Time for Wenger to strip Cesc of Arsenal captaincy

EDITORIAL: Even if Cesc Fabregas's time at Arsenal doesn't end this summer, his reign as captain should.

EDITORIAL: Even if Cesc Fabregas's time at Arsenal doesn't end this summer, his reign as captain should.

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger must accept giving Cesc the captaincy has proven a long-term mistake, with the player's public shows of affection towards Barcelona devaluing the status of being the top man at Emirates.

You can't question Cesc's commitment to Arsenal on the pitch. Last season he left us one of the great cameos in Premiership history with his amazing 27-minute brace against Aston Villa. It was stunning. He was magnificent and the performance will go down as one of the greatest seen at Emirates.

But being club captain goes beyond deeds on the pitch and at the training ground. It's about setting and maintaining a culture at a club. A commitment to the cause. Is it any longer good enough for Wenger to have his top player touting himself to his hometown club? And what affect has Cesc's Dad, Francesc, had on the stability at Arsenal when he is also talking up his son's return to Spain regularly in the local media?

Would the dressing room of Tony Adams, Martin Keown and David Seaman have stood for it?

The likes of Robin van Persie and Gael Clichy are now older and wise enough to handle Cesc's split loyalties. But what of the young foreigners coming through like Gilles Sunu and Ignasi Miquel? How will they be influenced by their captain's actions in putting Arsenal second to his constant pining for a Barcelona return?

On the pitch, Arsenal will survive Cesc's sale. In Jack Wilshere, Wenger has a player who will easily fill the void left by the Spaniard. You can understand the Frenchman wanting one last season from Cesc before introducing Wilshere as a 20 going on 21 year-old to boss his midfield.

But if he is to keep hold of Cesc, then it shouldn't be at the cost of devaluing the captaincy and destabilising the club.

I would argue giving the leadership role to Cesc at such a young age has been counter-productive. With the armband has come endorsement deals and a new global profile for Cesc. It's created the illusion that Arsenal need him more than he needs the Gunners.

But no-one in Spain, despite Cesc's world-wide appeal - thanks to his prominence at Arsenal - will claim that he is a superior player to prospective Barca teammates Xavi and Andres Iniesta. And neither of them, for all their success on the pitch, enjoy the same recognition around the world as Cesc.

Peter Hill-Wood, the Gunners chairman, is right. This is what is waiting for Cesc at the Nou Camp. Yes, there will be trophies in a remarkably uncompetitive La Liga, but a regular place in Barca's midfield? Greater endorsement deals than what he enjoys as a high-profile Premiership player? It's a stretch to say this is a guarantee.

In contrast, Arsenal will welcome into the first team an English player in the form of Wilshere not seen since the days of Glenn Hoddle. On the pitch he will excite fans across the world and off it ... he will have Arsenal's moneymen rubbing their hands with glee.

Life will move on for Arsenal without Cesc. But Wenger needs to end the uncertainty and find himself a new captain to set the right tone through the club.

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