31 May 2013

Cesc Fabregas and Arsenal's Spanish Armada

I don't like to spend much time on rumors, but this one is different. Cesc, after all, is one of us--or was until his desire to play for Pep grew too strong to resist. Having sated that desire and with Pep gone, having won a league championship, but having struggled a bit with form and playing-time in a crowded midfield, we may just see the return of our one-time captain. I'm sure we all understand the financials, but let's review quickly: sold for £35m with the right of first refusal, a 50% take of a transfer to any other team, and a buy-back clause somewhere in the realm of £25m. If he does return, we'll have rented a player out at a profit of £10-15m. If he goes to, say Man U, for £50m (not an outlandish fee), we'd net £25m, which we could turn and and invest in other players (on top of what we're already planning to spend). I really don't see Barcelona agreeing to send Cesc somewhere else and splitting. Cesc either stays put or comes home. Going anywhere else essentially forces Barcelona to sell him on at half-price. There's no other option that makes sense for Barcelona to even consider.

Dan Cowan at North London is Red suggests that this might have been part of Wenger's plan all along. I wouldn't put it past the man (Wenger, that is). It's not for nothing he's known as Le Professeur, and he does have a background in economics (and a degree or license of some kind, I believe), which is more than can be said of most managers. If Fàbregas does leave Barcelona, I would love for Wenger to produce a notarized document from, say, March 2011, entitled "Told you so!" and details how he planned this all out more than two years ago. Whether it's to come back to Arsenal or not, Wenger could hold a press conference in which he reads from that document to explain that he knew that Fàbregas's  move would be temporary and that Wenger knew he could out-negotiate his Spanish counterparts to ensure that Fàbregas would either return to Arsenal or force Barca to split the proceeds with Arsenal should Fàbregas go elsewhere. Please have that document somewhere, Arsène. Please. Everyone who has hated on you and mocked you would then have to choke on their words and lick your boots in supplication while he considers whether to forgive them.

Even if this is little more than conspiracy, perhaps the sly dog has had other tricks up his sleeve. Since Fabregas left, we've added a few Spaniards to the mix: Arteta signed two weeks after Fàbregas left, and we've since added Cazorla and Monreal. The first two have been fantastic signings in and of themselves (congrats, by the way, to Santi on being named Player of the Season), and Monreal has been a solid deputy for Gibbs. Beyond that, though, Arsène may have had one eye on the possibility that having a few more Spaniards around to further entice Fàbregas back. I'm not suggesting that there would be some kind of telepathic communication among them, but the dynamism that Fàbregas and Cazorla could unleash together, supported so ably by Arteta (and Monreal at times), could . Completed transfers are frequently rife with reports of teammates at the national level convincing each other to join clubs, so the idea that Monreal, Arteta, and Cazorla might try to encourage Fàbregas to return to Arsenal is well-worth considering. Heck, along similar lines, Wenger may have even sold Song to Barcelona to irritate Fàbregas into wanting to leave. It's possible. Entirely possible, if not altogether plausible.

In an earlier post, I suggested that Fàbregas might even be an option as a center-forward. After all, he's done pretty well there, with four goals and three assists in nine appearances from that position. If Giroud were to make way for Fàbregas, this might even bring us closer to a total-football ideal, one in which he, Cazorla, Wilshere, and Walcott are in constant motion around the ball. If there's one long-term concern I've had with Giroud, it's in how he changes our style of play from quick, short passing and movement into a more traditional, long-ball and crossing attack. He's good to have for when we need a more-direct attack, such as when teams park the bus and try to keep us out of the box, but a more-versatile center-forward, one who can dribble in and out of tight situations and who can unlock defenses with incisive passing, might throw open the door for Walcott, among others, to score almost at will. That's an exciting prospect.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, however. As far as any of us knows, Fàbregas isn't leaving Barcelona any time soon. Until it appears at the Arsenal site, all we're doing is dreaming. It's not unpleasant, but the problem with getting one's hopes up is that it's so easy for them to get dashed.