Is it time to allow Gunners captain to leave the Emirates?
The vultures continue to circle Arsenal football club. A probable sixth season without a trophy will provide the obituary writers with the ammunition they need to argue that Arsene Wenger’s era should come to an end, that his methods will not garner success, that he’s blind to his side’s flaws.
Those same critics argue that the loss of Cesc Fabregas will propel the country’s best-run club out of the top four and into the mid-table mire. As Arsenal’s marquee player and captain, his apparently inevitable marriage with Barcelona is sure to extinguish the dying embers of Wenger’s trophy hunt and nullify any remaining threat the Gunners may have posed.
In reality, gaining £30-40 million for a player who cost a reported £500,000 represents a substantial success for Wenger. Fabregas was always going to be seduced by the idea of returning to his boyhood heroes and pulling on the famous red and blue striped ensemble of Catalonia’s favourite club. Now may just be the perfect time to cash in.
For every instance in which Wenger is heralded as a terrific talent spotter, he is overlooked as a shrewd businessman. By persuading Fabregas to stay on for another season last summer, he effectively bought Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere enough time to blossom into the talents he expected them to become.
Losing Fabregas – and for a huge fee – is no longer the disaster it once appeared to be. If any doubts lingered regarding Ramsey’s ability to recover from a broken leg, they were surely put to rest as he played a key role in Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over rivals Manchester United. His re-emergence, coupled with Wilshere’s astonishing maturity, mean Arsenal have others who can orchestrate their drive for success.
The midfield pair – playing in front of Alex Song – showed a resilience Arsenal have often been accused of lacking as well as an impressive understanding that will only improve. They pulled the strings and reminded Manchester United of exactly why it is they coveted Ramsey before the young Welshman chose to move to the Emirates.
Wenger’s no stranger to rebuilding his sides after losing a big-name player. Robert Pires, Ashley Cole, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry have all left during his tenure, yet Arsenal have continued to compete. In the case of Henry, Wenger decided to cash in after deciding his scornful persona inhibited the development of his young squad. Following Fabregas’ recent outburst where he said: ‘‘You either go to win or to develop young players’’, Wenger may again have that view.
Both Ramsey and Wilshere will have to continue to improve to earn parity with Fabregas, but there’s a genuine feel that they’re capable of doing so. Wenger would need to appoint a new captain, but that, too, is scarcely a negative. Arsenal certainly lack leadership, and Fabregas has hardly shown himself to be an unwavering, authoritative force in the Tony Adams mould.
In the pandemonium of the Premier League, Wenger will continually be at the mercy of his harshest critics. No silverware for another season? A silver lining will have to suffice.
Follow Declan Warrington on Twitter @decwarrington