I for one welcome the departure of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri. Full disclosure, Fabregas is my favourite player at Arsenal and wear his no 4 jersey proudly to all the matches. You will find fewer fans more bereft when he leaves. And yet, there is a sense of overwhelming relief when he finally signs on the dotted line which brings this whole exhausting and none too edifying saga to closure.
To a generation of fans, he will first and foremost be an Arsenal player even as he looks to spend the better part of his career matter at Barca. There is an indelible image of Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini (another player who Arsenal fans cherish) wrestle the ball away from Nemanja Vidic and Patrice Evra after an epic struggle and moments later Emmanuel Eboue laid a beauty of a cross that Thierry Henry got his head onto for a 2-0 win against Man Utd. That goal was not just a goal as much as it was the infinite possibilities of what the Gunners under Fabregas could accomplish if they set their mind to it.
That was in 2007. For Fabregas the cast of characters who could share in those magical moments melted away in front of his eyes over the years. Even as he grew in stature to become one of football’s leading lights one sensed a feeling of loneliness on the pitch and even despondency with each year bringing little success. On the pitch he had his best season in 2009-10 despite struggling with injuries and the additional responsibility of team captain. Who can forget Fabregas and his heroics in the dying minutes of the first leg of the CL quarterfinals against Barca? Taking a penalty with his broken leg and immediately after the adrenaline surge had worn off collapse in pain.
A year later his failed backheel against Barca was described less charitably as a moment of subversion. It was clear this was a deeply unhappy player who had been persuaded by Wenger to stay on with promises that this year would be different. It turned out to be the same. Their close father- son relationship was further damaged with Fabregas’s strong insinuations in a Spanish publication that Wenger would have been fired if he had been in La Liga for his lack of success. A shocked Wenger insisted his captain was probably misquoted and Fabregas did backtrack even as he left the essence of his accusations intact.
That backheel embodied the increasing ambivalence felt by fans towards Fabregas. He is Arsenal’s most gifted player by far, yet at the same time, his questionable half throttle performances were becoming more obvious, the result of injury or more cynically, by design. Would Wenger, by a miracle manage to keep him on for another year, expect his protege, the 16 year old stripling who first came to Arsenal in 2003, to leave aside his sense of betrayal and perform as if nothing had changed?
With all the water under the bridge the chances of Fabregas Twittering a la Joey Barton about his sense of frustration with transfers and lack of faith in his coach would be a far more realistic possibility. Further shredding every shred of dignity. At least we’re spared that unseemly outcome and he departs with the very best wishes of every fan proud to call themselves Gunners. He goes to a club where “All players are equal, but some players are more equal than others”. Animal Farm analogies aside at Barca he would be unburdened by the crushing expectations of pulling a rabbit out of the hat.
Now there is no recourse but to give Arsenal a badly needed shot of rejuvenation. Even the most die hard AKB fans will have to acknowledge that the present status quo is untenable.