Analysing Cesc’s statement: does he believe in project Arsene?
“Firstly I would like to apologise to all the Arsenal fans for not speaking sooner about my future but I have not known what I was going to do until this moment.”
(An apology – pointedly not for wanting to leave but instead for the uncertainty. A good, clear start though.)
“I cannot deny that joining a club like Barcelona was not an attractive move for me.”
(Leave aside the fact that the above sentence gets so tangled in negatives that it appears to suggest he had no interest in Barcelona. It is an honest admission, admittedly one that could hardly be denied, but honest nonetheless.)
“This was the club where I learnt my football, it is my home town where my friends and family are and a club where I have always dreamed of playing. There are not many players in this world who would not want to play for Barcelona.”
(This is the explanation that suits both Cesc and Arsenal. Put crudely, he doesn’t have to say we were crap at the end of last season and we don’t have to acknowledge that same point.
My major question is: does Cesc believe in Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal project? Nothing in Cesc’s statement indicates that he shares the optimism of teammates such as RVP and Thomas Vermaelen. This is no criticism of Cesc: after the monumental effort he put in last season it must have been heartbreaking to watch from
Barcelona as we simply gave up.)
“I have had many conversations with Arsène Wenger both in person and over the phone over the last few months and although the content of those conversations will remain private, the conclusion is that Barcelona have had two formal offers rejected by Arsenal.”
(Interesting to note how for all the chatter and the supposed leaks, nobody appeared aware of a second bid being turned down. We now know through Barca’s web site that the second bid was £33 million. Simply not enough in my book and the player would do well to reflect how Barcelona were happy to see him express his desire to leave but seemoingly in no position to make a bid that stood any chance of success.)
“I am a professional and I fully understand that it is Arsenal’s prerogative not to sell me.”
(This, for me, is a crucial point. While my instinct is that freedom of labour is very important, Cesc signed a long term contract with us not very long ago and as he himself appears to admit, his desire to leave is borne purely out of preference rather than any great change in personal circumstances that might make a desire to leave more understandable.)
“I owe a lot to the Club, manager and the fans and I will respect their decision and will now concentrate on the new season ahead with Arsenal.”
(This is a really crucial point. Keeping Cesc will count for little or nothing unless he is able to concentrate fully and recapture the desire that so drove him last season. I do worry that it could be easier said than done.)
“I can assure all the fans that now the negotiations have ended I will be 100 percent focused on playing for Arsenal.”
(For how long? He should rule out the possibility of a January transfer and guarantee he will be at the club until next summer.)
“I am an Arsenal player and as soon as I step out on to the pitch, that is the only club I will be thinking about.
“I am looking forward to the start of the season and putting this speculation behind me.”
(While this hasn’t been much fun for us as fans, I suspect it’s been no bundle of fun for Cesc either. I can’t imagine he would have expressed his desire to leave unless he really believed a transfer was going to happen. That it hasn’t has left him in an awkward place.)
Can a guy, who everyone knows doesn’t want to be at a club, captain a club? Can a captain impress on the youngsters at a club what an honour it is to wear the shirt when they know he wishes he didn’t have to?
Those are hard questions to answer I think.
Arsene faces a big challenge to get Cesc’s head right. Cesc faces an equally big challenge to get his head right.
In one sense, it will be the biggest football challenge he has ever faced. But he will be conscious too that Barca’s interest this summer was on the back of an excellent 2009-10 season and that any future interest is unlikely to be unconditional.