Being team Captain means more than just having the armband. Any doubt about that, just look to Arsenal and Cesc Fabregas. Of all the Captains on all the big clubs, his leadership is by far the most questionable and illegitimate. So whether he stays or leaves, it’s time for the armband to go to someone else.
This isn’t a question of talent. This isn’t a question of professionalism. In both regards Fabregas is well and truly tops. He’s the most talented player on an extremely talented team. And, he plays with the highest level of professionalism at all times. In fact, I like Fagregas and wish he would stay. I honestly believe that he and Nasri can create a unique combination, better than Xavi and Iniesta because both are more talented and younger.
But that’s not life. And worse yet, Fabgregas’s continued presence, when he wants to be somewhere else is disruptive to the team. Want to know why this team lacks heart and focus, look no farther than el Capitan. Of course he’s not the only reason the team collapse, but he is a major one. How can the other players be expected to act with focus and determination if there is no culture of leadership at the Club?
In fact no team in the Premier League except perhaps ManCiteh, which doesn’t count (the team is too new), has to deal with this issue, nor, for that matter, do Real Madrid, Barcelona, or the top squads in Serie A. Take a glance around, Vidic, Terry, Gerrard, Casillas, Xabi (or Ineista), Del Piero, Totti, and so on. And those are just the Captains, the vice-captains are just as committed. At Arsenal, it’s ridiculous. The Captains on the other teams lead the charge in the face of on the field adversity, they aren’t the engine of it.
Last week I talked about the impact Fabregas had on Nasri’s contract. Today, lets talk about why, whether Fabregas stays or leaves, he should be stripped of the captaincy.
1. He doesn’t carry the Flag. Captains encourage players to join the squad. The Captain is often the bridge between fans and players, a quasi-representative of all fans, he must identify with their pain, share their passion and joy. This is the man fans expect to stand up for the squad when other teams challenge it without question.
But crucially, the Captain is also an unquestioning siren for other top quality players to join the squad. Fabregas can’t do this. He can’t ask other players to join him, when everyone, in the entire world, knows he so desperately wants to leave. It’s a mixed message.
I would rather have a less talented player, but one completely dedicated to the Club lead than a wantaway. It just doesn’t work. It’s that simple. No judgment, no anger. Fabregas would be a great captain of Barcelona.
Ask yourself: why hasn’t Fabregas told Nasri -“sign and be committed or leave.” Because he can’t.
2. He lacks legitimacy. Captains must have the legitimacy to chastise other players. The Captain must have one or more of several strengths to chastise other players, (1) be the most talented levels above everyone else, (2) be the most terrifying, (3) be completely dedicated to the Club and have the Club’s unmitigated support, or (4) have that natural leadership that others gravitate to. Fabregas is the most talented, but not to such a degree that it grants immediate captaincy. He has half of (3) since Arsene made him Captain, but les be honest, he’s no Del Piero. And, he does not have (2) fear, not his role or (4) natural leadership, too nice.
This means Fabregas can’t chastise the other players to push them forward. And even if he can, I’m not sure he does it well. Remember Denilson’s comments way back when about the team not having one person –it wasn’t a criticism, he just stated what we all knew. Arsenal doesn’t have a Field General.
3. He causes more problems than solves. A Captain is the ship’s keel. When everything is hectic, Captains are the one that stand up and say, “We will succeed stick with me!” –to fans and players. In the case of Fabregas, he is the storm. No other player has unsettled the Club as much since Adebayor, not even Gallas. Two players that define the word conflict; you don’t want to be associated with them, but Fabregas should start to be. Sure the locker room is okay, but that’s about it.
Oddly enough, much of the storm is because Fabregas is too nice; he wants everyone to like him. He needs to let that go. Leaders don’t care if everyone likes them. Think Terry cares? Or Totti? It’s time for Cesc to Man Up.
Last summer Cesc had an opportunity to sand up and say “I want to go to Barcelona.” But out of “respect” he didn’t. But did that help? Everyone knew he wanted to go, so he just looked deceptive to the most critical and weak to the most supportive. And while he wanted to leave Arsenal with silverware, at this rate, he’s just leaving a bad vibe.
Alternatively, Fab could have stood up and said, “I know that I always dreamed of playing for Barcelona, but this is my Club, these are my people. I’m here until the Club sends me away. But I don’t want to leave.” Catalans would cry, especially his family, but it would mark him as a man, not a boy. One willing to deal with life and make decisions, even if it’s not what everyone around him always wanted or even he ever thought.
Truth is, he still can do this, but it’s obvious he won’t.
Don’t hate the player…hate the game
Fabregas has the opportunity to realize his dream: play for Barcelona. I get that. We all do. But he can’t have both. He can’t be loved at Arsenal then go to Barcelona -he’s not Henry. He didn’t give us The Invincibles and complete maniacal dedication as a Gooner. So it’s time Fab grew up and made a decision. It’s called being an adult and realizing that some paths we take close others. He needs to stop trying to be loved by all, it never happens. Captain’s are loved by one Club and supporters and often hated by all the others. That’s just the way it is. But we respect them.
So for Fabregas’s sake and Arsenal’s, lets take the burden off of him. Because right now, he is not and will never be the true Captain of the Gunners.