Bon Voyage Cesc. Forward Arsenal
According to the Kubler-Ross model, there are five key stages to loss. The departure of Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona has been on the cards for a very long time, yet in the last 24 hours, I think I have seen various Gooners sift through each stage as the deal ebbed closer.
Denial- "But he was at training today? And Arsene said nobody`s leaving?"
Anger (the Arsenal fans` favourite over the last two years) - "So what? He was rubbish anyway. Rubbish captain, treated club like dirt. Hope he rots on the bench!"
Bargaining- "Surely we can hold out for £50m? Why not keep him one more year until Wilshere and Ramsey are completely ready?" (I think I was here in about May).
Depression- "I can`t believe he`s really going. I thought I was prepared for this but now it`s here I`m just sad."
Acceptance- This is the plateau I planted my feet on some time ago. Why not come join me? There`s beer and strippers here and everything!
Losing your captain and finest player at the age of 24 is a bitter pill to swallow. (It puts one in mind of another club Legend that left for the continent aged 24 with just one F.A. Cup medal to show for his time at the club). Regardless of how long you`ve been expecting it for. The fact that we`ve lost him for a price that dos not reflect his quality to a club that have, frankly, behaved with appalling disrespect towards Arsenal right until the end (Victor Valdes couldn`t even muster the microscopic amount of respect to keep his mouth shut as the deal entered its final hours) makes it all the harder.
Fabregas himself has been in a position of not being able to please anyone this summer and has chosen, wisely in my opinion, to keep his counsel. Not wanting to upset his prospective and current employers is an impossible task by any other means. In our information obsessed generation, the tactful approach was always still going to upset some. Footballers seldom win in these situations. Luka Modric met his desire to leave Tottenham head on. He was criticised. Cesc Fabregas chose to keep quiet. He was criticised. Samir Nasri was willing to see out his contract and then leave. He was criticised. As far as supporters are concerned, the only correct way to leave a club; is when the club doesn`t really need you anymore and moves you on.
Fabregas was possibly the finest player I`ve seen in an Arsenal shirt. As I`ve said before, dominating central midfield on such a consistent basis is different to a mercurial striker who will have liberty to disappear for 30 minutes at a time before erasing their anonymity from your memories with a single brushstroke of genius. Players such as Keane, Vieira and Cesc don`t have that luxury. Cesc also doesn`t have the physical properties of the former pair. Cesc was a boy in the sharp end of a big man`s territory and came up swinging every single time. Contrary to pithy commentary, he was a leader. It was unfortunate that he wasn`t blessed with a few more lieutenants around him as other more feted Arsenal captains were.
I don`t think there`s any one replacement for Cesc because I happen to think the only two central midfielders in the world that come close to him are now his team mates. I think we will have to look more towards the model United adopted when they sold Ronaldo. That is to say, that his burden will be spread across the team. The manager has clearly looked to add pace and direction to the attacking line up with the acquisitions of Oxlade Chamberlain, Gervinho and the addition of Miyachi, which already suggests a change in emphasis. Arsene will need to mould the team into a new style as opposed to identifying one man to fill a Cesc shaped hole. Fabregas` recent hamstring problems have left us in a quandary because the shape of the team has been built around him so indelibly. We are already blessed enough to have Britain`s two finest young central midfield players already in situ. (Though that`s not to detract from the fact that we need additions, before you all start!)
To lose him is a bitter pill. But no reason to plunge oneself into depression. King Whitney Jnr. had a saying that holds very true. "To the fearful, change is threatening because things might get worse. To the hopeful, it is encouraging because things may get better. To the confident, it is inspiring because the challenge exists to make things better." Players always need to be replaced. Even if Cesc had stayed for another ten years, his legs would have given out and we`d have had to replace him at some point anyway. Such is football and such is life. But one of the true gifts of the game is that it`s cyclical. It always gives us other games, others seasons and other players. We live in a society where the media impresses upon us the absolute permanence of the status quo. But Gooners older than I would always tell you that every irreplaceable player is totally indispensible until the next irreplaceable player comes along. Bon voyage Cesc. Forward Arsenal. LD.
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I'm also being interviewed tomorrow lunchtime on Radio 5 Live's sports show en route to Newcastle. Tune in if you can.