Ye olde Cesc Fabregas quandary; yes, I've gone there

Let me start this piece off with the following caveat; I HATE this topic.  I hate discussing it, I hate entertaining it, I hate conversations that have a habit of boiling themselves down to "what if we did/didn't" - football is fluid, and like all sports, all scenarios in them play out differently and there is no telling what would have actually happened if you did something you did not do, or if you didn't do something you in fact did.  However, in the case of Arsene Wenger refusing first rights on Cesc Fabregas this past summer, the question of the day (well, really, the season at this point) for so many has become whether or not it was the better part of wisdom that we opted to not bring him back to north London.

I will be the first to admit that I was firmly in the camp that I felt a move for Fabregas was not necessary.  For me, I felt the crafty Spaniard and Aaron Ramsey are far too like for like, and realistically if you play together in the same midfield tandem you'd be lacking in certain areas that leave you exposed.  However, if I had to do it all again, I would of brought Cesc back with open arms but (and this is where the bomb drops for many) I would not have spent money on Alexis Sanchez.

During the summer when the silly season finally hit full swing, Le Prof was adamant that we did not need Mr. Catalonia because (and I am sure I am not quoting exactly) "do you remember Gideon Zelalem?"  While the notion that Zelalem will have a place in the first-team in the long term is the correct one, surely this must have been Wenger's way of saying we did not want to spend the money on another creative midfielder because we have too many (a sentiment he has recently re-stated), but while I do not think I know more than Wenger despite the amount of experience I have, it's looking more and more like this was the wrong choice for a number of reasons.

What makes it so painful is not that he's in a Chelsea kit, but that he's not in an Arsenal one...we needed him more than we realized (image courtesy of Chelsea's official Facebook page)
Everyone knows how lacking we are when it comes to real quality options in the center of the park...truthfully, the buck stops at Ramsey for me, as while Jack Wilshere is a good player, I personally think people rate him a few grades above what he actually is simply because of the notion that he loves the badge and he works hard - but beyond that work is little substance, a player who has not learned how to consistently tackle well, and someone who is more concerned with always trying to re-create his goal against Norwich last season than someone who is interested in progressing in all areas of his game as a footballer.  After them you have Flamini, Arteta, Diaby and Coquelin (I've not included Rosicky here, because he's really a number of too many on the books, which is another topic) - now you see why Ramsey is the only midfielder we have who I truly rate or think is worthy of first-team selection.

Many have debated time and time again that we need a holding midfielder, and I am one of those people, but my friend Jake made a very interesting point to me that most (myself included) have not considered - just how many true holding midfielder are there these days? With the exception of a handful, most midfielders who are not forward thinking are often box-to-box midfielders who just happen to have the ability to control the center of the park via their work rate or ability to control the tempo of the match - insert Cesc here, and you actually have what we have been missing.

It's a tough job to try to replace the legacies of Patrick Vieira, Emmanuel Petit or Gilberto Silva, but despite how good they all were defensively and off the ball, they all (though less so with GS) were more box-to-box rather than someone who just wanted to sit in the hole between the midfield and the defense.  Sure, Cesc's creativity and ability to dictate a match on his terms are brilliant, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone that would argue that not only is he not one of the best central players in the world, but that he fights just as hard or harder than anyone we currently have on the books at the club.

Why can't we just clone Emmanuel Petit? Whomever is in charge of the cloning program worldwide, I'd like to have a word with them...privately...(image courtesy of Arsenal's official Facebook page)
Naturally it is likely that many will not agree with the sentiments I have put fourth here in this our beloved public forum (I certainly encourage and hope people will debate about this together as well as with me), but despite what I felt since the summer transactions, bringing Cesc back to the club would have and should have been more than just a move in an arms race, where if we have him Chelsea do not...I genuinely feel we are in a position where we needed him, or someone very much like him at the very least.

Slightly more shocking to many I have discussed this with previously, was my admission that Alexis Sanchez was not a player we should have spent money on...and despite my admiration and love for him as a player, neither was Mesut Ozil - for me, both were surely luxury buys that did a satisfactory job of glossing over what the club has needed all along, the right sort of central midfielder.

Arsenal are never a club that will struggle to create chances, and just the season prior to our acquisition of Ozil, Santi Cazorla was brilliant in the number 10 role for us and was voted player of the year by the fans.  Now, many will argue that when a player of Ozil's quality comes along that you cannot pass him up, but why should that be a legitimate way of thinking?  Why spend large amounts of money on a player you don't NEED?  Cazorla, a season after his debut season and having found his footing on new shores and at a new club, surely would have created just as many chances as Ozil did last was that truly a wise decision?

When it comes to Sanchez, did Wenger not keep Joel Campbell on the books at the club (he's still not been trusted yet) but also have Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to call on?  Correct me if I am wrong, but every time Ox has featured for us either at the start or coming off the bench, he's been a match changer for us - once Sanchez came in, Ox's chances at the club automatically diminished, and once Walcott is fully fit, that downward trend will only continue.

I do not want to lose track and go off topic in a tangent here, and the debate about Sanchez and Ozil (and if they were luxury purchases) is another one entirely, but it does highlight the fact that over the last two summers, we have spent in positions where the players brought in were nice additions, but not anywhere near close to being necessary.  Going back to what my friend Jake said, if you take into consideration the notion that there are few if any true holding midfield players left in this world, Cesc would have been a brilliant option under the circumstances.  He is far more capable at sitting deeper in an effective manner than anyone we have in midfield, he can control the tempo just as efficiently, and the defensive side of his game (that is much improved) would probably be the best out of all our midfield options - we coughed the ball up on this one.

Finally, when it comes to young Zelalem being part of our future midfield, there is no question that the boy is on course to mold into the type of midfielder we are truly craving (that deep-lying tempo controlling type of midfielder, you Cesc), but probably the biggest mistake of all when it comes to not bringing Fabregas back is this; if we want him to become that type of player...who better to learn from than the player he is supposedly destine to replace?  I'll just leave that elephant in the room and be on my way now.

Andrew Thompson is a contributing writer for The Modern Gooner, Outside Of The Boot and We Are Hooligans - follow him on Twitter @AFCBvB1410