Early Doors

Loudmouth Xavi angers Arsenal again

Early Doors

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For a man who has been universally acclaimed for the way he carefully and deliberately uses the ball, Xavi certainly can be reckless with his mouth.

Hearing a Barcelona player eulogise about Cesc Fabregas is hardly news, after all Pep Guardiola's troops have been singing his praises with all the lung-bursting passion of Pavarotti for well over a year now, but Mr Tiki-Taka himself may just have crossed the line on Tuesday with his well-publicised comments.

A wonderful player he may be, but a diplomat he is not. And Xavi certainly provoked the ire of Arsenal with his latest generous update on the Fabregas impasse.

"I spoke to Cesc in Ibiza and he said he was suffering because he wanted to come," Xavi said, as the blood pressure of Arsenal fans the world over rose to dangerous levels. "It's more like, he did everything he could to come and wants to leave Arsenal, although he made it clear that now everything depends on the selling club."

ED's first big problem with Xavi's inflammatory statement is the realisation that instead of grabbing fistfuls of glowsticks, swerving pools of vomit and queuing to pay £50 to get into Space, the Barca star actually spent a holiday in Ibiza counselling his distraught countryman about the horrible predicament he apparently finds himself in at Arsenal.

The second would be that this is not a mere declaration of admiration for Fabregas, the type that now emanates from Camp Nou on a regular basis in every transfer window, but Xavi also chose to expose the tough time his millionaire chum is having as captain of one of England's biggest clubs. ED's heart bleeds.

Oh, and Barcelona saw fit to feature the interview on their official website. Talk about rubbing it in.

Arsenal may be fighting a losing battle to retain their skipper, though in public at least Arsene Wenger remains optimistic, but they hardly need Xavi to provide a running commentary, especially when said statement overshadows the start of their pre-season trip to Asia.

Shunning the more genteel surrounds of Austria for the first time, Arsenal enjoyed a 4-0 victory against a Malaysia All-Star XI on Wednesday. After the comfortable run-out, Wenger took the Barca star to task for his comments.

"What is important is that Cesc Fabregas is contracted to Arsenal," Wenger said. "That is a fact. Arsenal wants to keep him and all the rest is comment.

"If I found Barcelona in exactly the same position, I believe a mutual respect between the clubs should stop this kind of comment. If it is true then it is very disrespectful and it is not the first time that Xavi has been disrespectful to Arsenal."

Yes, like the News of the World, he is a serial offender. Though it was Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol, in conjunction with accomplice Jose Reina, who pulled a Barca shirt over the head of Fabregas in the wake of Spain's World Cup win - and indeed nicked a photo of the midfielder when training in London Colney prior to the Champions League final - it was Xavi, petri dish and chemistry set in hand, who memorably declared that Fabregas is "a footballer made up of Barca DNA".

Just as he does on the pitch, it is Xavi who has seemingly orchestrated this Catalan whispering campaign, though ED would remind infuriated Arsenal fans that despite claims to the contrary, this is not a case of tapping-up. There are no FIFA regulations against speaking about a mate in public.

It just seems strange that Fabregas is letting Xavi do his talking, while staying silent himself. Arsenal's very reluctant captain would do well to remember the words of Jack Wilshere: "Loyalty is a big part of football and it shows if you are a real man or not."

Arsenal have of course spent the summer grappling with problems with their players, but just prior to kick-off against the Malaysia All-Stars it was the Arsenal Player giving employees in Highbury House a headache. The club's on-line TV channel, included in memberships for the first time this summer in a bit to lessen the impact of price rises, chose the first friendly of pre-season to pack it in and go offline.

Such was the furore amongst Arsenal fans desperate to get a glimpse of Carl Jenkinson, 'Arsenal Player' was one of the top trends on Twitter in London as they vented their anger. Arsenal players are more than accustomed to breaking down of course, but usually due to a muscle complaint and not excessive online traffic.

That other troublesome figure, Samir Nasri, was introduced as a second-half substitute and looked alert and dangerous when making his first appearance of pre-season.

Unlike the absent Fabregas, nursing an injury of course, Nasri has made the trip to Asia and he enjoyed a productive afternoon. Body language experts were no doubt scrutinising his every gesture - after all, what else does the ubiquitous Dr Linda Papadopoulos have to do during the first summer that has not featured a series of Big Brother since the previous millennium.

There was no 'Nasty Nasri' in evidence though. He looked the picture of contentment as he sought to dribble his way through his low-quality opponents, while Aaron Ramsey thrived in the Fabregas role, scoring a penalty and claiming a lovely assist for Theo Walcott's goal.

Sadly, Xavi did not impart his thoughts on the young Welshman's performance.

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