Fabregas mentions elephant in room


SOCCER:CESC FABREGAS has voiced grave misgivings over Arsenal’s refusal to spend big in the transfer market, saying the club must decide whether they want to “go out to win or to develop players”.

Fabregas has revealed his frustration at Arsenal’s failure to take the “final step” as his team prepare for their derby visit to Tottenham Hotspur, when they will attempt to revive their faltering Premier League title challenge.

He also said the managers of the top clubs in his native Spain would not survive three years without winning a trophy. Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal have won nothing since the FA Cup in 2005.

“If you went to Spain and said to (Pep) Guardiola, (Jose) Mourinho or Unai Emery (the Valencia manager) that they would have three years without winning a trophy, it would be obvious they would not continue,” the Arsenal captain said.

“Here, it is different, the manager is intelligent and the club value different things: that the team is always in the Champions League, that we compete until the end, that we have young players, economic stability. For the board, this is important. But I imagine there will be a moment when you have to decide: do you win things or not?

“When I started here, we won the (FA) Cup (in 2005) and got to the Champions League final (in 2006). Barca beat us with an extra man and it was not a victory, but it was the first time that the club had got to a Champions League final. Millions of players had played here and it was us that did it.

“But from 2007 on, I started to say: ‘We don’t win but we play very well’. And after that you realise that it doesn’t work. You enjoy it, during a part of the season, like this year when we were in four different competitions and you say: ‘Here, I have it all’. But then you cannot make the final step and a decision has to be made: to go out to win or to develop players.”

Fabregas, who joined Arsenal as a 16-year-old from Barcelona at the beginning of the 2003-04 season, said he had enjoyed learning from the club’s Invincibles (unbeaten that season). But he lamented the lack of experienced “reference points” in the current squad.

“I was in a winning team and it was impressive,” he said. “You felt that if you had a bad game, nothing happened because your team-mates helped you. Now, a lot has changed, and I am the man that everyone looks to. I don’t like to say it but it is true. If I play badly, I take responsibility and the pressure of the supporters.

“Young players learn from the older ones. Now, it is more complicated. If you put (Jack) Wilshere in the team that played before . . . it is different. I am not saying better or worse. Before, there were reference points, winning and strong players and playing with them, you learned faster.”

Fabregas has been heavily linked with a return to Barcelona.

“The day that I leave Arsenal, it will be with my head and not just because,” Fabregas said. “And who says you will play in your new team? Or that you will develop? Here, I have a lot of luck on a personal level – despite not winning a lot – and I am doing very well.

“I speak with (Carles) Puyol, who says that he didn’t win a thing until he was 26. Patience and hard work are the most important things in life. You will not see me (convinced by an ambitious project). And if one day I leave Arsenal, it will never be to sign for another English club. That is for certain.”

Meanwhile, Harry Redknapp has a simple solution to the managerial menace that is the radio phone-in. “I switch over and put Magic FM on,” the Tottenham Hotspur manager said. “Why would I want to listen to a bunch of idiots? They must have sad lives with nothing better to do.”

Sadly for Redknapp and his 19 fellow Premier League managers, there are not enough switches to flick to blot out all of the pressure. He is feeling it at present as he attempts to lead his team to a top-four finish and another instalment of Champions League football and, when he glances over to the visitors’ dug-out at White Hart Lane tonight, he will see someone feeling it just as acutely.

Redknapp believes the pressure is telling on Wenger more obviously than in previous seasons but, if theirs is a relationship shaped by the rivalry between their clubs, then Redknapp, one suspects, would have no qualms about deepening his angst and misery.

“He used to be ‘The Professor’,” Redknapp said. “I read these articles from all these clever reporters who said he sat there like a chess master. He’s watching the game and all the other idiots are jumping up and down, shouting and screaming, and Arsene Wenger sits there studying every move on the pitch.

“That was the year they went unbeaten. We can all sit there with a cigar when you’re winning 3-0, saying ‘this is good’, with Tony Adams at the back or whatever.

“Suddenly they started losing and he was one of the biggest nutters of all. He’s jumping around more than anyone now. That’s how it gets you. We all do it. It’s pressure.”

Redknapp admitted he felt for Wenger on Sunday when Arsenal conceded a free-kick on the edge of their penalty area in the closing seconds against Liverpool.

“What was he going through when Liverpool got that free-kick?” Redknapp said.

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘My God, I’ve been there so many times’. It’s the worst feeling in the world, waiting for that free-kick. You’re either going to be on an all-time low or you think, ‘My God, we’ve won, we’ve cleared it’. What a feeling. What he must have gone through on Sunday . . . it mustn’t be good for your health, that’s for sure.”