It’s been three years since Arsenal allowed Chelsea to sign Cesc Fabregas.
The Gunners had first refusal on the Spaniard, meaning that Barcelona were obligated to contact them before anyone else. Had Arsenal wanted him, they would have been able to bring him back.
Fabregas has confirmed this himself, and has said he would have liked to return to Arsenal. Arsene Wenger, though, opted not sign him because he felt he had enough attacking players.
Wenger said back in 2014: “No because when he left we signed [Mesut] Ozil to bring in an attacking player. We have Cazorla, Wilshere, Ramsey, and Chamberlain. They are all attacking players. We were not in need of buy attacking players.
“It makes sense if you look at the balance of the team. I think that is a decision which is easy to understand.”
Fabregas would go on to sign for Chelsea and play an instrumental part in their 2014/15 Premier League title win. He would then be involved in Chelsea’s big meltdown the following season, before being a bench player in their 2016/17 title win. Overall, joining Chelsea has been a wise decision for him, I feel.
Mesut Ozil, the principle reason why Fabregas didn’t return, has won three FA Cups in that time, but hasn’t come close to the Premier League title. That doesn’t mean Arsenal were wrong not to sign Fabregas, however. Even now, with him winning trophies at Chelsea, I believe that was the right decision to make.
The cold logic behind it was that Arsenal simply had no room for him. As players, there’s little to separate Fabregas and Ozil. They’re both excellent playmakers who thrive in the number 10 role. Neither are as effective from deeper or wide positions. Hence, to get the best out of either of them, they needed to be played in a more advanced central role.
There was some thought that Fabregas could have played as a central midfielder behind Ozil. However, as his recent performance against Arsenal in the 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge demonstrated, he does not have the defensive quality to play there consistently.
For all the lofted passes, he’s a liability defensively, in my opinion. If Arsenal are lacking in that department with Ozil in the side, imagine what having Ozil and Fabregas together would have been like.
Had he been signed, I think we would have realistically be questioning the current state of our midfield two and wondering where we could put Fabregas in the starting line-up. Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has encountered such an issue, knowing there’s no real spot for him in his 3-4-2-1 formation but needing to play him anyway due to his quality.
There’s an argument for adding quality players to the squad for depth, but a player as inflexible as Fabregas would have created more problems than solved, I think. Wenger’s decision to stick with his attacking options was, ultimately, a wise one.