According to reports which have since been denied, Arsenal playmaker Santi Cazorla is wanted back in Spain by Atletico Madrid as Manchester United attempt to swoop for former Gunners captain Cesc Fabregas.
Whilst Atletico Madrid club president Enrique Cerezo has officially denied the club are interested in bringing the Spaniard back to his homeland, it does make for an interesting dilemma.
Meanwhile, Manchester United have reportedly upped their initial £25 million offer to Barcelona for Cesc Fabregas, Arsenal’s former skipper and midfield playmaker.
It’s purely speculation, of course, but hypothetically I wonder whether Gunners fans would keep Cazorla over a potential Fabregas return. I repeat, it’s hypothetical, but which one of the two players would Arsenal prefer?
Fabregas wasn’t just a player, or even just a captain, he was and remains a fans’ favourite and a legend. Even though he left and returned to his boyhood club in Catalonia, he is still very well regarded in North London.
Arsenal fans would of course love to see him back at the Emirates in a red and white shirt again but, as I’ve outlined previously, he has been replaced since his departure in 2011 – Arsene Wenger brought in Mikel Arteta, initially intended to fill his void, and then last summer brought in Santi Cazorla.
There wouldn’t be an obvious requirement for Fabregas, unless the preference of the fans or the manager would be (hypothetically) to drop one of the other Spaniards from the midfield trio as presumably no one wants to see Jack Wilshere left out of the team.
So, if we forget momentarily about what Fabregas meant and still means to Arsenal in an abstract sense, and we purely compare the two players statistically, we might find Arsenal are actually better off with their lot.
I’m going to compare Fabregas’ stats from his last full season at Arsenal because I think it’s unfair to compare his stats with Barcelona in La Liga as the Premier League is a very different kind of challenge and Barcelona are far technically superior to the majority of other teams, plus Fabregas doesn’t get as many games as Cazorla does at Arsenal.
Okay, so Premier League goals – Cazorla scored 12, Fabregas scored 3 in 2010/11. As for assists, Cazorla made 12 last term, Fabregas made 13. Negating the marginal one-assist difference, Cazorla actually functions more effectively in the same role Fabregas used to. Cazorla’s goal tally is far superior. Even if you compare the minutes per goal ratio to ensure fairness and accuracy, Cazorla scored once every 275 minutes on average compared to Fabregas’ 626 minutes.
What can’t, however, be measured or accounted for is, of course, the leadership qualities of Fabregas along with his mental attributes that I suspect far outweigh the stats.
Arsenal lost 4 games in 2010/11 with Fabregas in the line up and 4 without him. With Cazorla, Arsenal lost 7 last term and they never played a single match in the league without his involvement.
That is one way of measuring what Cesc Fabregas meant to Arsenal. Fabregas actually had a much greater effect on team determination that Jack Wilshere does – without Wilshere last term, the Gunners lost just one league game but with him they still lost 6.
Again, it’s hypothetical, but I think if Arsenal had to choose between Cazorla and a Fabregas return, deep down the majority would wave Santi on his way and bring back the prodigal son. For the grit and focus he brought to the team, he’d be worth his weight in gold, despite the fact he scores fewer goals and makes fewer assists.
I might be wrong but I think football fans are more sentimental than they are objective and I think they care more about characters than they do about statistics. Clubs rarely make statues and fans rarely make banners with statistics on them.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald