Shocked. Stunned. Surprised.
It was the most incredible news to have come to all Gooners during the transfer window. For the third time in a row, an ex-Arsenal captain would join a rival Premier League club, albeit via a different route. It was difficult to swallow knowing that he who once said “Once a Gunner, always a Gunner” would most likely now score a goal and kiss whatever animal it is that’s engraved on the Chelsea crest. How could we live with the fact that our favourite boy, who gave us stunning moments at Highbury against Juventus, who was at the centre of victorious assaults against AC Milan at San Siro and Real Madrid at the Bernabeu, both firsts in English football, would now become the subject of adoration at Stamford Bridge, the actual venue of his last Home League goal for Arsenal?
“Treachery! Treachery! Treachery!”
Of course, NOT. If anything, it was Fabregas’ choice to return to Arsenal. Once it was certain Barcelona were ready to let go off him, there was ever only going to be one destination, England. It seemed certain that Wenger would instantly send out a private jet to the Spanish camp at Brasil for a medical and other formalities, while an open-top bus parade would be organized to herald the return of ‘El Capitano’. We inserted the first-option clause in the contract for a reason. “It was written” for it to happen.
History, though, teaches that affections change with absence. Out of sight, out of mind.
Within the 3 seasons of Fabregas’ absence, we had suffered greatly to find a replacement, slumping to different moments of mediocrity and lack of creativity. Van Persie’s move to United only 12 months after taking the armband did not make matters any easier. Cesc had left us to pursue a dream and we were languishing in a nightmare. Wilshere, the figure of the future, was still struggling to come of age while Ramsey was virtually on death row in the lists and minds of many fans. But in Wenger’s usual way, he was not depleted. The search for his protégé’s replacement took him from nearby Goodison for Arteta, to far-away Malaga for Santi Cazorla and finally, to Madrid for Ozil. We survived all those years, not winning all Fabregas won at Barcelona, but still retained our status as an elite club in Europe.
In fact, the Arsenal Fabregas desired to rejoin was better – way better – than the Chamakh-Djourou-Bendtner he had abandoned. Under his control, we had not managed to win a trophy, within 12 months of Ozil’s, we had two.
Was it, therefore, stupid of Wenger to reject the offer to cuddle him up in his arms after all these years? Would it have been right to bring him in to “pair up with Ozil” while Ramsey and Wilshere languish on the bench despite having shown tremendous improvement over the years? Or would he have been brought in to sit on the bench? To all above, certainly not. It was a case of head or heart, and as in all everyday endeavours of life, the ability to choose the first over the latter has been the difference between standing alone in dignity and joining the band-wagon.
He may be doing all the wonderful stuff at Chelsea at the moment but we are not so far away from them, neither are our players incapable of doing the same. Fabregas is 27, Ozil 25, Ramsey 23, Wilshere 22, Chamberlain 21, Zelalem 18. It is not so hard to see where the future lies.
His friendship with Wenger should continue when everything cools down, as he gratefully acknowledges the indelible mark the Frenchman made on his career. But for now, he must content himself with the pain of Wenger’s current indifference towards him. We definitely did not expect him to retire because we couldn’t sign him and though we do not exactly wish him well against us, the good memories will remain in our hearts.
Wenger’s snub shows, as in the past, we’ve moved on; so must he.
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