Premier League - Replacing Cesc: The contenders
Tue, 16 Aug 12:50:00 2011
An Arsenal side without Fabregas will in the short term be like an orchestra without a conductor and Wenger must start the onerous task of finding a replacement for the Spain international, who will now vie for space in the Barcelona midfield alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta.
Speaking at his unveiling at Camp Nou on Monday, Fabregas took it upon himself to suggest two Arsenal players ready to claim more responsibility in the wake of his departure: Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey.
"I've seen Aaron for three years and Jack for two-and-a-half years. Jack will be the next England captain in a few years, that's not even a question," Fabregas said. "You don't have to be a magician to know that he's got the capacity to dribble, to pass, he will go on to become a top player of the future. There's not even a question about that.
"Aaron has done unbelievable and he will get better with his final ball. He'll become the next big star at Arsenal. Jack and Aaron are the future, and they will do so well because they are competitive and they are winners. They will be amazing for the club."
But with Samir Nasri also expected to depart the club imminently, Arsenal supporters are clamouring once again for money to be spent and it is possible that the heir to Fabregas may be identified outside of Arsenal's London Colney training ground.
Here are the possible contenders to take on the daunting task of replacing Fabregas:
The Welshman was the stand-in of choice throughout pre-season and, having been made captain of his country at the age of 20 last season, is no stranger to shouldering responsibility at a young age. Ramsey's flourishing Arsenal career was horribly interrupted by a nasty leg break sustained at Stoke but he possesses the vision, technique and goal threat to operate in behind a lone striker. The easy choice for Wenger.
Possible price tag: Zero.
Chance of replacing Fabregas: 7/10.
Last season the teenager was named PFA Young Player of the Year following a tremendous breakthrough campaign at Arsenal but he did so playing in a withdrawn role alongside Alex Song. However, Wilshere's dribbling ability and expert use of the ball mean he is capable of excelling further forward, and he operated as a No. 10 as Arsenal lifted the FA Youth Cup in 2009. Seeing Wilshere replace Fabregas would be a symbolic moment for the club.
Possible price tag: Zero.
Chance of replacing Fabregas: 5/10.
JADSON (SHAKHTAR DONETSK)
Arsenal were linked with the playmaker when it became ever more apparent that both Fabregas and Nasri were heading out of Emirates Stadium, taking many supporters by surprise. Though Wenger has denied an interest in the player, who has won four caps for Brazil, Shakhtar say they did receive an offer from the Gunners. Jadson is 27 and it is likely that prising him from Shakhtar, who are not short of cash, could prove prohibitively expensive. He remains an outside contender.
Possible price tag: £15 million.
Chance of replacing Fabregas: 2/10.
JUAN MATA (VALENCIA)
A World Cup winner last summer and a victor at the European Under-21 Championship this year, Mata has grown accustomed to success at international level, but in Valencia he plays for a club still oppressed by financial burdens. The 23-year-old can play wide or as a central playmaker and in his expert use of the ball and quick wit resembles Fabregas to a degree. However, Arsenal have missed their chance to exercise a clause and sign him on the cheap. Mata is the supporters' choice, but will be an expensive proposition and Wenger has said a deal is dead.
Possible price tag: £25 million.
Chance of replacing Fabregas: 4/10.
MATHIEU VALBUENA (MARSEILLE)
The diminutive France international could tread the same path as Samir Nasri in moving from the south of France to North London, though his arrival would probably not delight a group of supporters crying out for a big-name arrival. The 26-year-old represented France at the World Cup finals last summer, and scored against England in a friendly at Wembley in May, but his club career was somewhat unspectacular prior to winning the league with l'OM in 2009-10.
Possible price tag: £12 million.
Chance of replacing Fabregas: 1/10.
Tom Adams - follow me on Twitter @tomEurosport / Eurosport