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too many cooks…

June 24, 2009

Xavi and Iniesta
Like many fans of English football I’ve been using the Confederations Cup as a sort of crutch, to help me limp, wounded, through the summer months. However, contrary to the connotations of that metaphor, it has in fact been a most enjoyable tournament so far. Furthermore, it’s been really interesting to see one or two players who I’ve seen many times playing for their clubs donning an international jersey and taking up a slightly different role.

One player who I have watched particularly keenly is Cesc Fabregas. I rate Fabregas very highly, I love the way he can control a game and how when playing for Arsenal he always seems to be at the centre of everything. Indeed, Fabregas in an Arsenal shirt could have been the very thing for which the word “maestro” was invented. However, the Confederations Cup has made one thing very clear to me, and that is that Cesc Fabregas should not leave Arsenal.

Since Fabregas joined Arsenal from Barcelona as a teenager there have been almost constant rumours that one day, Fabregas would return to the Catalan club, and understandably so: they’re his boyhood club and he’s just their sort of player. Those rumours have recently intensified, what with Barca’s surge to the treble and Arsenal’s continuing failure to win silverware, it wouldn’t be too surprising if Cesc suddenly found Barcelona a more attractive prospect that North London.

However, Fabregas has consistently denied that he wants to return to his former club at this point in his career and asserts that he wished to remain loyal to Arsenal and to Arsene Wenger, the man who bestowed the club captaincy upon him last season. Such loyalty is an admirable and increasingly rare quality in the modern player, and I admire Fabregas all the more for such sentiments. But I wonder if such commitment is fuelled less by loyalty and more by a recognition of the fact that away from Arsenal, he would be a different player altogether.

Because, seeing Fabregas play alongside Xavi in the Confederations Cup is to see a completely different Fabregas. He flutters more on the edge of the game, and often I wasn’t sure if he had been substituted without me noticing. of course his lack of stature in the Spanish side is less noticeable than at Arsenal but more than that, he doesn’t control the game when wearing the red of Spain. No, that role is fulfilled by Xavi and, when fit, Andres Iniesta, Barcelona’s mercurial duo who work together more cohesively than I have ever seen two footballers combine.

Indeed, the current Spanish side is very much built around those two players. They like to get the ball into feet and move it on quickly. They’re technically excellent and play a quick, neat, high tempo game. And so does the rest of the side. Whether a conscious decision from Vicente Del Bosque or simply the influence of the players themselves the Spanish side has come under the spell of Xavi and Iniesta, and it has brought them a lot of success, and the same can very much be said of Barcelona’s current set up. Say what you like of Leo Messi, it is Xavi and Iniesta that make them tick.

Likewise, Arsenal’s play is very much built around Fabregas. He usually plays in a slightly withdrawn central midfield role, allowing him to conduct proceedings and meaning that he is always available when a team mate is on the ball. He is very much the crux of the team, directing the flow of the game down either flank, towards Walcott or Nasri or through the middle towards Van Persie and Adebayor. Take Fabregas out of their side and Arsenal stop working, as we saw when he was injured last season, though Arshavin should prove an able deputy in future.

But Fabregas isn’t afforded that sort of a role in the Spanish side. He is forced to play second fiddle to Xavi in the Confederations Cup matches, and often finds himself almost playing off the strikers on the edge of the box, in a more advanced role than he is used to. And while certainly no slouch in that position, it doesn’t allow him to be at his best either. I’ve found that at times he has drifted out of games altogether, to the point where I wonder if he hasn’t been substituted without my noticing.

What I’m trying to say is that when playing for Spain at present, Fabregas just isn’t that special. Not like he is for Arsenal. When you watch Arsenal play everything comes back to Fabregas and you can’t help but wonder at how he orchestrates everything. And that is what makes Fabregas the player he is, that power, the assured control with which he dominates games. But when combined with Xavi and Iniesta, who possess that power too, his star doesn’t shine so brightly.

So I feel that for Fabregas to move to Barcelona would be a mistake. No doubt Barca would love to have him, because a midfield of Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas is enough to give any football fan a touch of ‘Lonely Island fever‘. But the thing is, there really isn’t room for three such players in one team, not if they are all to play to their potential. It works for Barca to have two only because Xavi and Iniesta are so in tandem that they probably think the same thoughts at the exact moment, but add Fabregas into the mixture and you end up with a loose end. He certainly wouldn’t spoil the broth, but he would be one cook too many in the kitchen.

And I get the feeling that Fabregas knows that. He knows that at Arsenal he is the top dog, and while Arsenal may not be winning trophies left right and centre at present, he can at least be content in the knowledge that with Arsenal he can maintain his reputation as one of the best play-makers in the world. So whether Fabregas’ loyalty to Arsenal is genuine or motivated more by a desire to retain his personal reputation is debatable, but I am sure Arsenal fans will not mind either way, so long as he remains at the club.

And if he does stay, as it looks as though he will, I feel it won’t be long before Arsenal are back amongst the trophies. Not only does Wenger finally seem to have realised that spending money is ok, but we are on the verge of seeing Wenger’s first pure batch of youngsters emerge into first team reckoning. The kids coming through now have been nurtured by the Frenchman all the way, and if they are to be unleashed into the Premier League in a side controlled by an experienced Fabregas, then the Spanish maestro will undoubtedly be remembered as a member of one of Arsenal’s greatest ever sides.

Like this article? There’s plenty more where that came from at They Think It’s All Over…

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 24, 2009 7:47 pm

    finally some intellect in the blog. yes offence to the rest of you guys. i jest.

    youre absolutely right about the batch of youngster knocking on the 1st team door at arsenal, one example is jack wilshire. its too bad some of the senior players are fighting with each others, and with some of the youngsters in the 1st team squad ie william gallas on theo walcott.

    when the time comes for either xavi or iniesta (or yaya toure) to leave the club in any form whatsoever, im sure barcelona will target fabregas. so far, its just the fabregas camp talking about the honour of playing for barcelona.

    but just imagine xavi, iniesta and fabregas playing in the same side swapping positions in and around the midfield – shudders.

    welcome once again.

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  1. WDKF Wednesday: Too Many Cooks… « They Think It’s All Over…

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