New Beginnings

18 Jun

Following up on the Cesc Fabregas debate, Patrick Mather weighs in on Arsenal’s squad reconstruction, their dead-wood and a much-needed defensive signing.

In the words of Andrea Bocelli, ‘Time to say goodbye’. Cesc Fabregas was tempted away from his high school sweetheart by a new foreign thing which promised to give him more attention and offered greater riches, if not orgasmic satisfaction. The new relationship became more serious when his new beau gave up on an on-off fling with a mysteriously strange Frenchman, to promote Fabregas to a more prominent position. But now the time seems right for another divorce, for Cesc to go back to his first love, return to his old circle of friends and let Arsenal get on with their life.

The fact is that they need a stronger presence at their core. Sure they can play the field and seek fresh, young blood (Thiago, perhaps), yet the time is ripe for Arsenal to find a rock, a pillar to lean on in times of strife. Flaky Catalans are just not what they’re after. So forget Catalunya, forget the Costa Brava and take a peek at what the Republic of the Congo has to offer. Anybody who bore witness to Christopher Samba’s heroics at Upton Park in May will concur that he has outgrown those blue and white halves. Like Phil Jones before him, the story of the fish out of water and the chicken-men has become old and boring. Despite not being blessed with Beckenbauer-esque composure on the ball, Samba does have the ability to drive his team up the field by bringing the ball out of defence. His physical presence is undoubtedly his greatest attribute, yet he’s in no way just a roadblock. Signing the Congolese centre-half would also help Arsenal to fend off the bullies of Stoke & co. He skippered his side to safety but now it is time for the big man to seek pastures new, and escape the battery hen factory for the organic fields of London Colney.

The chances of such a turn of events appear slim, given Arsene Wenger’s key traits and refusal to bow down to the suggestions of the English media. Stubbornness is probably both the best and the worst quality of the Arsenal boss. Whilst his failure to sign a top centre-half probably cost him a realistic title challenge last season, his failure to sign an imposing central midfielder allowed Jack Wilshere to flourish, and the signs are that fans of both Arsenal and England will be forever grateful. Petulance and tendency to be in a permanent state of teary-eyedness aside, he is the shining light of a new generation of quality young English footballers, alongside the more talented, but more troubled Manchester United sensation Ravel Morrison. He combines the professionalism, elegance and determination which are required for success. And if England can unearth a holding midfielder in the Sergio Busquets mould (minus the tiresome theatrics), the future is bright.

The future doesn’t look quite so peachy for some of Wilshere’s more experienced colleagues. So long the wait for trophies has been, some of them probably have nightmares where Charlie Sheen vigorously reminds them that he is ‘winning’ and they most definitely are not. Deadwood is a term that has been utilised by bloggers, journalists and fans in abundance this summer, and the term is nowhere more legitimate than at The Emirates. The problem for Arsenal is that whilst the phrase has been used at other clubs to describe fringe players who never play – Bebe, Obertan, Ferreira etc – at Arsenal it refers to key personnel like Arshavin, Bendtner and even Gael Clichy. Those three aside, Eboue, Squillaci, Denilson and Diaby could all depart, although their presence isn’t sufficiently disruptive to demand their exits. One man who most certainly should be off, mainly for his own good, is Mexican one-time wunderkind Carlos Vela. When he burst through at the 2005 U17 World Cup, excitement was huge surrounding Mexico’s new big thing, viewed as the biggest star since Sanchez. But since then, the odd delightfully delicate chip aside, it has been all downhill. Whilst at international level he has been surpassed by Chicharito, at club level a loan spell at The Hawthorns which started well, ended with him being supplanted in the pecking order by the bumbling Ishmael Miller. Even when he did get a chance, his play was more Lawrie than Hugo.

Notwithstanding the heavy criticism and jovial digs, it’d be ridiculously harsh to label Arsenal as a club in crisis. If Le Professeur can take heed from the master of regeneration Sir Alex Ferguson, he could propel them to the next level. A couple of sage signings and Arsenal could rid themselves of the perennial chokers tag. The talent is there for sure, and a side built around Wilshere, Van Persie and Nasri is bound to be attractive, but now is the time to add steel. He may not be pretty, like Vela, or think he is, like Bendtner, but Christopher Samba is a monstrous player, and he may just scare Arsenal back into life.




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