Football’s “most interesting” transfer saga, the annual Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona charade, has kicked off in full flow this season as well and it looks like Xavi’s press conferences might have finally paid dividends as Arsenal look set to end Fabregas’ “misery” and “suffering” by allowing Barcelona to sign the Spanish star and thereby fulfill Fabregas’ eternal desire to warm the Barcelona bench.
Arsene Wenger recently stated that Fabregas was torn between his two loves, Arsenal and Barcelona. This combined with him walking out during Arsenal’s 2-2 draw against Boca Juniors in the Emirates Cup has prompted several fans to question his commitment to the club, a completely understandable thing to wonder.
Wenger might want to hold onto his prized asset and considering his quality that is hardly a surprise. Yet Arsenal have indicated that they may sell him for the right price and if Barcelona do stump up the required cash, there is no doubt in my mind that he will leave the club he joined as a 16-year-old, considering his long lasting desire to return to his boyhood club.
Wenger did indicate that Arsenal would keep him if he wanted to stay but right now there has hardly been any indication from the Arsenal captain expressing his interest to remain with the North London club.
But having said that, I must say that Fabregas has shown tremendous loyalty to Arsenal and did not leave Arsenal the moment Barcelona came calling.
Recently there have been several reports circulating in the media that Barcelona will make a final offer for the Arsenal captain in the hope of bringing Fabregas back to his native country. While they had one rejected recently, I expect them to capture the much coveted midfielder. Guardiola recently indicated that they are confident of signing the player.
It is of my opinion that Arsenal will finally lose Fabregas this year and I believe even Wenger has understood that keeping Fabregas against his will be detrimental in the long run for the club.
I would love nothing more than Fabregas staying, but for that he must show his commitment to the club and if he is willing to show his dedication to the Arsenal cause then he has to be kept.
That brings us to the question: who should replace Fabregas? When you think of replacements from within the club itself, your mind wanders directly to two players, Aaron Ramsey and Samir Nasri. It’s interesting that people see Nasri as Fabregas’ replacement when you think of the fact that even Nasri’s future with Arsenal is far from certain.
Wenger stated a few weeks back that Arsenal couldn’t afford to lose both Nasri and Fabregas and he couldn’t have been more correct. Arsene Wenger has expressed his desire to keep Nasri even if he doesn’t sign a new contract and that is what makes me believe that Arsenal will lose either one of Nasri and Fabregas only and I believe that player will be Fabregas.
So out of Nasri and Ramsey who should be the replacement for Fabregas? This is the million dollar question that Wenger has to answer as the season is about to kick off. It is in my opinion that it should be Ramsey and not Nasri that fills the void left by Fabregas, despite his inexperience.
This isn’t because Nasri is a poorer player than Ramsey but simply because I believe that Ramsey is more suited to the role currently occupied by Fabregas. There is no doubt that Nasri is a decent central midfielder but it is best for Arsenal if he plays down the right wing, with summer signing Gervinho moving into the left wing.
With Ramsey in the midfield, there is much more fluidity in the team than with Nasri. This can be attributed to the fact that Nasri’s style is vastly contrasting to the style of play of Fabregas. Fabregas often drops deep in an attempt to open up the defense, while Nasri, on the other hand, stays higher up the pitch.
One of Fabregas' weaknesses is his dribbling. While Fabregas does show the momentary flash of brilliance with the ball in his feet, Nasri’s dribbling skills far outweighs those possessed by Fabregas. If you need any further proof of this, one might take a peek at Nasri’s goals against Porto and Fulham, three of the best individual goals scored by an Arsenal in recent times.
Nasri uses his assets in the Fabregas role and that is understandable. Over the last few years, Fabregas has been of Europe’s most prolific assistors, with his incisive passing and vision opening up defenses in a way that few players in the world can boast of. Nasri last season could muster only a paltry five assists which pales in comparison to the 13 made by Fabregas, despite the Gunners skipper playing far less time on the pitch.
Nasri, on the other hand, employs a more direct role, often looking to dribble his way into a shooting position rather than supplying the killer pass himself. That is why I believe that both as for the team and for himself, it is better for him to play in the wings.
Nasri's form in the preseason as been far from satisfactory and that can be either accounted to the fact that his commitment lies elsewhere or he is struggling to adapt to the role of the central midfielder.
