The Curious Case of Francesc Fabregas

Cesc joined his hometown club’s academy, Barcelona’s La Masia, in 1997, training initially as a defensive midfielder with academy mates like Piqué and Messi. But despite doing well for the youth team, he never made a first-team debut.

On came Arsenal in 2003, and with limited opportunities for him at the Camp Nou, he signed for The Arsenal on September 11, 2003. He had barely begun to settle and learn from more senior midfielders when he made his debut on October 23, 2003 at home to Rotherham Utd, becoming our youngest ever first-team player at 16yrs 177days. He went on to become our youngest ever goalscorer as we deafeated Wolves 5-1 in the League Cup. He however did not take part in any league game that season.

At the start of the 04/05 season, Cesc stepped-up to be counted, making his first appearance against the mancs in the Community Shield. Fate also blessed his development with injuries to Vieira, and later, Edu and Gilberto Silva; meaning he got more playing time as a result (in the league and in other competitions); becoming our youngest ever goal scorer in a league game, netting in the 3-nil win over B’Rovers; went on to become, in the 04/05 season, UEFA Champs League’s second youngest goal-scorer as he scored the third goal in a 5-1 win over Rosenborg.

He committed his long-term future to The Arsenal with his first professional contract in September 2004. He then went on to win his first honours with the Club as he was in the team that defeated the mancs in the 2005 FA Cup final.

Vieira departed Colney and Cesc was given his number 4 shirt, featuring regularly beside Gilberto Silva in midfield, making a total of 49 apps in all competitions in the 05/06 season despite his young age. Although doubts were rampant he’d never be able to replace Vieira as he possessed a smaller frame, that many amount of apps for an 18yo showed how well he did. Cesc asserted his own style and showed he could mix it with the big boys, especially in the matches against Juventus and R’Madrid.

In September 2006, with interest from R’Madrid rebuffed and six years left on his then current deal, Arsenal offered Cesc an improved 5-yr contract embedded with an option to extend a further 3yrs. He signed this in October 2006. His reasons for signing such (from a neutral’s point of view) ridiculously long contracts? Arsenal’s playing style and AW’s influence on him.

He played in every league game in the 06/07 season, became a key player for the team, notched 13 assists, the second highest in the league, and ended the season with many individual awards. He was named in the ’06 UEFA TOTY, EPL POTM for January 2007, the Golden Boy award, nominated for PFA Players’ POTY and PFA YPOTY and named Arsenal’s POTS with 60% of votes cast. Unfortunately, inspite of this personal laurels, the Club was trophyless; just like in the season before.

Cesc knew, at the start of the 07/08 season, that he would become the Club’s most important player. This was so because of David Dein’s departure due to strife amongst board members, the departure of His Royal Highness, Thierry Henry, all-time scorer and captain at the time, and intense speculation over AW’s future at the Club. This challenge, he took well; culminating in fans nominating him POTM for August, September and October as well as EPL POTM for September. He was nominated for PFA POTY, named PFA YPOTY, named in the PFA TOTY and named the Club’s POTS for the 2nd successive time.

Gallas’ petulance resulted in the vesting of the captainship on him in November ’08, at just age of 21. This season though was blighted by an injury to his knee that kept him out for four months; this adversely affected the club as it could only manage a fourth place finish, coming 4th in the league and reaching the semis of the 08/09 Champs League.

His talismanic presence was also missed the following season after he suffered a leg fracture in the Champs Lg match against Barcelona. The Club dropped out of the league-winning race despite only being four points behind the mancs at the time of his injury and also lost out in the Champs Lg. This did not however stop him being named in the PFA TOTY for that season.

As had become synonymous with him at the time, there was serious speculation about Cesc’s future at the start of the 10/11 season with a €35m bid from Barcelona rejected. That season turned out to be one of heartache as in two weeks we lost in the League Cup Final, were eliminated in the 2nd round of the Champs League (Cesc’s misplaced backpass leading to Barca leveling scores) and were defeated in the FA Cup Qtr Final. We also gradually fell outta the race for the League title.

The following summer was once again marked by uncertainty: Barca bidding severally for Cesc, Arsenal unwilling to let their prized asset leave and Cesc willing to return home to Spain as well as ,*insert sad sigh here*, have a firmer shot at winning trophies. On August 15 2011, after Cesc reportedly refused to play for us as the season began or partake in pre-season matches, Barca signed Cesc.

Since he joined them, he’s won the Spanish Supercup as well as the UEFA Supercup and he scored on his league debut for them. Barca, however, lost out in the Champs Lg and the La Liga to the chavs and R’Madrid respectively.

However, man never seems to be able to have it all.

It is still pretty early in his Barca career, but it already feels like he may not get to have so many paragraphs written about his time in Catalonia like it can be about his time in London (doubters can scroll up and take a glance). This position of mine can be attributed to many things.

Firstly, his lack of or inadequate playing time. Cesc has played the full 90 minutes in just 9 of Barcelona’s 41 La Liga games since he joined.(@castrolfootball). And he recently decided to speak up about it. In his words, “There’s no such thing as a great substitute in the world of football – I couldn’t tell you what makes a great substitute … I’ve always said that I play for the best team in the world, but I came here to compete, to learn and enjoy, not to sit racking my brains … I am delighted to be a part of this team, but when a coach tells me I have to go, I will go – but I will not make it easy for him to do so, by any means. I will keep going, looking forward to the
time that things change. I came here to see
out my career.”

Second, is the playing position which best suits Cesc. Although he began his Arsenal career as one of two CMs, he excelled in a more advanced role behind the striker, a false number 10 that drifted in and out of attack and midfield. This role in Barca is currently one in which the inimitable and seemly untouchable Messi plays. You get ma point? I thought so.

