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Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona
Last night, Cesc Fabregas scored for Barcelona against Napoli. He has joined "the best club in the world." He must feel like he has been reborn.
He has been extraordinarily loyal to Arsenal and an inspirational captain. He can hardly be blamed for Barcelona wanting him back for at least three years.
Of course, Arsenal was entitled to market value, which led to protracted wranglings until the fee and payments were agreed. This made it hard for Wenger to plan for the future. Had he really buried his head in the sand in disbelief that he would lose his best player, or was it all posturing?
Whatever the truth, the uncertainty over the Arsenal captain must have unsettled the players as well as the fans. No doubt Samir Nasri saw it as his golden opportunity to come in from the wing and probably sought adequate compensation as Fabregas' de facto replacement.
Now the latter has gone, the immediate question is "who can replace Cesc Fabregas?"
Wenger may big up the prospects of Jack Wilshere, both as midfield general and future captain, together with Aaron Ramsey. Both have a bright future. But, as Saturday's match against Liverpool showed, Frimpong is not the answer.
Arsenal needs a strong, experienced and creative player to fill Fabregas' boots. They have apparently been rebuffed by Lille in attempts to sign Eden Hazard (20) who, like Yann M'Vila (21), may be waiting for the Udinese outcome before considering a move. Juan Mata already turned down the Gunners in favour of Chelsea.
Some have touted Kaka who, in his pomp would have been a more than adequate replacement to inspire Arsenal fans. Real Madrid is apparently prepared to take a considerable loss to unload the injury prone Brazilian and his wage bill.
Few believe, however, that the existing squad is enough to fill the yawning gap now that both midfielders have gone.