Calm down dear, it’s only a headline. Yes, Cesc said he would like to return to the club but as a coach. Or more accurately as part of the progress towards his coaching badges. He didn’t rule out playing for Arsenal again but there is no indication of the necessary alignment of planets at any point in the near future, even before we go into the question of accommodating the Spaniard into the side. Indeed, the merry dance David Moyes was led in last summer ought to provide enough caution for anyone who may wish to dip into the realms of fantasy, or transfer speculation as we mere mortals call it.
It is only part one of the interview he has given to mark the tenth anniversary of his Arsenal début in the League Cup tie against Rotherham United and Fábregas spoke warmly of the impact of signing Özil, combined with the form of Ramsey and Wilshere. The most heartfelt praise was for Mathieu Flamini, hardly surprising given their friendship. The combination of that quartets impact has, according to the former Arsenal captain, left the club in a good position to challenge for silverware. Not for him is there any sign of triumphalism, a simple cautious optimism,
I really hope so. They’ve started very well. They look very strong; let’s see how they last. In the Premier League you can be going well and then you lose two games and you slip away quickly. It’s very sudden. A lot gets decided over Christmas: the team that hangs in there best, that can resist the best, will take the title
Talk inevitably turned to the failures of Arsenal’s Golden Generation and their failure to deliver a trophy in that spell when youthful promise held sway. He does not hide when pinpointing the reasons for failure beyond the obvious impact of Eduardo’s injury at St Andrews,
In the end, it was a mental thing, yes. Eduardo gets injured and you lose the Carling Cup final to Birmingham, who then were relegated, and you lose it the way we lost it … Imagine it! It’s hard to come back, especially when you’re young. The manager gave a lot of freedom to the young players, which is why they are so good, why they play so well, because he doesn’t overload them with pressure. But when things like that happen, it’s difficult.
When everyone is so young it is difficult to find someone who stands up and says: “Come on!” Also, because we were such a young team, there was always a sense of “next time”, another chance. The fans kept singing and supporting too, which is great, but … If I play badly I want complaints. No one wants to be whistled but I wanted that pressure, those demands. We often had team meetings and they helped, we made sense of things, but the experience was missing. We suffered because of that.
In spite of his own insistence that the manager intervening was not the solution, that no-one on the playing side, himself or Gallas as captain, was doing so suggests that Arsène’s ruthlessness which is now on display, was being suppressed to the detriment of those squads. In protecting his players, his kindness ultimately undermined their competitive nature. That is not a criticism of Wenger, we all learn over time how people react, what makes them tick but as Fábregas notes, professional football is about winning and nice guys don’t often do that. It is part of the reflective process of hindsight and no doubt something Arsène has gone through in far more depth than the superficiality of a few paragraphs here and there.
Drawing attention to the support compares directly to now; criticism has been freely handed out to the players and by supporters telling others how to support the club. The latter is a divisive subject for which there is no right or wrong answer given the subjective nature of the question. Consensus is hard to find beyond the broadest brush terms. Maybe Cesc’s desire to be shown disapproval, to use it as a motivator is what sets him apart from players who have not achieved as much. Yes, he is fortunate to be part of his country’s time in the footballing sun on the international stage and at club level but his abilities have put him in the position of reaping those rewards. Constructive criticism has its place in the professional sporting arena; abuse has none and is as ultimately destructive as believing nothing is wrong – they end in the same place.
In a week where Gary Lineker has laid bare the problems besetting in a superb article The New Statesman, Cesc offered his view on where English players go wrong. Culturally, it is a world apart from the Spanish game, relying more on the strength of battle than tactical awareness. Jack Wilshere was derided for his observations on the strength of the tackling game as opposed to closing down space and routes. Hints of that were apparent as Dortmund pressured Arsenal into mistakes on Tuesday. There is a balance between the two aspects; Fábregas applauds the abilities of Javier Mascherano in marrying them together. That astuteness is what needs to develop in English football; no questions the bravery of the players nor should a well-timed tackle be disregarded but the simple truth is that intercepting a pass leaves players in a better position to launch a counter-attack or recover and keep possession. Changes begin at the bottom rungs as Lineker points out, with coaching. It doesn’t mean playing the way Spain do, it is about harnessing the natural characteristics and augmenting them with the best aspects of the game from around the globe, something the English have been reluctant to do or incapable of implementing. And learning basic techniques not larraping a ball, under the pretence of finding a forward run by a teammate.
All this in a week when the arch-exponent is actively being touted as returning to the Premier League. Things can only get better has never concealed such misplaced optimism.