Third, the only logic pointing towards more starts for him is if he is seen as a direct replacement for Xavi as he grows older. However, playing further back may be a waste of his talents (as seen in the match against Leverkusen). There is also the point that Thiago Alcantara has been groomed for many years as Xavi’s successor.

Fourth, his idol who brought him to the club has left.

This means Cesc can only patiently wait his chance. Sadly, many Gooners foresaw this but Cesc himself did not. Coming out to speak to the press about it shows the discomfort he’s in at not playing. At least, Monsieur Marouane doesn’t complain. At least, not to the press.

Cesc’s situation, in-turn, begs the question whether The Arsenal should make use of the buy-back clause included in his transfer to Barca. IMO, we do not need him back. His arrival would distort the balance budding in the current team. I like the egalitarianism in the current team. Even the 1st names on the team sheet do not have grand egos. Everyone works hard for the team. Ion want anyone coming and feeling like Tha Boss. What do you think?

HRHLordSleeK…Victoria Concordia Crescit

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6 comments

  1. Elias Tony Jnr. · · Reply

    Great article Bro!
    Honestly, there’s no team in the world that would not to have a player of his calibre in their team. We all know he turned his back at us at the time we needed him most, but the truth is having him back would be a plus. Who wont be happy if the guy comes back. He’s just a player that got homesick, and of course he believed he would will more trophies when he’s among his own.
    That’s my take.

  2. Mastermind · · Reply

    Fantastic piece. Very well written. But I have a few points of my own. If there was any player we knew we’ll always lose, it was Cesc. His love for Barcelona was always evident. U could see it in his face whenever he was with the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and co on national duty. And he didn’t turn his back on us. Remember he remained quiet during that horrendous transfer saga. That speaks volumes about his loyalty. And he has continued to be vocal in his support of Arsenal, he even helped us lure Cazorla remember. When you are from Calatonia, when they asked you to come home, its hard enough to say no, never mind the fact that your current team is underperforming. Cesc is unhappy however, that much is obvious. No matter how much he feels at home in Barcelona, he always wants to play. He has too much quality to be sitting on the bench is what I always thought. His favorite position is occupied by the wizard himself Iniesta, making him unplayable. I saw the look on his face during the second leg of the Supa Copa, and he cut a very frustrated figure. I for one won’t mind the idea of having Cesc back at Arsenal. He is world class every day of the week. Imagine Cesc, Cazorla, Arteta and a fully fit Wilshere? #Bliss. Let’s see how it unfolds. Once again. Nicely penned.

  3. Great article as usual.i loved cesc when he was at Arsenal,but now,i don’t care whatever happens to him,he can play for Barcelona team B and i will say’i told you so’,Moreover,we don’t need him in our team cos we have a lot of midfielders and we don’t need one who will take all the attention away from the other players,we have had that before and trust me,i don’t want that again

  4. olayide farouk · · Reply

    Absolutely fantastic piece well we all saw it coming when he was about to leave when he simply said “I want to play for my Boyhood club” buh certaimly I won’t blame thou for going afterall he has won trophies wwith them. Coming back to Arsenal? I don’t think we should take him, he should continue sitting on thhe bench until he pay the transfer fee for his signature to return to the emirates cos he paid little of his transfer fees wen he was leaving for Barca. Arsenal is bigger than any individual. Gunners for life

  5. Agun4gunners · · Reply

    Nice piece. But let’s not see Cesc as a traitor. While at arsenal he always said he would love to play for his hometown club someday. As long as the transfer saga lasted he kept quiet and let me point out that during d preseason he was injured and when he came back before we played Udinese in d playoffs, Wenger didn’t include him in the line up so that he would be eligible to play for Barca if the transfer went through. Please let’s not see him as the traitor.he loves Arsenal and still sees all our matches till date. If he can come back, then we should welcome him cos he is a great asset to have. Can u think of any midfielder better than he is in the EPL? I don’t think so. If we can have him back its a massive plus 4 us.

  6. hrhlordsleek · · Reply

    @elias, I agree he’s world class. I agree anyone won’t mind him in their team. I doubt he ‘turned his back’ on us tho. If he did, then rvp turned the whole world on us.

    @mastermind, I don’t doubt his loyalty. That’s why I said ‘reportedly’. I still like him a lot. I even expected he’d be allowed to leave the season before he left, especially with the lil I had seen and heard about Jack at the time. If I applied the yardstick he used in his decision-making process before going to Barca, I’d want him back. That yardstick’s sentiment. Without it, I think it will be three steps backward for us. I watched utd’s loss to Everton with my fellow gooner brother. He commented that the Everton players are also very good. And I told him apart from a couple or so, they were all average players. That collective drive to not lose or to win is what brings out the extra in them. That drive, that grit, that spirit is what Arsenal has lacked considerably in recent years. That drive is what we are beginning to get. That drive + the quality we possess can work wonders. The press that will follow Cesc’s move back to Arsenal alone, imo, will affect that drive. Except he is ready to knuckle-down and work his socks off also. On the other hand tho, what’s being a supporter without sentiment? If Cesc comes back today, my ceiling will be too low :d

    @yemmy, I still care about Cesc. At least, he still cares about the Club in a positive way. If all he has said and done about the Club are lies, he deserves an Oscar. Plus, I think loyalty, or the lack of it, is like a pregnancy. But I agree with not wanting him back. At least, not now. Let’s find our feet well first.

    @agun4gunner, there are reports from pretty credible quarters he refused to play. That notwithstanding, his post-Arsenal behaviour towards Arsenal has made sense so far
    @all, thank you gaaannnnn for the compliments.

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