"For a football club stocked with a seemingly endless supply of exquisitely-talented young players, Arsenal FC has become surprisingly reliant on a single footballer."
This was written by John Dykes in January 2009 about the reliance of Arsenal on Cesc Fabregas in keeping the club still in the title race.
It can be argued that Arsenal are not a one-man team and depend on the collective play of the team. But what cannot be debated is that Fabregas is a vital cog in this Arsenal team and also provides a goal-scoring threat from midfield.
I do not want to discuss the future of Cesc Fabregas in this article, though it looks that there is a good possibility that he might stay for the next season.
Arsene Wenger is a manager who looks to young players from the academy to replace outgoing players who have made themselves first-team starters. For example, Emmanuel Adebayor's departure was used as an opportunity for Nicklas Bendtner to have more playing time.
Johan Djourou in an interview said that Wenger had told him that he had let Kolo Toure leave so that he could start more games in the future. Unfortunately for him, he was injured for most of the season.
It is inevitable that Fabregas will return to Barcelona in the future. Wenger understands this situation better than any of us do.
To procure a replacement for Fabregas from other clubs will cost a minimum of 20 million. At the moment, some of his possible replacements are Yoann Gourcuff and Mesut Ozil, though we do not know if they can fill the big boots of Fabregas. Besides, they will not come at a bargain (and Wenger does not prefer spending a lot of money on a single player.
So, my guess is that he will turn to Arsenal's most promising young midfielders, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere, to fill his boots. It is more conceivable that they would not have to take up a role as a freelancer like Fabregas but be creative in their roles. Samir Nasri has shown maturity in the last season, and he will only continue to improve.
Wenger's reluctance to sell Fabregas this summer is because both Ramsey and Wilshere are not yet ready to fill in for Fabregas.
Aaron Ramsey was given a lot of chances this season, and in some of these games, he was a really effective midfielder in a different mould compared to that of Cesc. He can also shoot from distance, and that gives Arsenal a different dimension if he can hone his skills. But his season was ruthlessly cut short by Ryan Shawcross.
The injury to Ramsey means that Wenger cannot expect Ramsey to fill in for Fabregas in the upcoming season. But let us hope that he can recover from his injury and continue his development this season.
Jack Wilshere is one of the most talented young English players today and holds the record for being the youngest ever player to debut in a Premier League match. Wilshere can be creative and can be successful against the best teams.
He was loaned out to Bolton in January and made a telling contribution in helping them stay above the relegation zone. In the matches against Manchester United and Chelsea, he managed to create opportunities for their strikers. John Terry mentioned after the match against Bolton that it was a tough game because playing against Kevin Davies and Wilshere behind him was not easy.
Wilshere can grow up to be a mainstay at Arsenal if he continues to develop.
Arsenal are fortunate to have a manager who is among the best in the world, and he knows how to fast-track these youngsters to take up the mantle in the future. If Fabregas does leave in the future, Arsenal fans can be assured that his replacement would have developed enough to fill his boots.