If, as is his reported wish, Cesc Fabregas is sold back to Barcelona, it would without doubt be a sad moment for the Premier League. Not only would it be a damning indictment of ‘The Best League In The World Ever’ ™ that influential players from three of the traditional Big Four had gone to Real Madrid and Barcelona in less than a year, but it would also mean the loss of a stunningly complete, world class midfielder from the league’s great aesthetes. But this does not mean that Arsenal as a club would suffer greatly from his loss.
It would mean that Samir Nasri, for instance, can be moved into the centre, where he has tended to flourish. In the last 16 game against Porto at the Emirates, Nasri was moved from his shackles on the right hand side of a three – into the position usually held by Fabregas. Nasri was exceptional. Not only did he do this, he played the telling pass for Nicklas Bendtner’s first goal – the first two, key goals in overturning a first leg deficit were because of his flair and brilliance. A few years ago he was being compared in quarters to Zinedine Zidane, for his performances as the attacking thrust of Marseille’s midfield; flash points with Hull City players have shown that he does not lack confidence in himself, or fierce competitiveness.
Whilst one game is perhaps too short a sample to be able to judge Nasri as a long term replacement for Fabregas, it is not as if Arsenal are short of midfield options to currently compensate if the club captain was to leave: Abou Diaby’s brand of bandy-legged roaming, it could be argued, has been inhibited by Fabregas’s presence in the side; being forced to become the ‘in-between’ player in a midfield three has meant that moments like this (also without Fabregas) have simply not happened on a regular basis. Denilson is by no means a great player but his more languid style would perhaps be more suited with a purely creative (Nasri), or purely physical (Diaby) presence alongside him, rather than the all-round brilliance of Fabregas: the Spaniard is a better player than either aforementioned Frenchmen, but is not different enough to Denilson to be a consistently effective counterpoint. As such Denilson, as the junior player, has often played deeper and indifferently in big games. Fabregas offers the same qualities to those offered individually offered by Diaby, Denilson and Nasri to the point that finding an effective ‘third wheel’ in the Arsenal midfield has been difficult for Arsene Wenger to put together on a consistent basis.