If Fabregas leaves who will replace him at Arsenal?
By Jonny Payne
Every summer one of Arsenal’s stars is embroiled in a long-running transfer saga; first it was Patrick Vieira, then Thierry Henry and Emmanuel Adebayor and now Cesc Fabregas. If the Spaniard does leave, how will Arsene Wenger replace him?
Wenger has three options. He could look to recruit from within, he could bring in a direct replacement, which would come at a cost, or he could change the formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2.
If Wenger takes the first option, it would seem likely that Samir Nasri would take over Cesc Fabregas’ role as the attacking midfielder in the 4-3-3 formation. Nasri took time to regain his form following his leg-break earlier in the season and he has impressed in a central role in Fabregas’ absence, although he obviously has not impressed Raymond Domenech, who has left him out of France’s World Cup squad.
Aaron Ramsey was looking the rightful heir to Fabregas in Arsenal’s midfield before his season was cruelly cut-short with a horrific broken-leg against Stoke in February. Ramsey is due back in September, if his rehabilitation goes according to plan, but as with all long-term injuries he may take a while to regain his form. Eduardo who suffered a similar injury two years ago has never seemed the same player since returning, so Wenger may decide on a different option until the Welshman has fully recovered.
Despite playing most of his games for Arsenal’s first team in wide areas, Jack Wilshere has been tipped by Wenger to play a central role in the future. Wilshere has been given rave reviews at Bolton, where he spent the second half of the season on loan, often playing behind their striker Kevin Davies. It seems likely, however, that Wilshere will remain at the Reebok Stadium next season for more first team experience and at 18, he may not be ready just yet for the rigours and pressure of a title challenge and Champions league football.
Andrey Arshavin has not looked completely happy playing on the left of a front-three, he has claimed in the past that he favours a central position, and he could replace Fabregas in this role. His lack of physical presence could be a problem though, with Arsenal likely to be dominated in midfield by some of the more physical teams in the Premier League.
Unless Nasri is moved into ‘the Fabregas role’ then, it seems likely that Wenger would have to use some of the money from Fabregas’ transfer on a direct replacement. There are a number of potential world-class alternatives.
Yoann Gourcuff would surely be high on Wenger’s shortlist. The Frenchman has been the heartbeat of an overachieving Bordeaux side for the past two years, winning the French League in 2009 and helping them to the quarterfinals of the Champions League this season. Gourcuff has already spent time at one of Europe’s big clubs having had a spell at A.C Milan. It did not work for out Brittany-born playmaker in Milan though, as he was given limited playing time before being loaned to Bordeaux, where he immediately started to realise his potential. Gourcuff is extremely technically gifted and is of a similar frame to Fabregas and he should cope with the physical challenges of the Premier League. Having also forged a good relationship with potential new recruit Marouane Chamakh, he could slot into the side straight away.
Mikel Arteta has steadily built his reputation in England after moving to Everton from Real Sociedad in 2005. The Spaniard has missed much of this season through injury, but showed his quality on his return to the side, helping Everton to an eight-placed finish. Another player with excellent technical attributes, Arteta is a direct replacement for his fellow countryman. Although he is 28 years old, and therefore not a ‘typical’ Wenger buy, Arteta has plenty of Premiership experience, and his experience would help to lead his younger teammates such as Nasri, Song and Diaby. With Everton missing out on European football next season, he may now feel it is the right time to move on.
Diego was hailed as the next Deco when replacing his counterpart at Porto. His performances in Portugal earned the midfielder a big-money move to Werder Bremen and then to Italy with Juventus at the start of this season. The Turin giants have not had the best of times this season, finishing seventh, which means there will be no European football at the Stadio Delle Alpi next season – a travesty for the Bianconeri. Diego may feel he has to move on if he is to progress in the European game and he could well choose a lucrative move to England.
The man who replaced Diego in the Werder Bremen first team, is now the heartbeat of the German national side. Mesut Ozil helped Germany Under-21s to the European Championship crown in June 2009 and Ozil has been in exceptional form ever since. Slight of frame but quick-footed and agile, with an exceptional eye for a pass, Ozil resembles Fabregas a few years ago. At 21 he has a lot of time to progress, but having claimed his dream move would be to Real Madrid, if he does arrive at the Emirates, expect summer transfer sagas involving the German and the big-spending Spanish club dominating the back-pages in a few years time.
If Wenger does decide to move Nasri into the centre, he may decide to buy a replacement on the wing. Many Arsenal fans would welcome the signing of Lille’s Eden Hazard. Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year for the past two seasons, Hazard has helped his side to a fourth-placed finish, missing out on a Champions League place on the final day of the season. Likened to Lionel Messi in terms of pace and skill on the ball, Hazard has, in the past, stated he would like to join either Arsenal or Real Madrid – maybe the time has come for the 19 year-old Belgian to make his dream move.
Alternatively, Wenger could revert to a 4-4-2 formation, negating a third central midfielder. If Marouane Chamakh signs, as expected, he could lead the line alongside Robin van Persie with the wings filled by two of Nasri, Arshavin and Theo Walcott.
This formation would mean that Wenger could concentrate on spending his transfer kitty on the problem areas of central defence and in goal. Although this seems like a good alternative on paper, it does bring up a few problems.
The formation would not suit Theo Walcott who would have to improve defensively while Arshavin, already displeased at playing on the wing would also be forced to defend more often, something the Russian may not warm to.
In previous seasons, with only two players in midfield, Arsenal have been outmuscled and dominated in the central area, and reverting to this formation may cause the problem to return.
It seems then, that if Fabregas does leave, a replacement must be found, and there are many affordable alternatives. Anyone for Gourcuff?
Who would you like to see replace Fabregas? Have your say below:
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