Well, the deal that I didn’t think was going to happen, has happened. And we have lots coming up for you, including Linda waxing eloquent on why this deal rocks, and Euler’s tactical dissertation on what Fabregas will mean for us.
I have something simpler planned, a glancing blow at all of this. It’s also something that I know many looove to see me doing, and that’s eating crow. So here we go.
“We understand Cesc’s desire to move to his home-town club and have now accepted an offer from Barcelona,” said Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “We have been clear that we didn’t want Cesc to leave and that remains the case. We thank Cesc for his contribution at Arsenal and wish him future success.”
Pep Guardiola, in a press conference after the 2-2 SuperCopa draw with the Evil Empire, said “Cesc grew up in Barcelona, and he became a huge player thanks to Mr Wenger and Arsenal, and now he is a better player than when he left. Now we will try and make him better.”
So now what?
Sandro RoSELL: I may never like him, but I have to admit that he did a kick-ass bit of business with this one. Do I think the price is too high? Yes. But that’s a philosophical argument. In the context of the current transfer market, no matter whose view you take and whose numbers you accept, it’s a helluva buy. Essentially, we got one of the world’s best young playmakers for a price that is almost a bargain (again, in current market context). Mind you, it helps as with Sanchez that we were the only suitor.
Normalized relations: Arsenal is the Premiership club that a great many of our supporters watch, when they aren’t watching the Good Guys. This transfer has brought out the worst in all sides. My fondest hope is now that it’s done, we can get back to that mutual admiration society that both clubs had. I have always, and will always wish Arsenal well, except when they’re playing us.
Yes, Fabregas will sit, and that’s good: Nothing has changed for Fabregas from when he left us, really. It’s still Xavi and Iniesta, the two players that spelled a dire future if he’d stayed, that keep him from starting for his country and will keep him from starting for us. And right now, that’s a good thing. As Arsenal’s captain and talisman, whenever he picked up an injury, a looming big match meant that he had to rush back. Recall the Champions League tie of the infamous “broken leg penalty kick.” He was nursing a hamstring injury, and re-aggravated it against us. The thing about hamstrings is if you don’t let them heal fully and properly, they become an ongoing problem. Playing 20-25 matches a season instead of 50, will be a very good thing. It’s also worth noting that our miracle-working medicos haven’t gotten their hands on him yet.
Pressure is good: Guardiola believes in competition at all positions. This summer, he addressed the last two positions that lack real competition for slots: attacking midfielder and the false 9. Yes, this means you, Xaviniesta and Messi. Fabregas and Alexis Sanchez are world-class talents, who are best at positions presently occupied by talismanic players. No, I don’t see Fabregas or Sanchez displacing Xavi or Messi. But it’s nice that Guardiola has those kinds of talents to put pressure on them to excel.
Pressure is good, rest is better: Xavi played a lot for the club last season, for the simple reason that nobody else could do what he did. That isn’t true any longer. I don’t know what Xavi’s tendons are telling him, but it will be nice to have a viable, world-class option to slot in. Xavi shouldn’t have to play against Sporting Gijon on Sunday, when there’s a Champions League match on Tuesday, never mind the dictates of a Liga that will mean losing a single match could be dire. Suddenly being able to add Fabregas to a mix that includes Thiago and Iniesta (and Afellay, let’s not forget) is a wonderful thing.
Versatility ain’t bad, either: Let’s not forget that Fabregas began life as a DM. At 5’9:, he isn’t going to be the tradional, physical DM, but you can certainly see him adapting to play a Busquets type of defensive midfielder, if called upon. A midfield of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas (at DM) would probably never give up the ball. It’s a nice option to have.
And then there’s chemistry: Fabregas isn’t the La Masia wunderkind that he was. Thanks to Arsene Wenger and being forged on the anvil of Premiership football, I don’t think I’m out of line in saying that he’s better than he would have been had he stayed with us. But at the same time, we shouldn’t discount that La Masia is in his playing style, and his chemistry with his Spain teammates (as with David Villa) will be of immense help in his adjustment period, which should be about 12 seconds long.
The Guardiola factor: Fabregas learned a lot under Wenger, but let’s not forget that at age 24 he is still growing into his game, and still improving. I suspect that part of the desire to leave was not only to reach that next level (potentially) as a player, but to learn from a coach who has made everyone and everything around him better. I had a debate with someone on Twitter about the absurdity of the notion that Fabregas would learn more from Guardiola than Wenger. But it isn’t in those terms. There’s prep school, and finishing school. I do believe that Guardiola, along with Xavi, can hone Fabregas that last little bit, into a player who will be able to slide directly into that Xaviesque role, keeping it warm for Thiago.
He’s direct: In defending Xavi, I once said that Xavi is the can opener, the guy who makes the pass that sets up the assist. So Xavi’s assist statistics are never all that gaudy, even as his presence on the pitch is devastating to defenses. Fabregas can not only make that can opener pass, but the direct assist, as well. Again, being used to the Premiership style isn’t a bad thing. We also shouldn’t forget that Guardiola has a player in Messi, who will be able to run onto the end of those direct balls. And he bought another one, in Alexis Sanchez. Fabregas will make our style more direct, which isn’t a bad thing.
So yes, I have labeled him Oft-Crocked Glory Hunter, a luxury purchase and political pawn in the electoral battles between Joan Laporta and Sandro RoSELL. I believed his price was too high, and that we were spending almost 40m for a benchwarmer. And now that he is here, and in full consideration of the above, I am eating a bit (okay, a lot) of crow. But if the purchase works out the way that it promises to on paper, I kinda don’t mind at all.