‘Good riddance’ and ‘thanks for nothing’. Just some of the comments on a day where the sight of their former captain kissing the Barcelona badge during his presentation in front of adoring fans at Camp Nou ensured that emotions from Arsenal supporters would run high. There has been a feeling of bad will which has festered during two summers of verbal jostling between the clubs and now fans have been quick to paint Fabregas as a poor captain who never lifted a trophy during his short time as skipper. Who was it that said a week is a long time in football?
The past two seasons have tainted the affections fans had for him somewhat but the fact is that Arsenal fans loved Fabregas and he loved the club. The truth is, they really wanted to adore him as a legend. To include him in the upper echelons of the Arsenal hall of fame alongside Drake, Bastin, Henry, Adams, Bergkamp. They would not have been upset about his departure if he was not a player of considerable quality and considered by the fans as ‘one of their own’. An analogy which sums up it aptly: ‘The pain parents feel when their adopted child leaves to be with their real parents.’ Inevitable and justifiable, yet painful all the same.
And in many ways, Cesc Fabregas’ departure from Arsenal is a sad indictment about the current state of affairs at the club, rather than the player and his disputed disloyalty to the club. For so long a symbol of the vaunted Wenger youth project, Fabregas was a shining representation of everything the manager has tried to build at Arsenal in the last six years. Signed as a precocious teenager and nurtured into a world class performer for both club and country before given the armband, the Spaniard showed that the system could produce the players. At the end of the day, the simple truth is that there simply weren’t enough like him.
Changing his long favoured 4-4-2 formation to 4-2-3-1 to suit Fabregas’ strengths was perhaps Wenger’s way of moulding the side around ‘El Capitan’, but it is clear that this was not enough. It is an injustice to Fabregas’ talent that he was not surrounded with players of requisite quality to mount a serious assault on the title and the Champions League. They perhaps came closest in 2008, with a midfield quartet of Rosicky, Fabregas, Hleb and Flamini but the latter two left for bigger bucks and Fabregas was left to play with Denilson and Diaby week in, week out which would surely test anyone’s patience. However no one can seriously doubt Fabregas’ will to win and his love for Arsenal.
He desperately wanted to lift a trophy with the club, but injury cruelly robbed him of the chance to lead the side out at Wembley for the Carling Cup final againstBirmingham. Had he played, the chances of Arsenal ending their trophy drought would surely have been greater. Getting in the face of John Terry and putting Frank Lampard in a headlock during a feisty Carling Cup final in 2007 is certainly another way of showing your commitment to the cause. Another example such as playing on despite a broken leg after scoring the goal to level the tie against Barcelona two seasons ago, is also not the usual feat you see on a weekly basis from disloyal foreign mercenaries.
The reported £35m transfer fee of course dwarfs the nominal compensation paid to Barcelona when Fabregas was poached from La Masia, and as usual Wenger should be congratulated for the extraordinary profit on another young player but Arsenal fans should definitely feel slightly aggrieved. For a World Cup and European Championship winner, who is undoubtedly one of the best in the world in his position, one could surely expect to receive a more sizeable fee than the oneLiverpoolpaid for Andy Carroll. Still only 24 years of age, there is scope to believe he is not yet at his peak either, making the deal even better from Barcelona’s perspective.
After his debut against Rotherham in the Carling Cup, Fabregas remains not only the youngest ever player to wear the red and white shirt, but also the club’s youngest ever goal scorer. He leaves behind some wonderful nostalgic moments in his Arsenal career. His wonderful weaving solo goal against Tottenham at the Emirates two seasons ago was special, as was his goal and assist against Juventus on a famous night in front of a raucous Highbury. He came up against his former mentor in the shape of Patrick Vieira and there was no doubt the apprentice became the master, out battling and out witting his ageing ex-colleague. It was the night he truly came of age. His long range goal and commanding performance against AC Milan was also special, as he helped Arsenal to become the first British side to win at the Giuseppe Meazza.
Cesc Fabregas may have finally gained his dream move ‘home’ but as a club, Arsenal will move on. As the motto to celebrate Arsenal’s 125th anniversary states: Forward. They have survived the departures of Vieira, Henry etc and will do so again but Wenger will need to move fast and spend the transfer money on a suitable replacement and defensive reinforcements to appease the fans. Fabregas may not have left his mark as a trophy winning captain, but his incredible talent and love for the club should never be forgotten and dismissed as a mere footnote in Arsenal’s illustrious history. He was so much better than that.
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