Its been a helluva opening weekend in the Premiership, but maybe not for the reason that most people expected. However, first up is the long awaited news was confirmed today that el Capitano Cesc has re-signed for his homeclub Barca for around £35m quid, which on any view deserves top billing. However, trying to balance my feelings about Cesc at this stage is not easy. Obviously, no-one who has anything to do with Arsenal has much time for Barca. The graceless bastards publicly court our best players every Summer and Cesc now joins the esteemed list of Wenger players off to the Catalan giants. By my count Overmars, Petit, Hleb, Henry and Cesc will have cost them total fees of around £90m, give or take the odd peseta. Staggering really.
And in many ways, Cesc fits quite nicely into that list. He was clearly better than Hleb, almost certainly better than Petit, but then I have to pause for thought when you get to Overmars and Henry. I think I will just put him ahead of Stumpy and not quite up there with Thierry. So there you go. Cesc Fabregas - the second best player we have sold to Barca. The main difference is that this one was always going to happen. Cesc was simply desperate to go back and in the end, I think we are all just pleased the soap opera is now over. Until next Summer.
Not the eulogy you were thinking of? Maybe not. And Cesc's stats for Arsenal might suggest more. Certainly 57 goals and 100 assists in 303 appearances is very impressive indeed. So why the limp priase? Cesc is a lovely footballer, truly a modern day midfielder that will grace almost any stage, but in trying to rank him among the greats, I feel there are certain limitations that he was never likely to overcome. Now I will start by saying that Cesc gets into most people's list of great players, but its never been clear where he plays. Defensively, Cesc was always pretty poor. You might say it just wasn't in his soul, and occasionally he put in a good defensive shift, but that was a relatively odd occasion. Most of the time it didn't matter, as Cesc was so good technically, but often against our biggest rivals, it often did. I think Darren Fletcher had his number, as did a number of the Chelsea trolls (Mikel in particular), neither of them on a par with Cesc in footballing terms, but nonetheless able to dim his light sufficiently. In the battlefield of premiership football, Cesc was only occasionally able to make his technique win the battle against a physically superior opponent. I think it is telling that he often had to be deployed almost upfront for Spain.
Harsh you say? Maybe. I just remember long periods of the 06/07 and 07/08 seasons, which I think were Cesc's best, in admiration of what Gilberto and Flamini were doing behind him in midfield, giving Cesc almost a free role in midfield behind two strikers, which was something he rarely enjoyed in the last few seasons. Good midfielders like Cesc need runners to pass to and given that the current crop of RVP, Arshavin and Nasri were more likely to be coming towards him last season that going away, its not an easy task.
So why the slightly limp praise for such a great player. Firstly, its the disappointment that he has gone. No Doubt. Secondly however, its a genuine optimism that Jack Wilshere is going to really shine in the next 12 months. And hopefully the next 12 years. Unlike Cesc, Jack has thighs like treetrunks. And more importantly, unlike Cesc, Wilshere is not from Barcelona.
Indeed, name the last English player to play at the top level in Spain, Germany, Italy or France. Struggling? Probably Jermaine Pennant's 09-10 season at Real Zaragoza. Before that, I reckon its Beckham at Real Madrid. English players do not fall far from the tree. So good luck at Barca Cesc, I hope you get off the bench more regularly than your old mate Hleb.
Speaking of English players, I simply cannot move on before venting some spleen about Joey Barton. What an utter sub-cretinuous species of neanderthal that man is. Ok, he gets to start on a small piece of high ground because Alex Song did a very stupid thing by stamping on him (3 game ban coming from FA headquarters shortly), but what then followed with Gervinho was some of the most embarrassing scenes I have ever seen on a football field. His ability to decide to teach Gervinho an impromptu lesson on not exaggerating a foul by, low and behold, massively exaggerating a foul, was truly gobsmacking.
What depresses me afterwards is that Joey Barton then becomes the story, the troll no doubt feeding on arseholes like Henry Winter's utterly biased views in the Telegraph. Follow that up with a series of drivel posts on Twitter and then give him a slot on BBC 5Live's 606 show on Sunday for good measure. The man has no idea. Joey Barton is the best example of what is wrong in the UK since the kids went rioting. Oh, that was only 7 days ago.
And the Joey Barton show must not overshadow the stark reminders of Saturday afternoon's game against Newcastle. No Cesc, no Nasri, but it was the same old tippy-tappy no scorey football. We played some lovely stuff, we really did. But the front three of RVP, Arshavin and Gervinho could still be playing now and still wouldn't have scored. I don't think they give prizes for these sorts of things but 63% possession away from home with only 2 shots on target must be a record. No-one gets into the box, no-one shoots. All very frustrating. No wonder the away fans gave Wenger some grief.
Which all means we go into these next few games with the whole team on edge already and Wenger on thin ice. A couple of bad results against Udinese, Liverpool and Man Utd and Henry Winter and his mates will be leading the charge to whip up the Wenger bloodbath. Surely it should never have come to this?