Former Arsenal striker John Hartson believes the reason Arsene Wenger decided against re-signing Cesc Fabregas this summer was because it would have stunted the development of the club’s other promising midfielders.
An undoubted club legend, Fabregas notched up 98 assists and 57 goals in 303 games during his eight-season spell at Arsenal, before sealing a £25 million move back to Spain with Barcelona in August 2011.
When it became clear that the ex-Gunners captain would be leaving the Catalan giants this summer, after a somewhat frustrating stint, a return to the Emirates seemed liked the most plausible outcome, with a clause in his contract even allowing the club first-option on his signature.
However, Wenger would make the surprise decision not to re-sign his former skipper, with the Spanish international instead making the £30 million switch to London rivals Chelsea, much to the chagrin of fans, in a deal which has given the title hopes of Jose Mourinho’s side a major boost.
Fabregas himself said earlier this summer that was because of Mesut Ozil’s presence in the Arsenal lineup that a deal never materialised, but Hartson thinks the Frenchman was more concerned about taking away minutes from the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
‘My theory here is that the reason why Wenger didn’t go in for Fabregas is because of the development of Ramsey, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain and [Alexis] Sanchez – these players are all very, very similar in terms of what they do,’ he told BBC Radio 5Live.
‘Ramsey and Fabregas are both attack-minded players, who like to get forward and score goals. If you’re going to spend £30 million on Fabregas and reward him with astronomical wages, it means he then has to leave a very talented player out, and he doesn’t want to do that to someone like Ramsey, Wilshere or Oxlade-Chamberlain when he’s trying to push them forward in terms of their development.
‘So every week he would have to leave a big player out, which he might not want to do, and Fabregas is a player who needs to play every single game, so that’s the reason I feel that Wenger didn’t go in form him.
‘He’s top class and you could argue that you can’t have enough world class players, but that’s why I feel Wenger didn’t bring him back to the club.’
Starring in Monday’s 3-1 win against Burnley, with 89 completed passes and two assists, Fabregas has already been earning rave reviews at Chelsea and, if the 27-year-old does end up delivering another title to Stamford Bridge, then Wenger's decision is only going to come in for further criticism.