Club Focus – Arsenal – Festive fun

Cesc Fabregas’ goal was not enough as Arsenal were pegged back by Burnley in what was always going to be a tricky away fixture. The goalscorer found the net for the first time in over a month after a prolific start to the campaign, but may find himself ruled out over the festive period.

The Spaniard is once again the centre of attention having been controversially called up to play for Catalonia by Johan Cruyff in a friendly against Argentina on 22nd December. Wenger had already refused to release the player for the fixture before the squad was announced: “We don’t allow the players to play in friendlies because we have too many games…If they want to play charity games, the best way to be charitable is to sign a shirt.” And Arsene is understandably cautious, with injuries having already taken their toll on the squad this term. Furthermore the request (of sorts) for the player to be released for the fixture comes in the wake of Arsenal announcing their intention to sue the Dutch FA for Robin van Persie’s injury whilst playing in a friendly against Italy.

Wenger is extremely protective of his players whilst still co-operating with FIFA and the national teams. Catalonia however, are not a FIFA recognised country (borrowing many of their players from the Spanish national team) and as such cannot command clubs to make the player available. Therefore it was always unlikely that Fabregas would play, even more so in light of latest reports indicating he has picked up a hamstring injury. The manager has already stated that he will miss the weekend’s clash against Hull, but he may be out for longer as Gunners fans cross their fingers awaiting the results of a scan.

The significance of the fixture itself is somewhat limited, (with Catalonia being very unlikely to seek FIFA recognition, let alone take the Basque players out of the Spanish national side to represent them) however Cruyff’s influence over proceedings in the bigger picture may be telling. Alongside Le Professeur, the Dutchman is credited with creating some of the most fluid attacking football seen this decade, with his restructuring of Barceona’s Cantera youth academy producing the core of the all-conquering 2008-09 team. And as these visionaries clash, a greater struggle appears to emerge on the horizon.

With Cruyff’s strong links to Barcelona and Fabregas having matured through Bar

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