It’s recognised by the majority of Arsenal fans that the exploits of Arsene Wenger into the transfer window during his first ten years in-charge unearthed some exceptional, world-class talent such as Henry, Bergkamp, Ljungberg, and Fabregas. It was a golden era that put Arsenal on top of the Premier League and made them one of the most attractive and entertaining sides in World football.
However, as Wenger’s reign went on, the Frenchman’s dealings became slightly less successful, even to the point of wasting money in a great many instances, but perhaps, his worst crime in the eyes of Arsenal fans was to pass up the chance to re-sign Cesc Fabregas.
The Spaniard went home to Barcelona in 2011 but Arsenal put a buy-back option into the agreement and when Fabregas was looking to return to the Premier League, Arsenal looked like his only destination. Social media was awash with fans begging the club to resign the majestic midfielder but unexpectedly, Wenger refused the option.
Arrogance or stupidity? Probably both, because Arsenal needed their favourite Spanish son to come home and his arrival would have guaranteed some measure of excitement, stability, and success. Wenger claimed:
“It was general guidance for me to make the players realise that if you leave here, you don’t come back.”
It’s said that Arsene Wenger was livid that Fabregas decided to leave having seen a host of high profile departures exit the club. The Spaniard was used as an example to others that the road back to North London wasn’t a forgone conclusion.
Besides, Wenger’s Arsenal had the German World Cup-winning Mesut Ozil in midfield from 2011 and in addition to the former Real Madrid man, the Gunners boss could also call in the services of Jack Wilshere, Santi Cazorla, Aaron Ramsey, and Abou Diaby. Why on earth would he need Fabregas?
It was to be a major blow for the club and ultimately, that decision cost Wenger a degree of credibility. His judgement looked erratic and unsound on this particular occasion. He was prepared to make a point despite the opportunity to re-employ a proven talent with top-flight qualities and experience.
Fabregas was still only 27 and was being sold for three million less than Arsene Wenger received from Barcelona. It was an unbeatable bargain, but the Frenchman made it known that he wasn’t interested and fans saw the unedifying sight of their former hero and club captain clutching a Chelsea shirt, flanked by Jose Mourinho.
For Mourinho, it was another chance to taunt Wenger and Arsenal but worse still, the club allowed it to happen. If proof were needed that Wenger was past his best, then this was surely it. Allowing another London club to pick up the former Arsenal midfielder was considered a form of treachery.
Wenger wasn’t to last much longer in his job and apart from a second-place finish to Leicester in 2016, Arsenal started their slide into their new role of inconsistency. Wenger faced an uncomfortable and unpleasant final four years at the helm in which he was unable to prevent the slide and perhaps, he has had time to reflect on this monumental clanger.
Would the signature of Fabregas have covered up the cracks and increased the chances of success? No, a single player can’t make up for the weaker elements of a team, but it would have made some difference to the fans and introduced a much-needed dose of warm nostalgia and the return of the feel-good factor.
Arsenal’s defence was in shambles in the latter years of Arsene Wenger, with Koscielny the best of the bunch and from that point of view, Fabregas, with all his undeniable qualities, would have been powerless to stop the rot. We’ll never know will we, but Arsenal fans are still sore that Wenger decided not to bring him home and that the little Spaniard enjoyed continued success for a London rival, often against Arsenal.
Erreur de jugement impardonnable, Monsieur Wenger.