Let's talk about Cesc
With Cesc Fabregas apparently pining for a return to Barcelona, what approach should Arsenal adopt?
Last Updated: 20/05/10 9:00am
Arsene Wenger is unlikely to have had few worse days at work than the one he is reported to have endured on Tuesday.
While still getting to grips with the fact that he has just overseen another trophy-less season at Arsenal, the fifth in a row, the Frenchman has now been rocked by the news that his talismanic skipper is keen to jump ship.
It has long been accepted that Cesc Fabregas would one day return to his Catalan roots by securing a move to Barcelona, allowing him to live out a childhood dream of turning out for the hosts at Camp Nou.
However, many imagined that such a switch would occur at some point in the distant future, with most hardcore Gooners keen to avoid contemplating such a fate with their club still in somewhat of a transitional period.
Admittedly that period is now beginning to drag on a bit, but patience must be the order of the day at Emirates Stadium as a side which is still relatively young continues to find their feet among the European and Premier League heavyweights.
Unfortunately for Arsenal, given the events of the last few days, any hope they had of fulfilling their undoubted promise any time soon could be about to be blown out of the water.
Fabregas is integral to their plans going forward, and they know it.
He may only be 23 but he has matured into a world class performer, capable of winning games by himself and inspiring superhuman efforts from those around him.
Such talent is hard to find and once you are fortunate enough to have a player of that calibre on your books it is imperative you do all you can to keep him there.
To put the situation into context, imagine you have the most beautiful wife on your street - obviously you are not going to just let her walk out of the front door and move in with the flash Harry across the road, you are going to fight to keep her affections.
At present Arsenal appear to be fighting a losing battle in their efforts to prevent Fabregas' wandering eye from being caught by a Spanish Senorita who possess more money than sense and can boast a bucketload of shiny mementos in her trophy cabinet.
Perhaps the Gunners need to accept that their time enjoying the bounty of Fabregas' talent is up, appreciate that they got good service out of him and accept that if he wants to move on there is little they can do to stop him.
After all, they are the ones holding the stronger hand here. They can dictate to Barcelona exactly how much they want for their midfield maestro and if a bidding war breaks out, all the better.
Reports suggest that a bid of between £40-50million could soon be winging its way to North London, with Barca accepting that they will need to dig deep in order to tempt Arsenal into a sale.
Such figures, in the present market, appear reasonable and there is no doubt the Gunners board will have to consider their options long and hard should such an offer by forthcoming.
On the one hand you are selling off your prized asset, club captain and potential future World Player of the Year.
On the other, you are making a very healthy return on a player you snapped up for next to nothing and can use the funds to strengthen in other areas.
It has also been mooted that Barca could throw Yaya Toure into the mix as a makeweight in any move for Fabregas, and his inclusion would certainly help to soften the blow.
The Ivorian may be a different type of midfielder to the man he would be replacing, but he would add much-needed steel to the Gunners' spine and at 27 years old would still be a sound investment for the future.
Wenger could then be given any money generated by a sale to work on other areas of his team.
A new goalkeeper is essential, but the likes of Robert Green and Manuel Neuer will not come cheap, while there is also a need to stock up at the other end of the field.
Marouane Chamakh is on his way in from Bordeaux as a free agent, but another striker of proven ability would not go amiss.
Arsenal could also look to counter the loss of Fabregas by bringing in a player of a similar mould, helping to ensure the playmaking department remains fully stocked.
Mikel Arteta has been mentioned in the past and the Everton man is more than capable of filling the void left by his fellow countryman - and he would cost a fraction of the price.
Wenger, unsurprisingly, also has a penchant for Gallic flair, so a further raid on Bordeaux to take Yoann Gourcuff may not be out of the question.
Having quickly run through a list of only a few possible options available to the Gunners, it appears as though selling Fabregas may not be as bad an idea as first thought.
Cashing in on one player to make room for three more makes good business sense, and Arsenal are renowned for their prudent approach.
In the past they have never been afraid to take advantage of a situation when it arises, with big money brought in for Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira when the time was right.
Admittedly the Gunners were able to enjoy the best that pair had to offer while they were at their peak, something it could be claimed Fabregas is yet to reach, but the basic principle is the same.
At times tough decisions have to be made, with the long-term future of the club more important than playing hardball over a player who has no desire to stick around anyway.
Few dared imagine life without Vieira running the midfield or Henry scoring goals for fun, but the Gunners have coped just fine in their absence and will continue to develop over the coming years.
You can also point to the example of Nicolas Anelka - who was brought into the youth ranks while still in his teens, helped the club reach a certain level, was sold on at an overinflated price, and never really replicated the standards he displayed during his time with Arsenal after leaving the club.
Yes, keeping hold of Fabregas would be their preferred choice, with it painfully apparent that he is the jewel in a crown requiring a bit of polishing.
But, £50million is a fair old wedge and there is little to no point forcing a player to stay against his wishes - he will not perform as well, will cause unrest in the camp, and all the hard work which has been put in over recent years could start to unravel.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of all this talk of mega money moves to Camp Nou is the growing trend of players upping sticks to go and play in the Primera Liga.
Cristiano Ronaldo threw his dummy out the pram enough times that Manchester United eventually agreed to sell him to Real Madrid, while speculation continues to suggest that the likes of Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Carlos Tevez remain on the radar at Santiago Bernabeu.
The Spanish top flight is now home to THE best players in the world - Lionel Messi, Ronaldo, Kaka, Xavi etc.
Were Fabregas to join them it would be difficult to argue that the Premier League was not allowing itself to be usurped by continental rivals.
There is, however, no guarantee that such a move will come about and in a few weeks' time the whole thing might have blown over and everyone can get on with their lives again.
I would not hold my breath if I were an Arsenal supporter, but you never know!