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No one's irreplaceable

No one's irreplaceable

As the temperature heats up around Cesc`s apparent desire to move to Barcelona sooner rather than later we find ourselves back on ground we`ve trodden before. Vieira flirted with Real Madrid for a couple of summers before Arsenal finally agreed he could fulfil his dream move. Unfortunately Vieira frustratingly decided against the move at the eleventh hour. Wenger and Dein put a brave face on it but must have been cursing their luck as a reported £25m plus turned into something like half that figure after Patrick ambled through the following season before finally being moved on to Italy.

Anelka caused a similar feeling of opportunity lost when he too insisted on a move after the club had appeared to be prepared to invest a great deal in building the team with him as its spearhead. Much as we feel that some players can`t be replaced a good team can accommodate such losses and still compete. It`s often the case that the team makes the players as much as the players make the team.

Whether Cesc goes now and how much we can profit from his departure depends on the strength of the contract he has. If he is within the 3 year protected period then the club holds just enough aces to be able to play with a decent hand and to squeeze the maximum from a potential buyer. We know that he signed an 8 year contract in 2006 but the 3 year protected period would have expired last summer unless he has renewed it since. After that 3 year period there isn`t a great deal that can be done to prevent a determined player from leaving no matter how many years unprotected period the contract has left. There are reports that he renewed in 2008/2009 and that significant payments were made not to extend the original term but to renew the protected period of his contract. If this is the case then that protected period will not expire until next summer at the earliest.

Even if the contract handcuffs are strong, and Wenger suggested in a press conference recently that they were, keeping a player whose heart and mind is elsewhere may not be the best decision. In Cesc`s case it is a little tougher a decision for Wenger because the team has been built around him over the last 4 or 5 seasons. Whereas Henry, Vieira, Pires, Arshavin and others were pieces of a jigsaw, albeit key pieces in many cases, Fabregas has been shaped as the box that all the other pieces are put into.

Wenger would have known that the day would come when Cesc would go and might have had a time span in mind which was probably sometime beyond this summer. Looking at some stats for last season it`s easy to imagine that he might have seen Aaron Ramsey as the successor. He possesses many of the characteristics now that Cesc has developed a little later. His passing frequency and success rate is well up in Fabregas territory and while his assists and attempts created figures aren`t there yet they are more than credible given his experience so far at this level. But this is a summer too soon for Aaron and though maybe next summer would also be earlier than ideal, if he recovers from his injury in the autumn as anticipated, he will at least have had the opportunity to build on his experience.

So, if the contract is strong enough to keep Cesc here, would that be the best decision? So much of our play goes through Cesc now, arguably far too much, and we don`t have the players to replicate that creative dependence. It would either have to be spread around what we do have but would almost certainly still come up short or we would have to find a replacement externally to help plug the inevitable creative deficit. How quickly we can find that recruit will determine whether it`s a good idea to take Barcelona for as much as we can now and invest it in the team or hold on for another season. It won`t be an easy task but not an impossible one either.

It`s easy to think that Cesc`s desire to move is somehow our own fault. That it reveals some weakness at the club in being unable to retain players like Cesc. That this is a direct consequence of our failure to win trophies. But leading the team to an unbeaten season didn`t prevent Patrick Vieira from going a long way down the road to leaving the club for greener pastures anymore than the trophies galore Cristiano Ronaldo earned as a Manchester United player could prevent him from making a lifestyle choice that frankly most of us would see as pretty attractive. It's just the reality of the modern age of player contracts and player mobility I'm afraid.

Losing Cesc now, if that is what is to happen, would be a blow, there can be no doubt about that, but it won`t be a fatal one. If we re-invest quickly and wisely, if the opportunity is there that is, we will still be able to compete no less successfully than we have done over the last 5 years - hopefully more so. And maybe we`ll even be able to acquire some other qualities that the team has been missing in that time. No one`s irreplaceable really.

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Date:Tuesday May 18 2010
Time: 10:28PM


Agree with every word, I've said over on the forum that noone ever thought we could replace Adams, Bergkamp, Henry etc, but they all go sooner or later- even if with Cesc it'll be earlier than we like. But another point I made on the forum is that, as I think you slightly allude to in the article, we wouldn;t necessarily have to replace Cesc directly. Many have bemoaned us as lightweight in the years that this has been "Cesc's" team and perhaps we can go back to a 4-4-2 with a stronger, more physical core to it a la Petit and Vieira. Basically, maybe it's not Cesc we end up replacing but Vieira. I also agree that too many people are looking for some fundamental weakness at the club which is making Cesc leave, but winning the F.A. Cup didn't make Henry immediately sign a new deal when he spent 2005-06 umming and arring.
Little Dutch
18/05/2010 22:37:00
wait I dont get your point, you haven't replaced Adams, Bergkamp or Henry. The current arsenal team has consistently underperformed. Losing Cesc is a big deal, I dont think it will happen next season thou
18/05/2010 22:50:00
Well said Amos, building a team round the one player has always been a huge gamble which hasn't really paid off. During cescs' injuries the system can't cope without him, too much pressure on fabregas to come up with the goods and not enough pressure on others to do likewise. The main worry in my eyes is the rumours that a clinching factor in Cesc wanting out is his lack of faith in Arsenes' proposed buys this summer, that is a real worry, well that and the fact we could well be losing one of the worlds only top class midfielders.
18/05/2010 22:51:00
We secured more points in each of our last three seasons without Henry than we did in his last two seasons here. We won the F.A. Cup and the League title in the two years immediately following Adams' retirement and Bergkamp's replacement was essentially RvP. I'm not saying RvP is as good as Bergkamp but I would hardly say we're malnourished in that position. But sometimes it's better just to stick to the tabloid cliches, eh?
Little Dutch
18/05/2010 22:55:00
Just trying to think of positives from this, I cant think of many at the moment. If Fab goes, it means more rebuilding and more transitional periods, something which this club has been going through for far too long.
18/05/2010 22:58:00
Not an Arsnel fan but as much as this hurts you guys its not all bad. Your coach should sell him for $38 to barca and buy Gourcuff for $25..problem solved.
18/05/2010 23:04:00
18/05/2010 23:05:00
one thing for sure is no matter who will go they will be replaced. Jenas is available if your
18/05/2010 23:09:00
Cheers but it's not canteen staff we'll be after.
18/05/2010 23:22:00
My biggest concern is, even tho LD stated the results after former superstars left us, we had a team full of seasoned pro's, we have a team of children right now, if Cesc leaves they will crumble, no leadership, everyone wanting to go elsewhere, just look at us play this season without cesc....this is not good
18/05/2010 23:22:00
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