Whilst that is a sensational, albeit unlikely, prospect for Gunners fans – the return of the prodigal son to his North London home from home following his departure to Barcelona, his hometown club, back in 2011 – it does beg the question: where would he play?
The Spaniard emerged through the Gunners ranks as a 16-year-old back in 2003 to develop into one of the finest midfielders on the continent, the Arsenal captain and creative nucleus.
However, since his departure, Arsenal brought in Mikel Arteta and Santi Cazorla – both Spaniards with similar skillsets to the former skipper – and with the continued development of young Jack Wilshere, made almost in Fabregas’ image by manager Arsene Wenger, there would be substantial competition for places in Wenger’s midfield trio.
Before Cazorla’s arrival last summer, Arteta had functioned as the attacking creative architect of that trio, with either Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky partnering him, and Alex Song behind them in the holding and most defensive midfield role, protecting the back four to enable Arteta to move freely and support the forwards.
However, since Song’s departure to join Fabregas at Barcelona, Arteta assumed his role as the holding midfielder whilst Cazorla has predominantly provided the attacking impetus from midfield with Wilshere returning from injury to alternate with Ramsey and the perpetually injured Rosicky and Abou Diaby.
Cazorla is the most flexible of all of them – he can operate in wide areas as we have seen more recently with him deployed on either flank, although his effectiveness is somewhat blunted when he is moved out wide.
Should Fabregas happen to make a return to the Gunners squad this summer, would he prefer to function as a ‘false 9’ the way he has sometimes for both the Catalans and the Spanish national team?
With Arsenal’s current lack of genuinely dangerous alternatives to Olivier Giroud who is at present their only recognized out-and-out centre-forward, perhaps Wenger would consider adapting his 4-3-3 system to bring Fabregas into the team.
It is certainly a tantalizing proposition – the possibility of a link-up between Fabregas, Cazorla, Wilshere, and Arteta. Whilst Wenger has done his best to replace the former captain I think most Arsenal fans would still agree that the Gunners’ attacking play has lacked real verve and tenacity – the Arsenal we used to be in awe of for their tikka-tacka and penetrative attacking football have been a little ‘under the weather’ for the past couple of seasons since Fabregas’ departure.
Both Fabregas and Samir Nasri’s departure really dulled their play and they haven’t looked as sharp and constantly dangerous since, even last season with Robin van Persie.
Presently, as their rather dull and rudimentary performance at Loftus Road last weekend demonstrated aptly, Arsenal have a tendency to pass the ball around and around and around, keeping possession but rarely threatening to score.
Arsenal miss Fabregas more than they miss any other player that has left them in the last 5 years – they have adequately replaced the goals of Van Persie, but even with the arrival of Arteta and Cazorla and the return of Wilshere to fitness, the Gunners still don’t quite look like Arsenal; not the Arsenal Cesc Fabregas came into, at any rate.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald