Cesc Fabregas who Arsene Wenger spirited away from Barca as a 16 year old to lead the charge in his youth revolution just pronounced its death throes. Fabregas in an interview with a Spanish media outlet had this to say:
"You have to make a decision: either go and win, or develop players."
These feelings of disillusionment were already surfacing back in 2007 when Arsenal was now playing third fiddle to Chelsea and Man Utd.
"From 2007 I had already started saying we're not winning, but we're playing well. And then you realise that's no use."
Wenger's poster boy brings up the Invincibles in a sign that he did not completely believe in his manager's philosophy even then:
"Young players learn from the older ones. Now, it is more complicated. If you put (Jack) Wilshere in the team that played before . . . it is different. I am not saying better or worse. Before, there were reference points, winning and strong players and playing with them, you learned faster."
Reference points is a word for leadership and Arsenal in those days had many such players who claimed that mantle. Sir Alex Ferguson and Jose Mourinho realized the importance of senior players in their squads. Reference points is a word for winners. When you have players who know what it to takes to win titles their winning mentality rubs off on younger players.
Fabregas also admits in a tacit way he was never primed for captaincy. And it might have affected his performance.
"Now, a lot has changed, and I am the man that everyone looks to. I don't like to say it but it is true. If I play badly, I take responsibility and the pressure of the supporters."
On an intellectual level, Fabregas gets why Arsenal might define success differently and he understands the need for economic stability. But these are things he does not believe in - it is the board's way of doing so. Implicit in his statement is Wenger's responsibility in changing the ethos.
Which is borne out by the fact he mentions Wenger would have been fired in the Liga if he had gone three years without a trophy. He goes onto indicate that Arsenal have a decision to make which could involve a post Wenger world.
"But I imagine there will be a moment when you have to decide: do you win things or not?"
This is as strong an indictment of a manager as you can get. And most tellingly by an existing squad member who happens to be the club's talisman. The fans have already lined themselves into the AKB and the Wenger should go camps. The manager has redefined a winning mentality and indicated he won't change one iota.
" As long as you are second in the league, I am ready to sign for the next 20 years and stand up for that. We've done well for our age and we are second in the league. Is that a disaster?"
Wenger might ignore the slow bleed of fans cutting into the club's financial bottomline. Believe me it has begun. But what about the players themselves who are not signing onto his article of faith? It is ironical a player Wenger protected so fiercely from the clutches of Barca and Real is on the eve of Arsenal's fiercest clash casting doubts about his managerial capability.