Is Thiago Actually as Good as Cesc Fabregas: A Barca Blaugranes Debate

VIBORG, DENMARK - JUNE 22: Thiago Alcantara of Spain during the UEFA European Under-21 Championship semi-final match between Belarus and Spain at the Viborg Stadium on June 22, 2011 in Viborg, Denmark. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

As you can probably see from the articles published recently, many of us have been thinking about Thiago Alcantara. We hadn’t planned to flood the site with Thiago related pieces but it’s happened; why not go with it. Just for fun we can call this "Barca Blaugranes Thiago Weekend!"  A fun filled weekend of Thiago-themed goodness.

Recently Thiago has made headlines for his performances with Spain U21 side. He honestly looks like a fantastic prospect for FC Barcelona should they offer Thaigo a good shot at the first team. He scored the winning goal in the U21 European Championship final against Switzerland. It was a spectacular goal, and one that should have everyone, especially the board and coaches at FC Barcelona keeping a keen eye on Thaigo’s development.

There’s one thing, or person I should say, that could potentially stand in the way of Thiago’s future at Barca. You all know who I’m about to say, Cesc Fabregas. The man who left La Masia all those years ago, who tweeted yesterday in response to Thiago’s goal, "Que golazooooo!!!!. "

Most people understand that the club has no dire need to sign Cesc; there’s nothing to warrant paying the fee Arsenal ask for their captain. We know that Cesc most likely not play enough minutes at Barca to justify the purchase. Barca do have in Thiago, a great player who could fill that spot on the bench that Cesc would occupy (if Barca decided to shell out 50 million pounds), for free.

If anything Thiago’s recent performances should have put to rest whatever it is in the hearts of Rosell and Pep that brings about their obsession with Cesc Fabregas. The club would be stupid to let whatever sentimental or political motives they have push Thaigo out of the club and incur the debt from the Cesc transfer.

We must give Thaigo credit where it is due; he is very talented and has a lot of similarities to Xavi. He could in fact take up Xavi’s mantel as ‘midfield boss’ at FC Barcelona. But one of my fellow BarcaBlaugranes writers made a claim in a recent article that I just had to respond to.

He said, "I genuinely believe that Thiago is a better player than Fabregas now, in the present day."

If you haven’t read it please do.

So this is what my piece is all about; me refuting that claim. I was sincerely puzzled by the statement and my bewilderment only increased when I read his reasoning. I didn’t want to raise my argument in the comments because I felt this would be a better forum for me to get out all of my feelings on the matter. (Also I had to turn something in today for my column, figured it’d be easy to riff off of Arrons piece)

So let’s jump right in shall we. Arron says that he did not consider Thiago’s potential or Cesc’s cost in reaching his conclusion; totally understandable. Making assumptions based on a player’s potential is very tricky. Look at Bojan’s example, there’s a guy who had all the potential in the world, but look at where he’s headed now. And price is hardly a correct measure of quality or skill in a player.

My colleague reasons that Thaigo is better than Cesc, because Thaigo is the go-to guy or the "fulcrum" of Spain’s U21 side.  Whenever his team was in need of some attacking inspiration they passed the ball to Thiago. He talks about Thaigo’s vision, passing ability, and confidence, which make Thaigo the go-to guy for the U21 side.

My initial response to that was: How is that any different than what Cesc is for Arsenal? When Arsenal get possession of the ball and are looking to make offensive movements, Cesc is often the man that dictates them. Never have I seen a match where the Arsenal players were reluctant to pass the ball to Cesc. True, Arsenal have a few midfield players who can create goals but none as consistently as Cesc and the team knows it. They often (if not always) look to Cesc to make a difference or to turn the match around, when he’s available on the pitch.

"Does he deliver?"

I guess this could be a matter of opinion.  But I have a statistic that I think is quite interesting.  Prior to Arsenal’s loss at the Camp Nou, the north London team had lost only one game that Cesc Fabregas had started in, as captain that season. Including the match at the Camp Nou Cesc has started in just three matches that ended in defeat for Arsenal, one of which he had no business starting in because he was injured, more on that later.

So that’s three defeats, one against the best team in the world, while injured, one against Bolton, and one against arch rivals Tottenham. 

