(Note – this is not a piece on whether we need Fabregas, but analysing how he would fit in should we sign him)
For many Arsenal fans, the thought of Cesc Fabregas returning is a pipe dream. The memories of intricate passing, mesmerising runs and classy finishing that the Spaniard brought to the Gunners seemed like a thing of the past, condemned to our memories. It’s sods law, however, that as soon as the trio of Ozil, Ramsey and Cazorla began lighting up the Emirates pitch, that the rumours of Fabregas returning have come back stronger than ever.
The idea that Fabregas will return is all based on the speculation that Barcelona will launch a summer clear out following three disappointing champions league seasons (I’m not sure us Gooners would call 3 consecutives semi-final exists disappointing!) and a transfer embargo (which may well be lifted). Despite being chased all of last summer by David Moyes’ Manchester United, comments made by Fabregas in the past will always suggest that should he leave his boyhood club, Arsenal would be his preferred destination!
To the point, in order to understand how he could fit in to the future, we should take a look how he fit our side in the past.
During the 2007/08, Fabregas’ breakthrough season, Fabregas excelled in a traditional central midfield role, scoring 13 and assisting 24. Since then however, Wenger adopted a 4-2-3-1 specifically to cater to the creativity of Fabregas, often using Nasri as an auxiliary playmaker on the left hand side, with Walcott on the right. This allowed Arsenal to have as much possession as possible and to ensure that Fabregas’ lack of midfield bulk and tackling ability were not a liability to the team. It also allowed Fabregas to not worry as much about his defensive duties and to channel all his energy into the tremendous attacking threat he brought to the team, gaining 102 assists and 28 goals in his 8 years at the club.
Wenger has retained the 4-2-3-1 system despite the sale of both Fabregas and Nasri, and with varying levels of success, but Le Professeur seems committed to this system, so I see no reason why he would change it. Because of that, if Fabregas returns, I imagine he will play as a central attacking midfielder, however playing a slightly different role than before. With the £42 million pound addition of Mesut Ozil last summer, Wenger will want to include both in the team, which is why one of the two will play on the left hand side of the three. It really doesn’t matter who, because the interchanging would be so confusing to the best defences, and with a striker who could stretch them even more, causing havoc. Some would compare this to the current system with Ozil and Cazorla, however Cazorla is more of a winger than Fabregas, whereas with Fabregas and Ozil in the same team, it would be more of two out and out creative players looking to interchange positions and create chances for other players.
It is also important to assess how the current squad would be affected by the arrival of Fabregas. One person I think would benefit the most from a potential arrival of Fabregas would be one that you might not expect. That’s Kieran Gibbs. With more inside play taking place on the left hand side, Kieran Gibbs will have the ideal opportunity to get down the left hand side more, thus increasing his goal and assists!
Theo Walcott – who is twice the player he was when Fabregas left, contributing to the team with goals and assists, may not directly benefit from Fabregas’ arrival any more than he would with the creativity already in the team, but he might in fact help Fabregas. His speed and direct running often causes confusion in the opposition defence, causing them to drop off and often neglect other players, leaving space in behind which could be exploited by Fabregas, as well as the other players.
However, the arrival of Fabregas would of course have negative implications on other players, as it would be likely that Rosicky and Cazorla would have their playtime restricted, however, it will of course give us players to rotate, which is without a doubt a good thing!
So what do you think Gooners? How would you play Fabregas should he return?