Monday, August 15, 2011

Cesc Fabregas - Is he really needed at Barca?

So it’s finally over. Cesc Fabregas has moved to Barcelona from Arsenal for a reported fee of 34 million, but could rise up to 40 million depending on certain variables. One of the longest transfer sagas (probably one of the most boring as well) is now over and we no longer have to hear anything about Arsenal not wanting to sell their captain or of Barcelona’s players pleading, almost daily, for their mate to join them.

Obviously the Arsenal fans that I know are disappointed to be losing their captain and the Barcelona fans are ecstatic. From my point of view, I just wonder if Fabregas is worth that money and whether or not Barcelona actually need him. When we look at Barcelona’s current starting 11, it’s very difficult to find flaws in it. This is a team that is unplayable against and one that plays the most attractive Football in Europe. They’re already pretty much winning every competition they play in. So what more is needed? Why fix something that isn’t broken? I don’t see where Fabregas will fit in Barcelona’s system. The midfield trio of Iniesta, Xavi and Busquets functions pretty well and doesn’t need any mending in my opinion.

Some say that he’s been brought in as the long-term replacement for Xavi. I completely disagree with that. Bearing in mind that Fabregas is 24 years old and Xavi is 31 years old, the age gap isn’t that big. Both players are not at ages which require them to be sitting on the bench. Fabregas is a player who should be starting every game and the same goes for Xavi. The position that Barcelona’s number 6 currently occupies is not one that requires a lot of pace or speed; it’s one that depends on creativity and vision. Xavi has never been a fast player. He’s never needed to be. His qualities lie in the reading he has of the game – and that doesn’t change with age. I don't see Xavi losing his place any time soon in the starting line-up. When Xavi will be 34 years old he will probably be better than most midfileders that are 10 years younger than him, simply because of his vision. His fitness will probably stay the same for another 2-3 years at least, and even if he loses a yard or two of pace, he’s never needed it anyways. So I don’t believe that Fabregas has been brought in as the potential replacement of Xavi. He’s also definitely not going to be replacing the energetic Iniesta who’s at the peak of his career. So, unless he’s been brought in to become the shielding midfielder that Busquests currently plays in, then I don’t get the reason why he’s been brought. Where does he fit in?

Another thing that should be worrying for Barcelona is Fabregas’ fitness. For some reason this has not even been mentioned anywhere in the media, but over the past 3 seasons, Fabregas has never been able to complete a full season. The average appearance of a player that plays for a club at the top level is approximately 40-45 games a season in all competitions (and in some cases probably more). Over the past 3 seasons, Fabregas has averaged 34 games a season – in all competitions (Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and Champions League). He always seems to get injured at key moments in the season and in key games in particular. I’m not sure if that’s just a coincidence, or it says something about the player’s fitness itself. But it’s just another issue which begs the question: is he truly needed at Barcelona?

Fabregas leaves Arsenal with only one medal to his name: an Fa Cup medal. That alone and the fact that he’s left them when they needed him most is probably why he’ll never be remembered as a Legend in the same way Patrick Vieira is remembered there. It won’t matter much to him. He got what he wants. Cesc Fabregas was a very good Arsenal player, and that’s how I believe he will be remembered in years to come. Most Arsenal fans would probably disagree with that statement and say he's a world class player. Maybe they're right, but he looked world class next to Alex Song, Abou Diaby and Tomas Rosicky. Let's see how he'll look over the course of an entire season next to real world class players. For all what Arsenal fans love about Cesc, the facts speak for themselves. He didn’t achieve much with Arsenal, and especially as a captain. Creative? Yes. Loveable? Surely. Very good footballer? No doubt. World Class? We'll see.

They say that once a team gets to the top, the hardest part is staying there. To keep the players motivated to repeat the same thing the following year and to do it all over again must be even more difficult. I think the hatred of Real Madrid alone must be enough of a motivation for anyone related with Barcelona to want to stay at the top. Mending a few things that need some change is part and parcel of the game, but does Fabregas’ arrival guarantee that? I don’t think so. I think he’ll struggle to break into the team at Barcelona. He’s joining his friends at Barcelona and moving back home. But he has to prove himself all over again, because for all his qualities, he’s joining the best club side in the world at the moment (don't get ahead of yourselves) and whereas at Arsenal he might have become a king, at Barcelona he’ll just be a prince.

(On a side note, I love the fact that he’s banging my cousin)


  1. He is simply there to replace Xavi, one day.
    He will definitely add class and creativity to their midfield, after all he's a maestro of midfield and can shift play from one side to another while setting the tempo.
    Is he adding something new? no.
    Who's your cousin?

  2. he scored in every game he played. thats world class

  3. Yep, he might be proving me wrong after all. :)

    But scoring 3 goals in 3 games doesn't define World Class, otherwise Danny Welbeck is World Class for Man United. And Dzeko is World Class for Man.City.

    Still early doors, can't make judgements this early...wait until the business end of the season starts, and if Cesc stays fit, starts all the games and keeps this form up, then I'll agree he's World Class.

  4. I think your initial analysis was pretty fair, but what do you think now? Cesc is tearing it up with Barca'. I love Xavi, but he wouldn't start if he wasn't part of the duo with Iniesta. Fabregas is the truth.

    I did think your analysis was fair and mostly spot-on, but I disagreed with one point. The presumption that playing next to weaker players makes you look better is actually false. Looking world class with bums on your team is exponentially more difficult than it is with great players. With Messi/Villa up front, Iniesta with him in the middle, Puyol/Alves behind him, Fabregas will be almost twice as good as he was with Arsenal. I've played for 20+ years. I always played better with better players. So will he. He is actually already starting to. I agree that a few games isn't a big enough sample size to make any smart claims, but if you really, really pay attention, he was born for the Barcelona style (he learned the game their way after all). This is just a guess, but I think this year will be the year of Cesc. I'd be willing to bet on it... I just won't say how much :)

    Anyway, interesting article. You wrote it on my birthday so I was drawn to it.


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