Playing in the right wing was the position in which he thrived last season, especially in the first half. With Rosicky taking up the Fabregas role and with Arshavin in the left, Nasri performed admirably and it was when Walcott returned and Nasri moved to left wing, playing ahead of the defensively suspect Gael Clichy, that his form dipped.
Nasri is undoubtedly a creative player and does posses vision and creativity but this assets combined with his supreme dribbling skills will be best suited for a position in the wings, where he can cut in and interlink with the ever consistent Bacary Sagna.
That doesn’t mean that he should be completely relieved of central midfield duties, but his starting role should be in the wings.
Crossing isn’t one of Nasri’s biggest strengths, but then again, Arsenal are one team that rarely tries to tee in the crosses. Even if width is required, it is generally the full backs who provide the width.
This is why I believe that it should the Welsh midfielder, the highly touted Aaron Ramsey, the heir to Fabregas who should assume central midfield duties this season itself.
Some may consider the former Cardiff player too young and inexperienced to take up the midfield reins, but I disagree. Ramsey is young, admittedly, but there is no denying that he possesses vision and the acumen to play in the central midfield role that no one in the team has, except for Cesc Fabregas of course.
With Ramsey in the midfield, playing in the central midfield role, Arsenal’s midfield achieves a kind of fluidity that cannot be achieved with Samir Nasri in the midfield. This is mainly due to his brilliant partnership with fellow youngster Jack Wilshere.
When Fabregas plays in the squad, Wilshere's movement is largely restricted by Fabregas' movement and his forays are usually dependent on Fabregas dropping deep. But with Ramsey in the team, Wilshere launches forward, playing along with Ramsey or Ramsey dropping deep. The duo have dazzled together in preseason and it looks the two have a fantastic understanding—an understanding that can last a long time for the Gunners.
With Alex Song, Wilshere and Ramsey in the midfield, the players interchange their positions seamlessly, able to switch from one formation to another seamlessly. This adds a lot more unpredictability to the Arsenal set up and lets the attackers have a more freer role up front.
The duo of Wilshere and Ramsey is widely considered the future of Arsenal’s midfield along with equally talented but slightly unfortunate Emmanuel Frimpong.
Next season Arsenal’s midfield should be primarily composed of the trio of Alex Song and the two British youngsters with Frimpong serving as Song’s understudy.
When you think of Fabregas’ weaknesses, his defensive contributions and his dribbling his skills spring to mind and it is interesting to note that two of Fabregas’ weaknesses are traits that Ramsey possesses. His dribbling skill is far superior to that of Fabregas.
Ramsey also possesses a fierce left foot which he has unleashed with great effect on many occasions.
That brings us to his shooting. He might have scored only 10 goals in his career but from what I have seen from him, it is my opinion that he has knack of scoring goals and with more playing time can score around 10 goals a season. He isn’t shy to have a shot at goal and has scored some long beauties as well.
Another promising trait of Ramsey’s game is that he is a very hard worker in midfield and along with Wilshere possesses a fantastic work rate. The two of them continuously hustle and harry their opponents and this style of their will suit Arsenal’s newly adopted high pressing game.
It is very common to see him work that extra hard to win the ball back and has a decent tackle too. Some people tend to question Fabregas’ defensive contributions but I believe that when it comes to defensive contributions, Ramsey represents a great plus point.
This is why Ramsey has the potential to be better than Fabregas is a couple of years. With a couple of injury-free seasons—although Stoke might have something to say about that—and with plenty of playing time, Ramsey may easily bloom into one of the world’s finest midfielders.
Right now Fabregas is ahead of him and that is fairly easy to understand why. Even Nasri right now might is a better overall player but when it comes to the central midfield role, it is Ramsey who can match Arsenal’s needs.
His style of play, the eye for a killer pass, a trait that Nasri lacks and his overall adaptability into the side combined with the fluid play that comes when Ramsey is in the centre of the pitch means that Ramsey is a safer bet in my opinion.
Arsenal’s win last season over United perfectly demonstrated the ability of Arsenal’s midfield with Ramsey and Wilshere as the Gunner overcame the Red Devils despite the absence of Nasri and Fabregas.
Some may see it as too big a burden to load on Ramsey and Wilshere, and any normal youngster might crumble under the pressure.
But these two aren’t just normal youngsters, they are two players filled with bags of potential and talent and it will be Arsenal who will reap the rewards in the years to come as they bloom into stars at the Emirates.