Some Questions Asked at Graz and a Defense of Cesc

Arsenal comfortably dispatched Sturm Graz 3-0 in Austria today in a relatively quiet and unimpressive pre-season display. Nasri bagged a brace and Lansbury delivered the third to account for the scoring. Nasri’s performance was probably the highlight of the first half, but the most notable aspect of the first 45 minutes was some worrying defending from the Gunners.

Nasri opened the scoring with a lovely low shot from the edge of the area after Chamakh miscontrolled a pass and it fell to his right boot. Unfortunately miscontrolled passes were the order of the day for our new Moroccan front-man. Arsenal’s second came from Nasri again. This time he curled a free-kick over the wall and into the net from 20-yards out. The keeper probably showed him too much of goal, but the shot was well struck. That was all the scoring before half-time. Arsenal had been the better side, but Graz had created several chances thanks to some slipshod defending.

The second half saw Arsenal take greater control of the match and Graz rarely threatened. As expected Arsenal made wholesale changes in the second half and JET was certainly the standout of the new arrivals. Lansbury had a relatively easy finish for Arsenal’s third after JET made some nice moves on the edge of the area and maintained his composure to find Lansbury in space just outside the six yard box. There was more nice play from JET and a few close calls for Theo, but no further scoring before the final whistle. A 3-0 win over a decent Sturm Graz side is a good result, but there were certainly some “teachable” moments for Arsenal’s defenders.

It’s clear that Djourou is still getting into playing shape and he was caught out on far too easily on several occasions, particularly in the first half. Graz created a few too many clear scoring opportunities for the boss’ liking early in the match, although the hosts did fade dramatically as the game wore on. Arsenal defenders were caught playing very square at times and Graz were able to easily play balls in behind the defense. Against the pace and finishing quality of premier league teams, that could certainly prove fatal.

Some of the youngsters deserve praise for their participation today. Nordveit was solid and JET made an outstanding appearance in the second half. JET looks like a mountain of a young man and he displayed some excellent technique to go with his physical attributes. He’s often criticized for his inconsistence and lack of application but his work rate was excellent today, and as a 19-year old there’s certainly time for him to come good. Consistency comes with experience and considering his possible upside, it would seem wise to be patient with JET. Whether he will feature for the first team this season is difficult to say because of the fierce competition for places in attack. Having said that, I expect that we will see him in the two domestic cup competitions at least.

It’s good to have the Sturm Graz match behind us but we’re going to have to maintain our focus and composure as we prepare to play 3rd tier Austrian side SC Neusiedl 1919 on Tuesday. If we don’t bang in ten goals while keeping a clean sheet it will be a massive disappointment.

That’s all the news at the moment, and it’s been difficult to get any word from Wenger’s post match comments. Hopefully there’ll be more from him later. I imagine he’ll announce the two world-class CBs and experienced GK that are arriving any day now. But for now I want to briefly touch on the Cesc Fabregas debate.

It seems that many supporters are disgusted by Cesc’s actions this summer and would actually prefer to see him leave now. I simply don’t agree with that viewpoint. As I see it, there are two distinct issues here. The first issue is the loyalty of a player to their club. It’s the question of whether a player must pledge fealty to their employer and go out of their way to make the supporters feel that the player loves their club. The second issue is the performance of the player on the pitch. For some, the first issue is every bit as important as the second. For me, that’s naive. Players will never love their club as much as the fans do. That’s reality. They’ll go where the money is, where the weather’s better, where the nightlife is more exciting, or in this case, they’ll go home.

Cesc Fabregas was always going back to Barcelona. We have always known that. But during the time he has spent at Arsenal he has been a model professional, not to mention developing into one of the best creative midfielders in the world. Cesc has never publicly agitated for a move back to Barca. He has never tried to force Arsenal’s hand. He even signed a contract extension knowing that it might make it more difficult for him to return to Barcelona. So what is Cesc guilty of doing?

Some say he’s guilty by his silence. He has allowed everyone from players, to executives to relatives speak on his behalf without making the effort to silence them. If you believe that he would be able to silence them, then there’s some truth to that argument. But Cesc is in a difficult position. He may be completely committed to Arsenal today, but he also wants to go back to Barca at some point. If he goes out of his way to silence his future teammates, he might damage his relationship with the club he hopes to someday join. That might seem a specious argument, but it’s also a bit naive to believe that Cesc could just come out and tell his friends and future teammates to “shut-up.”

To be fair, when Cesc has spoken, he’s been careful to say the right things. He hasn’t been perfect, but some of his comments have shown his deep respect for Arsenal and its supporters. Face facts, if Cesc didn’t have respect for Arsenal, he could force a move. He hasn’t done that. He’s not Adebayor. Moreover, he said publicly that his conversation with Arsene Wenger was the best conversation of his life. The best of his life! Consider that he probably told Arsene he was thinking of going back to Barca. Arsene probably told him that he’d prefer Cesc to be patient and to trust him. I think we can all agree that Wenger did NOT say “Okay Cesc, off you go.” And yet, Cesc called it the greatest conversation of his life. So it’s fair to say that Cesc knew he was likely staying at Arsenal and that he clearly wasn’t devastated about it.

Even if you still don’t agree that Cesc has publicly handled this issue properly, that still doesn’t address the issue of his contribution on the pitch. I want Arsenal to win trophies. To win trophies we need talent. And as far as I’m concerned there’s no talent at Arsenal on par with Cesc Fabregas. With Cesc on the pitch we can win trophies. I believe that. Moan all you like about what’s happened in the press, but I don’t believe it will have the slightest impact on what happens on the pitch.

And don’t tell me that he can’t be captain because he didn’t say the right things to the press. He is well liked by his teammates, he’s a world cup winner, and he commands respect. Regardless of his flirtation with Barca, players will follow Cesc’s lead. He plays as hard as you can play. Remember, this is a man that took a penalty kick with a broken leg … AGAINST BARCELONA! Remember how he single handedly rescued us against Aston Villa with the greatest substitute appearance in recent memory. And he was injured at the time. Cesc only knows how to play one way and that’s with all his heart and soul. He’s a well grounded young man and if he has to wait for his time at Barca then I have no doubt that he’ll make the most of the time he has left at Arsenal.

In today’s sports world, where players abandon teams at the drop of a hat (some even do it live on ESPN…), the best you can ask for is a collection of talented, committed players who give your team a chance to win. Cesc is a committed, talented player who makes Arsenal better every time he steps on the pitch. If you don’t want Cesc around, then you probably don’t want Arshavin either. After a while, it’s harder to find players you’re willing to keep than players you’d rather see leave. When I look at our starting eleven this season the first name that I’ll hope to see is Cesc Fabregas. If I see him, I’ll know we have a chance to win. If you still aren’t satisfied then you can look at our lineup each week and hope to see Diaby or Denilson playing instead of Cesc. Forgive me if I don’t join you.

I realize this is a difficult topic and one that elicits passionate disagreement. These are my opinions and they are open to criticism. But I am Arsenal through and through, as we all are. No matter what happens with Cesc, nothing changes that.

About Yankee Gunner

Loyal Arsenal Supporter, Obscure Television Personality
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