Arron emphasizes Thiago’s confidence. Thiago (as we are led to believe by the press)is a very outspokenly confident guy. He also shows confidence on the pitch which is great for a player of such a young age and little experience. Thiago took a shot from a free kick from 50 yards out to seal European victory for his team. It was very unexpected and took both skill and confidence to pull that off. But is Arron saying that Cesc lacks confidence to pull something like that off?

Similar but not the same I know, just an example of Cesc pulling off a great goal in a big game.

Fabregas - AC Milan - Arsenal 0-2 (via zZzimi14)


 

Sure the entire Arsenal squad is sometimes lacking in confidence, after some of the failures they’ve seen it wouldn’t surprise you that much. But Cesc is one of the most confident players in the squad, hardly less confident (although perhaps less vocal) than Thiago.

"Fabregas is the leader of Arsenal, but he is not the fulcrum. Lately that has been the role of Jack Wilshere."

Perhaps in the absence of Cesc the team relied for heavily on Jack, and Jack as capable as he is, delivered.  Jack made 49 appearances last season; 14 more than Cesc. He made 3 assists for Arsenal in his debut season which isn’t bad; he does play deep in midfield. He would have an additional assist to his name had Nicklas Bendtner scored from the chance that Jack set up so perfectly to send Arsenal into the quarter finals of the Champions League (calm down Sabrina it’s in the past). But he has hardly taken Cesc’s place in importance or influence in the squad.

Arron says that, while Cesc has delivered in the past, Cesc has not been delivering recently.  He is one of many who believe that Cesc’s dip in form can be attributed to his desire to return home and to his boyhood club. It’s understandable that he would have these feelings, but to say that he hasn’t been playing his best because of it is just insulting to the player.  The truth is he has been injured and playing while not 100% fit. He can’t give 100% on the pitch if he is not 100% fit.

YouTube - Cesc Fabregas interview pre-Arsenal-Manchester City match.flv (via gunnu247)

 

His desire to be on the pitch and play, (along with some poor judgment by manager and medical staff) is what caused him to play while unfit on several occasions last season, including the match at the Camp Nou. Interestingly enough, in spite of his constant injuries throughout the 2010-11 season, he amassed 17 assists and 9 goals in just 35 appearances for Arsenal. Clearly when Cesc was present on the pitch he delivered. Stat: Cesc has the chance created per minute ratio in the Premier League 10-11.

Cesc "is not as good a passer as Thiago, whose range is magnificent."

Maybe I haven’t seen enough of Thiago, he has great passing ability but I’m not sure that he has played enough at the top level to prove to me that he is a better passer than Cesc.

Finally Arron says that Cesc hasn’t delivered in big games, namely the 2nd leg of the last sixteen. This was a match that Cesc should have stayed home for; he just wasn’t fit to play. It’s unfortunate that Cesc has been injured and missed out on big games this season. And it’s unfortunate that he has made mistakes. But when you’ve played 300+ games you’re gonna make the odd mistake. Consistently however, over a six year period Cesc has been an outstanding performer.  100 assists and 57 goals in 303 appearances.

The main problem I have with idea that Thaigo is better than Cesc is that Cesc has been performing in the top flight of English football, in and amongst the top teams of European football, and in the senior Spanish team for years now; Thiago has not.

Thiago has won the U21 European Championships with Spain which is great! I will not say that he isn’t a very talented player and isn’t important to his team because he is. But Cesc is a world champion with the senior team. He may have been on the bench a lot during the World Cup; it’s true. But in a World Cup final that looked like it would have to go to penalties Cesc Fabregas came off of the bench and assisted the World Cup winning goal. He wasn’t good enough to displace Xavi or Iniesta from the starting 11. But why belittle his contribution?

"If he was so good, he would have started the game."

If Thiago were better he’d be called up to the senior team instead of Cesc.  

Sure Thiago is a great player but he has yet to prove himself among experienced competition. He has a ton of potential and could one day be better than Cesc. At this point in time, however, he is not. That is ok. He has plenty of time to prove himself.

 

I hope we're still cool Arron. 

Join Barca Blaugranes and become members of our website or participate in our chat room on the front page. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Follow me on Twitter @SaabriinaaDee

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