we should be grateful for what they offer. Whilst the will of the player, although not made explicit publicly, can keep the price down it does not mean we have to accept whatever loose change they are prepared to offer. Stories of Barca offering more for the likes of Alexis Sanchez and Neymar also put Barca’s approach to this whole saga into perspective.

The fact is that Cesc is our player and he has become one of the world’s premier midfielders at Arsenal. Had he stayed at Barca, in the shadow of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi, can any of us whole heartedly claim he would have been the same player?

I write this blog from the perspective of a concerned supporter and I cannot honestly say whether I think this deal will happen or not, not this summer anyway. It seems, at the very least, that Dan Roan’s “senior Arsenal official” has made a clever move to gain back the initiative from Barcelona.

We are willing to listen to an offer; the onus is now on the Catalans to come back with something serious. If they are prepared to do so then it may be best for all concerned to draw a line under this story, but if Barca still don’t value him highly enough it will hardly be a disappointment to have to watch Fabregas in the Red and White for another year (worth my season ticket fee alone) – although it’ll be Groundhog Day once again next summer, of course. Either way, as a club heading into our 125th season, we move FORWARD.