As we head down the home stretch of the European club season and into World Cup discussion, one of the stories of this coming ‘silly season’ will no doubt be, once again, will THIS be Cesc Fabregas’ final season in North London? [ad#as2]
Arsenal fans will soon begin the now annual ritual of holding their collective breaths until the end of August, when they realize it’s safe to breathe again and enjoy another season of their captain wearing his number 4 shirt at the Emirates Stadium.
If Fabregas is any fan of drama and theater, this would certainly be the time to go, as his final kick of the ball in an Arsenal shirt would be his rocketed 85th minute penalty kick that gave the Gunners an improbable draw against Barcelona, leaving them with at least a puncher’s chance at the Nou Camp on Tuesday in the return leg of the Champions League quarterfinal. And as it turns out, he took that kick with a fractured leg.
Fabregas soldiered on for the remainder of the match, as the Gunners had used their allotment of substitutes, but that 10 minutes of hobbling will be his last of the club season, and put his World Cup hopes in question.
Meanwhile comes the annual noise from Spain about a huge transfer big from his boyhood club, Barcelona. New FCB President Sandro Rosell has recently made overtures about a 50 million pound bid for the Gunners’ skipper. At this point, Arsenal fans have accepted that Fab will one day leave them; each year they just hope to get one more season out of him.
Can Arsenal pull off the upset in Barcelona? This could be a pivotal match in the future of the club, with both Arsene Wenger and Fabregas hinting throughout the season that Arsenal’s ability to win trophies (something they haven’t done since the 2005 FA Cup) may well determine their futures with the club. Meaning that this match may have much bigger overtones that just a spot in the Champions League semifinals; it may be a head-to-head battle over which squad gets to see Fabregas in their colors next season.
With key players missing on both sides (Fabregas, Gallas and Arshavin for Arsenal; Puyol, Pique and Ibrahimovich for Barca), the match has strangely become something of a toss-up, despite Barcelona’s dominance for much of the first leg. If Arsenal can nick an early goal, which is entirely possible against Barca’s weakened defense, this could turn into an all-time classic match. It will certainly be appointment viewing for even casual fans of the sport.
This fan will most definitely be tuning in on Tuesday afternoon.