Thomas Vermaelen today revealed that Cesc Fabregas admitted to the rest of the Arsenal squad during the summer that he wanted to move to Barcelona. I tried to imagine the scenario. The club captain asking everybody to sit down in the cafeteria before the training session begins, everybody else looks around somewhat suggestively, knowing but not actually knowing what was coming. With an idea and even a conviction of what was going to come from the skippers mouth but a faint hope residing deep in the stomach that what they are convinced is coming isn’t actually the case at all. All in all, it’s a tense moment.
Everybody is seated. Then the Spaniard, or to be apt the Catalunyan, speaks. He says something along the lines of, as Vermaelen himself is today quoted as paraphrasing Fabregas’ words, ”Barcelona is in my DNA, it is impossible for me to forget about them. I was determined to transfer there last summer but I waited. I can’t wait any more.” Assuming Vermaelen isn’t lying, and there is scarcely an obvious reason why he should, how might the rest of the Arsenal squad reacted? It’s not a matter of determining what each might have thought individually but rather a case of resolving what it was that the collective felt at that moment. I can think of a variety of emotions that would have been prevalent but none are as certain as disappointment.
A group of players who to a man, Van Persie, Clichy & Sagna aside, are not going to play for a better team than Arsenal any time soon. As capable as the likes of Eboue, Walcott, Song, Nasri etc are, none of them are really going to be chased round the block by the likes of Manchester United, Chelsea, Barcelona or Real Madrid any time soon. As I mentioned, only Clichy, Sagna and Van Persie, of the group besides Fabregas, have a chance of playing for a club with a greater chance of silverware any time soon. The rest of the squad, looking at their talismanic leader, the most high profile individual, the best player, must have felt a sense of resignation painted with a hue of sadness and then coated, to make it obvious, in disappointment. To a large extent, certainly an unfair and disproportionate one, much of our chance of success depends on Cesc. In that moment, knowing that the players know this fact as clearly as the majority of fans do, the general thought must have been ‘here comes another trophy less season’.
Now all of this is somewhat negative but wait with me because the denouement is on a different note altogether. When, a week or perhaps two after Fabregas confessed this to the rest of the squad, he then decided to stay another season, with Wenger’s obvious blessing, how elated must the rest of the squad then have felt? A cliché, often used, is that of a club starting the season in the downers or, contrastingly, on a good vibe when, truth be told, there is usually hardly any noticeable difference in mood between one club and another. The only reason these expressions come out are a means of post occurrence reasoning, ie. This happened because of this, or this happened because of that. Nobody really knew at the time. They just pretended it all made sense afterwards.
Such a lift as Fabregas staying, however, would surely have a good positive impact on the rest of the squad. It is something genuinely important, it’s neither trivial or dismissive. A firm dedication to the cause for at least one more season. Reading Vermaelen’s words today I realised this. Fabregas flirting with leaving and then staying will give us more chance of success than had he simply said, in June, he was never interested in the move in the first place. Had that happened there would have been relief. The way things transpired the club has enjoyed a tremendous boost which could carry us a long way. Fabregas flirting with leaving made the players realise how much depended on him, and therefore this season. Fabregas chose to stay and the rest of the players now have a chance to convince him it was right. More than that, they can now win something of importance with the club.