It was the moment we had waited for. Cesc appeared at member’s day, smiling and waiving, received rapturously by the adoring Arsenal faithful. Barcelona had failed in their bid to sign him, and all that was left was for Cesc to put out some statement about his future. As I had been saying all along, this was the right and proper conclusion for Arsenal. And then today, something unexpected happened. Cesc released a statement so poorly written, so half-heartedly considered, so devoid of reassurances to Arsenal fans, so short on passion, that it made me rethink my entire approach to this saga. Suddenly, I’m not sure he should still wear the Arsenal shirt at all.
There are a variety of problems with Cesc’s statement. First, reread the statement in its entirety as it appears on the Arsenal official website:
“Firstly I would like to apologize to all the Arsenal fans for not speaking sooner about my future but I have not known what I was going to do until this moment. I cannot deny that joining a club like Barcelona was not an attractive move for me. This was the club where I learnt my football, it is my home town where my friends and family are and a club where I have always dreamed of playing. There are not many players in this world who would not want to play for Barcelona. I have had many conversations with Arsène Wenger both in person and over the phone over the last few months and although the content of those conversations will remain private, the conclusion is that Barcelona have had two formal offers rejected by Arsenal. I am a professional and I fully understand that it is Arsenal’s prerogative not to sell me. I owe a lot to the Club, manager and the fans and I will respect their decision and will now concentrate on the new season ahead with Arsenal. I can assure all the fans that now the negotiations have ended I will be 100 percent focused on playing for Arsenal. I am an Arsenal player and as soon as I step out on to the pitch, that is the only club I will be thinking about. I am looking forward to the start of the season and putting this speculation behind me.”
At first blush, it may seem a decent, honest, reassuring message. But I assure you, when you take even a moment to consider it, the statement is whole-heartedly disappointing. Perhaps the best part of the entire message is unintentional. “I cannot deny that joining a club like Barcelona was not an attractive move for me.” Nice double-negative. Technically, that means that moving to Barca WASN’T attractive for him. If I believed that’s what he meant, I might be less disturbed by the rest of this drivel.
Firstly, it’s important to realize that this message was written by Cesc’s “people.” Principally, I would imagine, by Darren Dein. While I would have preferred to see Cesc give a statement in person, a written statement would have sufficed. And I realize that it’s common in today’s sports world for statements like this to be crafted by agents and other operatives. But that’s not an excuse. If you let your representative’s write a message on your behalf, then you own the content of that message. This statement might as well have been intended for Barcelona and its fans, because it certainly does nothing for Arsenal.
The statement begins well-enough. Cesc apologizes for keeping quiet for so long. That’s welcome and necessary. Then comes the part that we were expecting. He explains why he loves Barcelona so dearly and why anyone in their right mind would want to play for them. In my opinion, he goes farther than is needed, but it does give the feeling of sincerity which is important. I have no problem with that aspect of the statement either. What follows is the part that’s so desperately disappointing.
Cesc says that he’s staying. He says that he spoke to Arsene Wenger and it was explained to him that offers by Barca were rejected. He is gracious enough to allow Arsenal the prerogative not to sell him. He finishes by saying that he will play hard, be 100% focused, and is looking forward to putting the speculation behind him. And that’s that. That’s his big commitment to Arsenal. Except there’s only one problem: he never commits to Arsenal. Rather, he says that he’s “100% focused on playing for Arsenal.”
Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but that’s not the same. He doesn’t say he’s 100% committed to Arsenal. He says that he’s 100% focused on playing for Arsenal. Essentially, rather than saying he’s committed to the club, he’s saying that he’s focused on the task at hand. That has the ring of displeasure to it. That suggests a person that’s disappointed with an outcome but realizes they’re stuck doing their job. i.e. “I’m not committed to my employer, but I’m focused on doing my job because that’s what I’m paid to do.”
Moreover, Cesc says that he will “respect” Arsenal’s decision and concentrate on the season ahead. “I respect your decision” is something you say to someone as they break-up with you. Or maybe it’s something you say when your boss turns you down for a promotion. But it’s not something you say when you’re pleased with an outcome. It reeks of disappointment. And saying that you’re going to concentrate on the season ahead is just another way to say you have a job to do. It’s something a squad player says when they don’t think they have a place in the first team. Not something you expect to hear from your captain.
But it’s not really what Cesc said that’s important. It’s what he didn’t say that’s disturbing. There’s no passion to this statement. There’s no headline quote like “I’m here to win trophies at Arsenal.” or “I love Arsenal, and although I have great admiration for Barcelona, Arsenal is my home now and I’m happy to be here.” In fact, he doesn’t once say that he’s happy at all. He doesn’t even suggest that he’s happy to be staying with Arsenal. He expresses no excitement for the coming term, no ambition to win anything, and no appreciation for his teammates. He doesn’t even mention his captaincy and the responsibilities associated with that hallowed position.
Cesc had every right to express his admiration for Barca in his statement. He had every right to say that there was a strong temptation to return to his home club. But in order to offset that sentiment, he needed to passionately commit to his current club, fans and teammates. He needed to provide a rally cry. He needed to tell us that when the first game kicks off we would see a player so driven to success in an Arsenal shirt that we would forget this ugliness ever took place. He basically just needed us to know that he loved us too. That being here wasn’t a silver medal. We needed to know that our captain, despite his affections for Barcelona, was proud to be Arsenal captain. And if he was writing that statement to us, he probably would have said those things. But he wasn’t.
Cesc’s statement was written for Barcelona. Period. It’s written for their fans. It says to them, in its own way, “I have to stay here for at least another season, and I’m a classy guy who fulfills his responsibilities, but I’m not laying out any ambitions here, and I’m not pledging any loyalty to this team.” That’s the reality. And it’s really sad. It’s sad because it doesn’t even sound like something Cesc would say. Those aren’t the words of the man who played against Barca with a broken leg. There’s none of his trademark passion and class. It’s cold and it’s calculating and it’s so typical of a football agent that it might as well have been written on Darren Dein’s letterhead.
Consider this for a moment. Cesc spent the entire summer with his friends from Barcelona. He won the World Cup with them. And after winning the world cup, at a moment when he could have been forgiven for forgetting where his loyalties should lie, he said this:
“All I can say is that this (World Cup victory) is for all the Arsenal players and fans, they are a world-class club. I am an Arsenal player and I am proud to be.”
WOW! There is more love, appreciation, passion and class in that statement than in the entire flaming pile of shit Darren Dein left on our doorstep this morning. He dedicated his victory to US and his teammates! Think about that. Right after winning the world cup with his Barca buddies, he had the love and consideration to say that. Right from his mouth. “I am an Arsenal player AND PROUD TO BE.” But with months of preparation, and a statement 10 times longer, he couldn’t reproduce one scintilla of that class? I don’t buy it. I don’t believe Cesc was right to let his “people” write his statement and I don’t think they did him any favors. But we have to be adults and when your representatives write something on your behalf, as I said before, you own it.
The fact is, I wanted Cesc to stay. I wanted him to stay because I believed that, although he had love for Barca, he had love for Arsenal as well. I believed that Arsenal was near and dear to his heart. I believed him when he made his post World Cup declaration. And I saw that love for Arsenal in the way he played last season. But if today’s statement represents the Cesc Fabregas that is staying at Arsenal, then I want nothing to do with him. If today’s statement is the best Cesc Fabregas can do, then it simply isn’t good enough for me. Hopefully he’ll make up for it with his performances. Now, that’s the only way he can win me back.