Why Cesc has earned the right to join Barca

Very soon the unthinkable may become reality. Our captain fantastic, talismanic heartbeat and outstanding performer may jump ship and head home to a land of sunbathing, tapas and silverware. His decision to allegedly ask for Arsenal to enter negotiations with the Spanish champions smacks of surrender, giving up and packing the North London trophy hunt in prematurely.
However if he does leave, and at this point I must reiterate that he hasn’t gone yet, when the ensuing dust settles all of us will realise that Cesc has been playing above the calibre of his peers for a number of years now and has earned the right to seek pastures new. If it pains us to watch Diaby stroll languidly around the edge of the penalty box, or Almunia flap at yet another routine shot, think about how that would get to Cesc who, in looking around to seek comfort, instead meets the blank, expressionless gaze of Mikael Silvestre.
Then, on flicking on Sky Sports that night he sees Barca, his boyhood club, Spanish, European and World champions, extending their lead at the top of the table, led by his national teammates, best friends, and managed by his lifelong idol. We love him, but who can blame him. Therefore, after consoling peers, throwing mobile phones at walls and whipping away tears, it will be time to look to the future, a Cesc-less future, but one we must face, and with hope.
I say this because despite his brilliance in every single way, Cesc is by no means irreplaceable. Vieira arguably proved to be irreplaceable, as holding midfielders have come and gone since without leaving any distinguishable mark. Bergkamp, and what he brings to any side also falls into that category yet with Cesc, finding a suitable replacement need not be an impossible task. In terms of what Cesc gives to the team with regards to creativity, imagination and flair, Nasri arguably possesses each of these attributes, though perhaps in a ‘lite’ version.
Watching Samir Nasri either leaves you unbelievably frustrated at his gradual isolation, or astounded at his subtlety and ingenuity. Both have been exemplified at times this season, but nothing has been more telling of his raw talent than when he picked his way through 3 Porto defenders to smash the ball past the bewildered keeper in this year’s Champions League Last 16. Although often operating from a wider position, he certainly has both the attributes and potential to step into Cesc’s shoes, a role he filled with mixed results towards the back-end of last season yet one which he could well make his own.
Aaron Ramsey is another potential alternative if his injury doesn’t hamper his rapid development. Prior to that horrific tackle, Ramsey was beginning to live up to his £5 million pound price-tag and was enjoying undoubtedly his best season in an Arsenal shirt. Nevertheless, Ramsey is a different player to Cesc, flourishing in a deeper role by enjoying the liberty of creating attacking moves from an archetypal central midfield position. Cesc was indeed once a player of this mould, yet his best seasons have been when he has been given far more attacking freedom, either backed up by Flamini or Song, and as a result scoring a fantastic amount of goals.
As of yet, it would seem Ramsey may not quite have the necessary qualities to be able to be such an offensive weapon, yet his development may mirror that of Cesc, and in three to four years he may even be the subject of a £50 million bid from Cardiff. Fran Merida is also worth a mention because, if he himself rejects the lure of Spain, he may be the best candidate for developing into a Cesc-type sort of player.
On joining Arsenal in 2005, ironically from Barcelona and even more ironically aided by Cesc’s agent, he was immediately being tipped as the next Fabregas. It is unlikely such widespread opinion would have been merely founded on a similarity in looks and origin, and judging by what we have seen of the Spaniard so far, such foresight may not be that far off. A brilliant goal against Liverpool in the Carling Cup and a more routine one at the Reebok gave us a taster of his potential, yet for this to be realised to the full with such immediacy may be a step too far.
External replacements are, however unlikely, also a viable option, and if Wenger does dip into the funds Ivan Gazidis has so explicitly revealed are available, he may now need to add Central Midfield dynamo to his shopping list of Goalkeeper and Centre-Half. If, as has been rumoured, Yaya Toure checks in as part of the Cesc deal, then his arrival may prove to be an apt replacement, although Toure is of a more Vieira-esque mould, of which we seem to have already found in Alex Song, and thus his arrival looks unlikely.
Another rumoured replacement is Mikel Arteta, a brilliantly creative player who I believe would flourish at the Emirates, or perhaps even Jimmy Bullard, looking for an escape from Hull, and possessing bags of quality, hunger and Englishness. Personally however I wouldn’t bank against Wenger looking after his rapidly growing transfer kitty by instead dedicating another 4 years to developing one of the afore mentioned gooners, a decision which would be a highly costly one.
Finally, dare we forget the fact that Cesc is of course our captain, and so inevitably Arsene will have to elect his 4th permanent captain in as many years. Cesc is the sort of captain who leads by example, and in being the longest serving and most important player at the club, he was a perfect choice to take over from Gallas in 2009. With this in mind, Robin Van-Persie seems to be the most suitable option to replace Cesc as official armband bearer. Robin, when free from injury, continues to show his astounding talent, whilst the Red and White of Arsenal now seems to be coursing through his veins as he is never found wanting when it comes to passion, desire or telling his teammates what’s what.
However, a potential spanner in the works could be Sol Campbell, who pledged his short-term future to Arsenal yesterday amid speculation regarding a possible move to Celtic. Sol personifies desire, leadership and influence, and his performances since returning to the side have pleasantly surprised even Arsene Wenger. Sol could help to re-galvanize a club which will be heavily hit by the crushing loss of one of the greatest players this division has ever seen. It certainly is a loss, an amendable one, but inescapably devastating.

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