It was in the summer of 2010 when Cesc Fàbregas, still celebrating Spain’s World Cup triumph, returned to London Colney to inform Arsène Wenger that he intended to leave Arsenal and rejoin Barcelona.
The midfielder had just one FA Cup winners medal to show for his seven years in north London, whilst in Catalonia, Pep Guardiola was forming one of the greatest sides to ever play the beautiful game. In the midst of a huge trophy-drought and another fizzled-out title challenge – The Gunners finished third in the 2009/10 campaign – Wenger, desperate to keep his skipper, was forced to sit down with Fàbregas and attempt to convince the playmaker to stay in the English capital.
Wenger revealed to Fàbregas that Arsenal planned to add Mark Schwarzer and Sebastian Squillaci to the squad, having already signed Marouane Chamakh; hardly a trio to strike fear into Europe’s best sides. You could forgive Fàbregas for wanting to desert the Emirates Stadium and link up with Lionel Messi and co. In the end, of course, ‘Cesc’ stayed for one more season, before he was granted his wish to leave. What followed was an exodus of departures; Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy, Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie all departing for Manchester, whilst the arrivals – Gervinho, André Santos and Yossi Benayoun et al – were hardly star performers. Add in the trophyless seasons and it makes for a miserable-looking era for Arsenal football club.
Step forward September 2013. Ever since the addition of Mesut Özil, something made possible with increased funds thanks to the continual paying off of the new stadium, things have looked better for Arsenal. First there was the FA Cup success against Hull City last summer. Then, unforgettably, there was the signing of Alexis Sánchez. Now, just in time for pre-season, Petr Čech has put pen to paper on his Arsenal contract. Three truly world-class names added to an already-skillful squad, one combined with home-grown talent and foreign flair, has seemingly given Wenger the platform to deliver more than just back-to-back FA Cups.
Čech brings with him experience, top-quality a commanding presence and an impressive trophy haul; everything you could ask for when signing a goalkeeper. In a position where Arsenal have suffered badly at times in the last decade, in Čech, the club finally have some stability. His four-year deal will see take him deep into his 30’s with the club. Many have compared his signing to that of Edwin Van der Sar’s, when the Dutchman joined Manchester United in 2005. Van der Sar would go on to win four Premier League titles and a Champions League under Sir Alex Ferguson, who also experience difficulties in goal, as he looked for a replacement for Peter Schmeichel. Čech (£10m), admittedly, comes at five times the price Van der Sar (£2m) did at Old Trafford, though that fee will feel nominal if Arsenal can become major players in European football once again.
In order to achieve that, Wenger will probably need to dip into the transfer market once more. Moves for Morgan Schneiderlin and Arturo Vidal are seemingly off, with the manager’s eye now on William Carvalho – a star performer for Portugal in their run to the Under-21 European Championships. A physical player in the centre of midfield with the technical ability to perform in a team that desires to play in Wenger’s style can’t be easy to find, but in Carvalho, the Frenchman might just have located that player.
It remains to be seen if Carvalho will arrive, but for now it’s Čech who has the pulses racing at Arsenal. It might be “hard” on current number one, David Ospina, as David Seaman told the media this week, but it continues to signal that Wenger is determined to deliver at least one last major trophy to the Arsenal fans before he calls it a day.