EPL: Arsenal Would Do Best to Sell Fabregas to Barca Sooner Rather Than Later

Sean BabcockCorrespondent IIJuly 19, 2011

ST ALBANS, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15:  Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal warms-up during training at London Colney on February 15, 2011 in St Albans, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The storyline following Cesc Fabregas' potential transfer to Barcelona seems to have quieted down substantially over the past couple of weeks, with Arsenal having been absent from England on preseason tour and the usual press-hype overload taking an opportunity to catch its breath. But don't think for a second that we're anywhere near the end of this year's transfer saga of the summer.

Previously, Barca publicly admitted that the club would be more than willing to drag this thing out until the last day of the transfer season, a point that manager Pep Guardiola reiterated yesterday in saying, "we have time until August 31 and we'll try to reach an agreement."

He added: "We will fight to the end to try to get Cesc."

Well, that explains the lack of movement. While Barcelona are stalling in an attempt to land the Gunners' captain for a bargain deal, Arsenal are quietly hoping to ultimately call their bluff and add a little extra cash to their transfer budget.

But Arsenal, I suspect, are biting their nails behind closed doors.

It's safe to say that last season's European champions don't exactly see Fabregas as a must-buy to compete on the world stage in the coming years, but with Arsenal's options seeming more and more limited to either fielding a disgruntled midfielder or not, he certainly might be a must-sell in their eyes (regardless of whether or not they'd like him to go). Barcelona, at the moment, hold all the cards.

That question is one that Arsenal would be wise to answer sooner rather than later. If fielding a disgruntled captain is a risk they're willing to take, then that's fine. At least the question is answered and control of the situation is back in their hands. If not, they better start moving quickly on finalizing a deal and scouting a replacement.

The worst thing that Arsenal can do is let this story go away, only to pop back up again in the closing days of the transfer season. Selling on the last day benefits nobody, especially the Gunners' prospects at competing well in the coming campaign.

Could the strategy result in the Gunners securing a better fee for Fabregas as Barca runs out of time to add him to their roster? Absolutely. But what good will that do if Arsenal are left with such little time to spend the money?

There's also the issue of training, with the player who fills the most prominent leadership role on Arsenal's squad potentially heading across international borders. The longer Arsenal spends deciding whether or not they'll go through with the transfer (regardless of offered fees), the longer they'll spend training under the false presumption that leadership roles will not be shifted.

Whoever takes the captaincy, and whoever fills the gap in midfield, will both need time to adjust. It will also take time and effort for the first team to respond to those adjustments around them.

Of course, these are all things that Barcelona is well aware of, knowing that they're questions Arsenal will have to address. While there's still a chance that we'll all find out just how much Barcelona is really willing to spend on Cesc Fabregas as the end of August inches closer, it will still do Arsenal a world of good to get things moving and start making the big decisions that Barcelona is willing and capable to put off until later.

This transfer season, Arsenal will learn that money is not the only factor in deciding whether or not to let a player go. And they'll learn it either the smart way (accepting the smaller fee and allowing themselves time to make the necessary adjustments) or the potentially disastrous one.

Still, Arsenal do have one edge over Barcelona in this transfer-season chess match: Arsene Wenger. If anybody can find the most ideal way out of this mess, Gunners fans around the world know that it's him. If I were a betting man, I'd say that Barcelona are as well-aware of that fact as anybody.

This situation is one of the most difficult the Gunners have faced in years, with Barcelona holding an advantage in funds and talent that allows them to play a tactical game to try and come out on top. But they're also playing ball with one of the most skilled tacticians in modern football. What ever happens, I struggle to suggest that Arsenal will be anything but just fine.