Wenger makes a statement with Fabregas appointment
Arsene Wenger’s appointment of Cesc Fabregas as captain is more than just a strategic move, designed to ward off Barcelona attempts to recover the one that got away. The decision also says something significant about the way Wenger sees Arsenal Football Club.
Wenger has changed the youth system, the players’ diets and the style of play and he has now appointed a captain made in the image of another gifted Catalan, Josep Guardiola i Sala.
The first time I was in a room listening to Wenger speak was after a Champions League game between Barcelona and Arsenal in 1999. Arsenal had just managed to claim a 1-1 draw, despite being comprehensively outplayed in the first half, and Wenger was extolling the virtues of Barca’s then captain.
“Guardiola was technically perfect,” he said, with something of a “purr” in his voice. “In the first half we tried to close him down to stop him using the ball but that didn’t work. In the second we just had to stop the ball getting to him in the first place.”*
Here’s what Wenger said when asked about the position of captain this week: “I don’t believe too much in leadership. I believe more in good passing than a guy who jumps around with his hands in the air and plays the leader.”
In England, where the captaincy often goes to the most ‘inspirational’ player, Wenger’s words probably sound strange but, thinking back nine years, I can’t help feeling Fabregas, a ball-playing midfielder who commands respect by the way he plays and leads by example, is the captain Wenger has wanted all along.
And if the move helps him recover his outstanding form of last season, and keeps Barcelona at bay for a year or two more, so much the better.
PHOTO: Gallas and Fabregas attend a team training session in London Colney, Nov 24, 2008. REUTERS/ Eddie Keogh
* I paraphrase, of course. It was a memorable quote, but nine years is a long time…