Mark Lawrenson/Mirror Football
Arsene Wenger was right to fight to keep Cesc Fabregas this summer.
And Arsenal and their captain will be rewarded with at least one trophy – and a strong push for the Premier League title.
Tomorrow’s clash at Anfield will see a meeting of Spanish World Cup stars who were tempted to return home.
But I reckon Arsenal keeping hold of Fabregas was of greater immediate impact than Liverpool not selling Fernando Torres.
And now I think Arsenal will finish higher than Liverpool in the league this season and be pushing Manchester United for the title.
I see Roy Hodgson’s side, who are still far too reliant on their Spanish striker, scrapping for fourth place along with Manchester City and Tottenham.
The problem for Torres is he now has the label of an injury-prone world-class player.
Even though Fabregas broke his leg last season, normally he just misses the odd match and Arsenal have other playmakers like Samir Nasri and Andrey Arshavin to step in.
I don’t see it a gamble holding on to Fabregas despite his flirting with his hometown team Barcelona. His best years are still to come and his transfer value will only go up.
Wenger makes very few mistakes in the transfer market. He has the knack of selling players when they have just passed their best but still gets top dollar for them as he did with Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. And I can’t see Fabregas not being fully committed to the club this year. He could have demanded a transfer but instead he went to Wenger and had a heart-to-heart.
The Arsenal manager is like a father to him and he talked him into staying for now. He has been brilliant with him and Fabregas appreciates that.
The Spaniard will want to go home sooner or later so the Frenchman will have said: ‘Stay one more year and help win a trophy and then leave a hero. Or stay and win some more’.
Managers always say they need a couple of players but if Wenger can sign Mark Schwarzer and another top-class defender, they will end their five-year trophy drought as this young team finally comes of age.
Marouane Chamakh is a better player than Nicklas Bendtner and will score more goals. Arshavin is a quality player and Theo Walcott will be determined to have a good season after missing out on the World Cup. You look at the Arsenal squad and they have got so many good attacking players. They will score goals.
You cannot say the same about Liverpool. David Ngog scored a few in the Europa League but you wouldn’t want to be facing Manchester United, Chelsea or Arsenal with just the inexperienced Frenchman up front.
The former Fulham boss can already be judged a success by persuading Stevie Gerrard and Torres to say and also signing Joe Cole.
Christian Poulsen is also a very solid buy who will allow Javier Mascherano to be sold.
Hodgson has been very calm and pragmatic about he Argentine and will simply take the money to buy three or four players in his place.
The former Inter Milan and Switzerland boss is not a control freak like Rafa Benitez and is much more upbeat.
At Fulham he bought well with players like Brede Hangeland and Damien Duff, who many people thought was finished as a top player, and he also made existing players like Danny Murphy and Mark Schwarzer better.
I wouldn’t mind betting Torres will still be at Liverpool in two years’ time. The new manager has made it very clear how highly he values him and there will be soon new owners and a new stadium.
And the side will need the investment as others are still spending big.
The task for Roberto Mancini at Manchester City is keeping the dressing room happy by rotating and giving big names and egos enough game-time.
Even five or six years ago, you could have a slow start and still mount a challenge for the title. That is no longer the case.
City are under massive pressure. If they lose a couple at the start, questions will be asked about Mancini’s future. And if you look at their squad, there are one or two mercenaries there and there could be trouble.
Craig Bellamy was clever with his outburst this week because he knows he is expendable and he wants to push a transfer through. His problem is where City will allow him to go.
I take Manchester United for the title because they had hardly any defenders for two months last season and still finished second just a point behind Chelsea.
This year they will be stronger. Javier Hernandez will lift the burden off Wayne Rooney and in the Community Shield also brought out the best in Dimitar Berbatov.
And their strong squad will allow Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to be used sparingly.