If the first two Premier League games of the season have taught Arsenal anything it’s that Cesc Fabregas has to be kept in bubble wrap. With Tomas Rosicky’s never-ending injury saga, Fabregas is the only pure creative force left in Arsenal’s midfield.
The West Brom match kicked off in style, it seemed that Fabregas wasn’t to be that sorely missed. Nasri’s goal was a quintessential pass-it-into-the-net Arsenal goal, with Denilson neatly slotting into Fabregas’ position. Then, the gas ran out, and Arsenal were stuck passing it between themselves in the middle of the park with West Brom merely spectators to a word-class kick about. As Jonathan Pearce correctly stated “it’s in these periods that Arsenal are lacking the likes of Rosicky and Fabregas, the match-breakers.”
The absence of Fabregas, and to a lesser extent Rosicky, was painstakingly evident in the cataclysmic performance at Craven Cottage. Denilson was dire, and all the more bewildering is the fact that he was the only player in the Arsenal outfield not called up for international duty. The 20 year old’s displays have been mercurial to say the least, polished performances in preseason silenced many of the Brazilian’s critics but the backlash has already arrived.
My main qualm with Denilson is his inconsistency. Arsenal’s squad depth is often cited a major hindrance to the team’s quest for silverware, but I don’t think it’s the squad’s depth that’s the problem, more so the hit-or-miss nature of the back-up players. Denilson, Bendtner, Senderos and Eboue, they are all replacements that lack the consistency that Arsenal needs.
Fabregas in an infectious player, his ideas and creativity rub-off on the entire team, each player feels he needs to raise his game in order for Fabregas to function fully and they do. Cesc is the team’s catalyst; the conductor of the fluent passing moves that Arsenal have become renowned for and without him the team can become off-key and flat. By no means am I saying that Arsenal are a one-man team, it is simply that Fabregas inspires confidence, when he appears on that team-sheet morale rises and Arsenal’s stock increases.
The other attribute that Fabregas brings to the table (that is seemingly non-existent amongst other Arsenal players) is that of mental strength and resilience. Arsenal’s triumph in the San Siro epitomises everything that Fabregas offers mentally. With Arsenal completely dominating possession and effectively taking AC Milan to the cleaners, the game still looked destined for extra time. It was up to Fabregas to keep on mounting the constant attacks and galvanise the team to success. Had he been absent that night, then who knows what would have happened.
This brings me on to my next point. The mystifying decision to allow William Gallas to retain the captaincy. Apologies and claims of how last seasons debacles have changed him as a person are all great but the fact remains that he is mentally explosive and appears to lack any command over the team. Captains are supposed to lead by example, and Arsenal fans should be grateful that the team have more sense than to follow his lead when it comes to defending corners. Gallas’ body language screams nonchalance and at times arrogance. It’s fair to say that William Gallas has shown as much leadership as Thabo Mbeki has on Zimbabwe.
However, the Arsenal captaincy is an incredibly fragile predicament. Bomb disarming units would have to be called in to defuse the thermonuclear device that would go off in Gallas’ brain if the news broke that the captain’s armband was his no more. The aftermath of such an incident could even trigger an affair similar to the own-goal threat he issued when at Chelsea.
The obvious choice for captain, in my humble opinion, is Senor Fabregas. Cesc has an abundance of match-winning impetus that can ignite the flames in Arsenal’s engine room, a skill that Gallas is a long way off mastering. There is no doubt in my mind that had Fabregas been in Arsenal’s line-up on Saturday then the result would have been different. Despite being just 21, the only major football final that he is yet to appear in is the World Cup final, in terms of experience you can’t ask for much more.
It may be cause for concern that there is only one player within Arsenal’s squad capable of shifting the team into top gear. Nonetheless, with Gokhan Inler’s arrival hopefully on the horizon, the squad will acquire another motivational talisman. The Swiss is celebrated for his hard-man attitude and phenomenal work-rate, if Inler is brought in it will add extra gusto and vigour to a side that craves it.
If William Gallas knew what was best for the club he would come out with his hands up and pass the captain’s armband to Fabregas. The sooner Gallas accepts that he can’t lead and that Fabregas can, the better. The latter’s loyalty is unquestionable and he has expressed a desire to captain Arsenal, (“I would love it,” he told The Observer) and was the first to move to quash reports linking him with a move to Spain.
Fabregas is the Arsenal captain-elect, it may be that Gallas is ten years his senior but it’s the Frenchman who has the growing up to do.