I’m a Middlesbrough fan although I’ve worked with Arsenal over the years and I admire the way they do business and the football that they play. The team is exciting and entertaining to watch although their inability in recent years to win trophies is frustrating. So too, at times, is their inability to hold a lead or turn vast superiority in terms of territory and possession in to goals and wins, but hey, football is football and sometimes shit happens.
This summer has heaped more levels of frustration upon frustration. Cesc Fabregas wants to play for Barcelona, Barcelona want to sign him, and even though they would prefer it if he stayed with them Arsenal are prepared to let him go. So what’s the problem? Barcelona don’t have the money to buy him. Simple. As a consequence the world has had to endure an incessant drip-drip from Barcelona (the club) and Barcelona (the city) of players, officials, coaches and politicians pleading with Arsenal to release Fabregas from his torment and allow him to return home to his ‘family’ and the love of his life, Barca...
This incessant wailing is accompanied by the undignified spectacle of the Spanish giants mortgaging players by selling them with time-defined agreed-fee buy-back options, and – just to drive the point home – Fabregas even contributing part of his new wages to meet the ransom demand. The point is that it’s not that Fabregas wants to leave Arsenal – any number of Europe’s top clubs would meet their asking price – it’s that he wants to go (only) to Barcelona. Therefore Arsenal have to accept what Barca offer or can afford to pay, after all they are the Champions of Europe, they are big boys, they deserve and get whatever they want, and to the extent that Arsenal may get mugged on the fee it is, after all, a crime of passion.
At the same time we have Samir Nasri wanting to abandon ship and join Gail Clichy at Manchester City’s band of happy campers. It has nothing to do with the ‘half-as-much-again-as-Arsenal-are-offering’ wages but is more about being part of a project that has actually delivered a trophy and promises to deliver more. Clichy has already noted the ‘tough-tackling’ in training which can only be spiced by the brooding resentment of defenders and midfielders who have been offered less than half the money given to new signing Sergio Aguero.
This time next year Nasri, will be out of contract and available without a fee. City are prepared to pay in the region of GBP20m but Arsenal want him to sign a contract extension instead offering in the region of GBP110k a week – substantially less than City are offering. So far Arsenal have insisted they would prefer to keep him, let him run his contract down and then see him go for free if in the end he decides not to stay on with the Gunners.
What we are left with is a drift in deep water. The sense of impending doom is heightened by the club’s failure to address the defensive black hole and the impending Niagra of matches against Udinese, Liverpool and Manchester United that could see Arsenal’s season submerged within weeks of it being launched. Captain Fabregas and first-mate Nasri appear desperate to abandon ship, and the rest of the crew are looking decidedly apprehensive. The time has come for someone to take control.
Nasri is an easy decision. Over the season the transfer fee that Arsenal could get for him equates to around GBP400k a week, add on his wages and you’re up to almost GBP500k a week – think about it for a moment. He has had one-half of a decent season. Sell him. For around the same money bring in Juan Mata arguably a player with greater tenacity, ability and potential. A player who would be cheaper wages wise but more committed, more consistent and a winner. This deal should have been done weeks ago.
Arsenal should state clearly and irrevocably that Barcelona can sign Fabregas if they meet the ‘open-market’ valuation and asking price of GBP40m within a specified period (one month ago should do it). If they don’t he stays. Simple. They should also state that no amount of whining or whinging by bleating mayors or pleading players will weaken that position. If Fabregas doesn’t want to lead the team, and if Barcelona can’t cobble together the cash to deliver Priority Two his place on the bench, then put him on the transfer list. This season there are six contenders for the top four places and as of now Arsenal are looking fifth at best and appear to be drifting to disaster. The time has come to take control of the situation.