Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cesc and Thiago

I was going to write a post examining Barcelona’s pursuit of Cesc Fabregas in light of the emergence of Thiago Alcantara, but this piece on the Spanish Football site does my work for me.  Here is the argument in a nutshell:

Xavi is 31, Iniesta is 27, Fàbregas is 24 and Thiago is 20. Fàbregas would fill the 11 year gap between Xavi and Thiago and the 7 year gap between Iniesta and Thiago.

It would help Thiago to keep improving without the pressure of having to replace the two most important midfielders in Barça’s and Spain’s history. Fàbregas, being the more experienced player of the two, would share that responsibility with him.

Thiago has had a great summer.  He was one of the stars on the Spain side that won the European U-21 tournament, scoring a clever goal in the final against Switzerland.  This week, he added an award as the best player at the Audi Cup after scoring once in the semifinal against Internacional and both goals in the final against Bayern Munich.  His performances could lead to the conclusion that Cesc is unnecessary, but as Miguel points out, throwing Thiago into the mix at age 20 in place of either Xavi or Iniesta would be to pile enormous pressure on a prospect.  If Cesc arrives, then he serves as the buffer so Thiago can be put into the first team gradually.  Given that Barca are likely to play something in the neighborhood of 60 games this year, there are plenty of potential minutes for four central midfielders.

My first impulse after Thiago’s performance yesterday in Munich was to think “great, this will drive down Arsenal’s price for Cesc because it is clear that Barca doesn’t really need him.”  I quickly changed my mind when I remembered that Arsenal have no great need or desire to sell Cesc.  If this were a normal transaction with a buyer and a seller, then the buyer learning that he doesn’t really need to product would tend to drop this price.  This, however, is not a normal transaction because the seller doesn’t want to sell, but will do so reluctantly if its (possibly inflated) valuation of the (dissatisfied, wanting to move) product is met.  If Barca decides that they don’t need Cesc, then Arsenal’s likely response will be “great, we’ll keep our captain” instead of “hey, let me knock £5M off the price.”  


Tim said...

Cesc will go to Barca. It's only a matter of time. All it takes is the right offer. 30 million euros is not the right offer.

Michael said...

I think that Barca are at 35 and Arsenal are at 40. If that's right, then there is no way that the deal won't get done.

Listened to an interesting interview with Graham Hunter yesterday. He said that this transfer has become more about Arsenal than Barcelona because it's an indication of that lack of confidence in where Arsenal is right now. He also said that Barca have made it more difficult (and possibly insulted Cesc) by making silly demands like that the price should be knocked down based on two youth team players that Arsenal signed from La Masia.

Uncle Mike said...

Cesc will NOT go to Barca. Arsene Wenger says so, and he is the only one whose opinion matters.

Why is an Atlanta sports blog talking about Arsenal?

Michael said...

Wenger said that Cesc wouldn't go last year and Arsenal refused to negotiate. This year, Arsenal have been willing to negotiate (otherwise, they would not have set the price at 40M), so Wenger is not putting his foot down. Also, I suspect that Wenger told Cesc last year "give me a year to show you that we can contend at the top level." After Arsenal's collapse, Wenger can't hang onto Cesc without some personal blowback.

I talk about Arsenal because I like soccer and I'm going to write about it. Why not? It's not like I have space requirements.

Nate said...

Where does Mascherano fit into this Barca midfield puzzle? Can't imagine he'll enjoy sitting on the bench.

Michael said...

Mascherano and Busquets will continue to rotate as the anchor of the midfield. The remaining two midfield spots would be rotated between Xavi, Iniesta, Cesc, Thiago, and possibly Keita. Iniesta can play up front at times, so Barca can get him on the field along with Xavi and Cesc.

Keep in mind that Mascherano started some of the crunch matches against Real and the CL Final as a central defender. Busquets has also played there. With Barca not bringing in more depth in central defense, they are clearly counting on Mascherano, Busquets, and Abidal to play there in the event of injuries.