You have to accept that professional players move from club to club and it was difficult for me to see him leave us. After he has left us for one club, you accept the idea that he can move to some different clubs. Of course it was a bit strange but he had a good game. I have no regret about [Arsenal not re-signing Fabregas] at all. My regret is that he left us.
Some things are best left unsaid but given it was a press conference, I am surprised it was. There is a follow up question to the final sentence, the one where the truth would have finally seen the light of day. That said, the Frenchman would have played as straight a bat as Boycott. Arsène, surely the regret is the manner of his departure from Arsenal.
Despite the manipulation of the moment, the refusal to quell rumours over the previous summers, Cesc Fabregas still has a hold over some Arsenal supporters. The rose petals lay gently on the path to The Emirates as a gentle musical background accompanied every step toward the pitch where doves would be released to signal a new era of world peace when all wars would end.
Then the needle scratched across the record and the film got chewed by the projector as Arsène quietly said “Thanks but no thanks” to the homecoming. He had found Aaron who eventually flourished in the space left by the Spaniard’s departure; Arsène didn’t want Cesc anymore, didn’t need him. The most romantically held manager crushed the most romantic of football dreams.
I am struggling to think of another player whose career was founded on such romantic notions. Leaving the Camp Nou as a teenager with legendary notes left on desks warning an incoming president that he will have to explain “how this one got away”, Cesc fulfilled his own romantic ambition of being a Barcelona player. It wasn’t a vision which was wholeheartedly embraced; he was coming into a hugely successful squad with and had to prove himself worthy of a place, particularly since the incumbents were deemed footballing gods. Whether he did or not depends on whom you are asking. But he has left once more, unwanted or not wanted enough.
London had to be his destination and once Arsenal said no, his options were severely limited. His new manager already tried to kill the love, proclaiming that Chelsea was his first and only choice, ensuring that ridicule would be attached again to his words. It shouldn’t matter to anyone, surely joining Chelsea has finally killed off any hopes retained for a final homecoming?
It should have done but apparently not. Hopefully Arsène’s words will.
That wasn’t the main subject of the day thankfully. Well, it might have been but thoughtfully dot com pushed it to one side. Tomorrow’s trip to Goodison Park offers the first of many tests this season. Domestic of course, the first test was the trip to Istanbul and when the next test arrives, we’ll find a way of describing that as the first test of the season, even if it is something like ‘the first test of the season against a team whose name begins with Q’.
No matter how Arsène may try to dress the corresponding last season – and there was a sense of revisionism in his words – Everton soundly beat Arsenal on the day. We were poor but that was in keeping with the form of the campaign in the away matches against close rivals. I am sure that the blue half of Merseyside is equally wounded by their failure to capitalise on the victory and take fourth place. They might have been in Turkey this week instead of waiting to see if Tottenham slipped up in Cyprus.
The manager will be able to call on his German contingent but made it clear that not all of them would play. Yes, Podolski, I think he was referring to you. To be honest, I would be surprised if anyone but Mertesacker started. His fitness seems the most urgent to regain although a player with Őzil’s quality will never be discarded. Not by Arsenal anyway.
There is a sense that this match offers a guide to the coming season. A better result – hang the performance, the points matter as much until you are fully up to speed – will offer confidence that last time we suffered four aberrations. A heavy defeat doesn’t bear thinking about, simply because contemplation of such is not something I want to indulge in and it sends a nasty signal about the mental state of the squad in big matches. Like I said, you don’t want to think about it.
Aah, the squad. Arsène is still the master of the open-ended statement. Never firmly put his boot in either camp, the perfect politician or speech-writer at least. Talk has centred on departures and arrivals with the Spanish keen to shift Sami Khedira to Arsenal rather than lose him for nothing next summer. It’s more about saving the wages than getting a fee because at the quoted €10m, it’s next to nothing for a club that has already spent over €100m.
Whether another player or two comes in will be known in the next fortnight. At the moment, there is a genteel clamour - polite and well-mannered. That won’t last beyond the final whistle of the first defeat where the deficiencies in the summer’s investment will be pointed to as a root cause. Arsène was quick to point out that we are not yet in crisis mode with injuries or the squad depth. He’s right of course but were Mathieu Flamini to succumb at the weekend, you can see how quickly the situation would change.
A lot of the present is ifs, buts and maybes. So is the rest of this calendar year and that’s part of the transfer gamble the manager must take; can the squad achieve their ambitions as they are or do I need to invest. The answer unfortunately comes with hindsight, something we are all very good at. As supporters, we have our ‘foresight’ which some of us think includes a new centre back and midfielder; ideally a forward as well but that ambition is not shared by Arsène.
I think he concurs with the first pair of positions but it’s all down to finding the players he believes in. I guess the question is how flexible he is on criteria. Can he make do or is the perfectionist in him so demanding that only exact fits will suffice? The latter makes it the tough market he consistently talks of; the former is more a case of when pragmatism kicks in. Let’s hope that is not too late.