Did Wenger make a mistake not bringing prodigal son Fabregas back to the Emirates?
Published 19/08/2014 | 13:56
When it became clear that Cesc Fabregas would be leaving Barcelona earlier this summer, many observers believed the Spaniard would return to the club that made him the player he is.
Fabregas had a clause in his contract that would allow Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger first option on the midfielder. A deal bringing Fabregas back to the club seemed a certainty.
But the French manager surprised the football world when he passed up on the opportunity to buy Fabregas, allowing Premier League rivals Chelsea to fill a spot in midfield that had been neglected in recent years.
In 90 minutes last night, the 27-year-old may have proven Wenger has made the biggest mistake of the summer in not bringing his prodigal son home.
It is something of a knee-jerk reaction, the Premier League season still has 37 weeks to run, but such was the level of the performance by Fabregas that the league is already being billed as a two-horse race between Chelsea and Manchester City.
From the first whistle at Turf Moor it was Cesc Fabregas and 21 other players, with the Spaniard controlling the game in a way Chelsea fans have never seen. The Blues have had fantastic, world class midfielders down the years - Lampard, Ballack, Essien and Makelele - but those players dominated through physicality, power and athleticism.
Fabregas' performance was one of dominance through sheer skill.
Burnley took a surprise lead but it was against the run of play and through a rare defensive lapse; Oscar slipping and John Terry not pushing up quick enough.
It took just four minutes for Fabregas to reassert his dominance, playing a stunning back-heel for a Branislav Ivanovic cross that was eventually turned in by debutant Diego Costa after the ball had hit the post.
Four minutes after that and Fabregas produced a moment that will live long in the memory. It is a definite goal of the season contender and will likely be the pass of the season. Andre Schurrle put Chelsea in front after a wonderful pass from Cesc Fabregas Fabregas produced a sensational pass for Andre Schurrle to make it 2-1
Chelsea fans have never seen anything like it. A long passing move ended up with Ivanovic cutting the ball back to the Spaniard who was on the edge of the box.
The whole ground expected him to shoot but he perfectly disguised a pass to Schurrle; the millions watching probably didn't even realise the German was on the move. It was a sublime piece of skill of a variety Chelsea fans had not seen before.
Fabregas wasn't finished there, however, and whipped in a perfect corner for Ivanovic to make it 3-1. Chelsea shut up shop in the second-half but the game never moved in a way that Fabregas didn't dictacte. He completed 87 passes on the night, not the type of sideways and backwards passes John Obi Mikel would make, but passes that get players moving and bending to his will.
When Fabregas was asked about a potential move to Arsenal he said: "I looked for the best option for me. Arsenal was the first option, for contractual reasons. There was a clause that gave them the right to decide.
"We spoke to Wenger and he said that the space was very well filled by Mesut Ozil and it was hard to find a place for both of us in the team."
Ozil does fill a vital position for Arsenal, the creative hub and link between midfield and attack. The German will be better than in his first year and should provide plenty of goals and assists for the Gunners. But looking at the way Fabregas played last night, the Spaniard would not have replaced Ozil in the team.
Arsene Wenger has warned his players to expect a physical test against Besiktas Arsene Wenger looks to have made a grave error in passing up the opportunity to sign the Spaniard
He wouldn't have replaced Aaron Ramsey either, who has turned into the box-to-box goalscoring force that Frank Lampard once was for the Blues. Fabregas, playing in a deep playmaking, or 'No 4' role, would likely have jettisoned Mikel Arteta from the Arsenal team.
Arteta may be the club captain and a good influence in the Arsenal dressing room but he is a declining force. Against Crystal Palace he completed 95 per cent of his passes, but all too many of those were simple five-yard sideways balls that did nothing against a packed defence. He was never willing to pass and probe and he was never able to provide that match-winning, definitive moment that Fabregas does.
Chelsea and Manchester City buy the best players, regardless of who happen to already be in that position. Fernandinho, by all accounts, was an excellent performer for the Champions last season, but Manuel Pellegrini moved to buy Fernando anyway, knowing he'd need a defensive stopper for tough away games and big Champions League nights.
Fabregas could have replaced Mikel Arteta in the Arsenal side rather than Mesut Ozil or Aaron Ramsey Fabregas could have replaced Mikel Arteta in the Arsenal side rather than Mesut Ozil or Aaron Ramsey
Fernando was excellent and a key part of City's win at St James' Park.
There are financial concerns that may have stopped the deal, of course, but if Arsenal truly want to compete with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester City, they need the very best players when they become available. Especially if those men are former players who have a special affinity with the club and would have loved to have gone back.
Fabregas said last night he would've "never expected" to play for Chelsea. Now he is at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will take some stopping.