Cesc Fabregas, the Arsenal captain, has challenged the club to develop a ruthless streak if they are to end their run of six years without a trophy, and has admitted manager Arsène Wenger would have been sacked long ago if he had been working for one of the big clubs in Spain.
Arsenal stand at a crossroads now that American billionaire Stan Kroenke has become the club's new majority shareholder. Fabregas, who broke into the team that won the 2005 FA Cup, has chosen the week following Kroenke's takeover to call for a shift of emphasis towards winning trophies again, challenging the club's hierarchy to choose between picking up honours and developing young talent.
He also claimed that the Barcelona coach, Pep Guardiola, Real Madrid's Jose Mourinho and Unai Emery at Valencia would all have been fired if they went three seasons without a trophy, let alone the current six seasons that Wenger is facing.
Fabregas said: "If you went to Spain and said to Guardiola, Mourinho or Unai Emery that they would have three years without winning a trophy, it would be obvious they would not continue [at their clubs]. But here it is different. The manager is intelligent and the club value different things – that the team is always in the Champions League, that we compete until the end, that we have young players, economic stability.
"For the board this is important. But I imagine there will be a moment when you have to decide: do you win things or not?"
The startling admission by Fabregas comes with Arsenal facing a north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur tonight, having lost at home to their rivals earlier this season. The contest comes days after Arsenal blew another chance to close the gap on Premier League leaders Manchester United when they conceded a very late equaliser in Sunday's 1-1 home draw with Liverpool.
Fabregas's comments also back up Patrice Evra's jibe at the end of last season that Arsenal are a "football training centre". The taunt clearly hit home, as Fabregas accepts that Arsenal, who in February were beaten in the Carling Cup final by Birmingham City, have lost the ability to win trophies.
Fabregas told Spanish magazine Don Balon: "It's true that Arsenal have got a reputation of a team who play beautiful football, but don't win anything. We won the FA Cup when I got here and we reached the Champions League final. We did not win but Barcelona beat us with a man over and late in the game. But from 2007 on I started to say, 'We don't win but we play very well'.
"After that you realise that it doesn't work. You enjoy it, during a part of the season, like this year, when we were in four different competitions. And you say, 'Here I have it all'. But then you cannot make the final step and it is here where a decision has to be made: to go out to win or to develop players."
Arsenal still retain an outside chance of winning the title, although it seems unlikely after Wenger's team dropped points at home to Liverpool on Sunday. Fabregas has admitted that his role as the team's captain, and senior player, at the tender age of 23 has been taken its toll.
When he was an emerging player, he took strength from being in the team alongside the likes of Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, but now he finds himself thrust into the role of senior professional.
He said: "Sometimes people ask if I was better at 17 than I am now, and when you think about it you see that no, what happened before was that I was in a winning team and it was impressive. You felt that if you had a bad game, nothing happened because your team-mates helped you.
"Those players made you better. Now a lot has changed, and I am the man that everyone looks to. I don't like to say it but it is true. If I play badly, I take responsibility and the pressure of the supporters. It is not something I am used to but I am captain, so it is reality. Only me and [Robin] van Persie remain of that generation, and we have a lot of responsibility.
"We learned from the best. Now it is different because we are all so young that there is nobody you look at and say, 'Wow'. I am only 23, and it is important to remember that. Young players learn from the older ones. Before, there were reference points, winning, strong players and playing with them you learned faster."
Spurs go for a double
18 The last time Tottenham enjoyed a League double over Arsenal was in 1992-93 – 18 years ago.
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