There is a distinct possibility that Cesc Fabregas will leave Arsenal this summer.
Persistent rumours originating from people with ‘inside knowledge’ suggest that our Number Four may finally be on his way back to Barcelona.
Cynics will say the deal was done last year – that Arsène Wenger persuaded Cesc to stay for one more year by agreeing to let him join Barca for the 2011/12 season.
How does that make you feel?
Are you distraught at the idea of going without Cesc?
Or do you feel that the Cesc you’ve been having has lost its lustre and that, maybe, it’s time to look for something a bit more exciting elsewhere?
Well, let’s examine some statistics.
I have made this point before, but in his first four seasons with Arsenal Cesc was a fit and resilient young man who played almost all our games:
2004/5: Total appearances 46, including 33 (87%) in the EPL.
2005/6: Total appearances 50, including 35 (92%) in the EPL.
2006/7: Total appearances 54, including 38 (100%) in the EPL (yes, that’s right – every single EPL game, although four were as substitute).
2007/8: Total appearances 45, including 32 (84%) in the EPL.
Then something happened – and it’s a cautionary tale for Jack Wilshere.
Four EPL seasons of full-on football, coupled with international tournaments in the summer began to take their toll on his fitness. The player who had been almost ever-present started to become often-injured.
In 2008/9 his appearance record dropped to just 22 games (58%) in the EPL.
In 2009/10 he managed 27 EPL games (71%).
And this year?
Cesc has played in 25 games in the EPL, three of which were as substitute. That gives him an appearance percentage of 66%.
So – and apologies for doing the full Vorderman with all these numbers – in his first four seasons as a regular starter for Arsenal Cesc averaged an EPL appearance rate of 90.75%. Pretty much every time we stepped out for a Premiership game our little Spanish genius was on the pitch.
In the subsequent three seasons (including the present one) his rate has dropped right off to an average of 65%. In other words, he has missed more than a third of our EPL games in the past three years.
He is our captain and our best player. Can we really afford to have him absent for so many important games? Hard and wrenchful though it would be to see him go, might we not be better with star players who can turn out in most games?
Well, here’s another statistic that might give pause to the minority of Arsenal supporters who claim they would be happy to see Cesc depart this summer.
This season, in all competitions, our win percentage when Cesc started has been 62%.
In games where Cesc didn’t start, our win percentage was 46%.
That’s pretty clear: we win significantly more games when Cesc is on the team sheet. If he goes to Barca (or elsewhere) during the close season, Arsene Wenger is going to have to think long and hard about how he makes up for that loss in quality.
So there you have it.
On the one hand Cesc’s increasing susceptibility to injury might make his departure less damaging than it might seem; on the other, the fact that we are considerably more effective with him in the team should be a cause for real concern if he goes.