Cesc Fabregas comment: Why Arsenal were wrong not to re-sign former captain

Spaniard eventually joined Premier League rivals Chelsea

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The Independent Football

Arsene Wenger had to buy Cesc Fabregas this summer.

Not just from an on-field perspective, not just because the former captain was desperate to join his former club, but because it would have been a massive statement of intent from a club who had just won their first piece of silverware and were on the verge of signing Alexis Sanchez.

Looking at his performance and potential contribution, Wenger seems to have got it all wrong about his former player.

"When he left we bought [Mesut] Ozil to buy an offensive player," Wenger explained at his press conference. "We have [Santi] Cazorla, we have [Jack] Wilshere, we have [Aaron] Ramsey, we have [Alex] Oxlade-Chamberlain, who are all offensive players. "

Wenger’s argument is folly. Bar Jack Wilshere, those other players are not comparable to Fabregas; the 27-year-old may have played in a second striker role or on the wing at Barcelona and for Spain, with the great Xavi occupying the central role, but since joining the Blues Fabregas has played in a deep-lying role – the position he flourished in, which Wenger seems to forget, at Arsenal.

Fabregas has six assists and a goal already for Chelsea and has revolutionised the way they play. Last season Jose Mourinho’s team struggled to break down the likes of Aston Villa, Sunderland and Norwich, but now, thanks to Fabregas and fellow arrival Diego Costa, they have one of the most potent attacks in the division, with 19 goals in just six Premier League matches.

He has played in an advanced role on occasion for the Blues, but that has come in matches when Jose Mourinho has looked for more defensive stability, such as during the game at the Etihad, by playing three in midfield.

Arsenal’s biggest weakness remains in the holding role in central midfield, inexplicably held by Mikel Arteta. Now 32, the Arsenal captain is far inferior to the best defensive midfielders in the Premier League -  Nemanja Matic, Fernandinho and so on  - and does not have the range of passing to play the role as someone like Steven Gerrard does.

 

Arteta has been a weak link for a long time that Fabregas could have replaced. Some may argue that Fabregas does not have the tackling ability or defensive acumen to fill a holding role next to Aaron Ramsey or Jack Wilshere, but then neither does Arteta.

At least Fabregas would have offered something going forward. He is a better athlete than Arteta, five years younger and has a spiky enough personality to do the dirty work, even if that’s not his game.

In an ideal world Arteta would have been replaced by Sami Khedira, Luiz Gustavo or a player of that ilk, but Fabregas would have been a clear upgrade as well. Arteta is a player who, before injury, started five of Arsenal’s matches this term and played 43 in all competitions last year, a regular in the team despite his clear weaknesses.

Transfers are a complicated business and a move for Fabregas may have meant Alexis Sanchez or Danny Welbeck but the squad would have been much stronger for the Spaniard’s return.

From an off the field perspective a return of the prodigal son would have had Arsenal fans in dream land. In May Arsenal ended their nine-year drought for a trophy and all the talk was of the Gunners preparing to mount a serious tilt at the title in 2014-15.

Fabregas’ return would have been a clear signal of intent to the rest of the division. Mourinho has admitted he was Chelsea’s No 1 option this summer and world class midfielder’s with his talent are hard to come by.

In one swoop not only would Arsenal have found a player who would immediately improve their squad, they would have stopped a rival from signing their top target.

It will forever remain a mystery but who would Chelsea have pursued had they not signed Fabregas?

Moreover, the most ambitious clubs have proven time and again that when top players are available, you have to sign them and worry how they fit in afterwards.

Manchester City are always on the look-out for new talent; Manchester United added Radamel Falcao despite having Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie; Real Madrid added James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos to the team that won the Champions League; Barcelona spent £75m on Luis Suarez and Bayern Munich added Mehdi Benatia, Roberto Lewandowski and Xabi Alonso to their ranks this summer.

If a club truly wants to compete at home and in Europe they have to sign the biggest and the best. Arsenal did manage to snag Alexis Sanchez ahead of Liverpool, a great coup, but more is needed.

Wenger had first-option to sign a world class player who wanted to join the club - he should have taken it.

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