It was 27 minutes of artistry. 27 minutes of world class mastery. 27 minutes of a young man playing a captain's part.
The media can't seem to find the superlatives for the fleeting cameo Cesc Fabregas gave for Arsenal yesterday as they overcame an inform Aston Villa 3-0.
With the scores level, the Spaniard arose from the bench to win and score a sumptuous free-kick before sealing the game with a confident finish after been set up by Theo Walcott.
Fabregas then returned to the bench after aggravating his hamstring injury before the imperious Abou Diaby made it three with a storming solo goal.
Luckily for Martin O'Neill's side, it was only a half-fit inspired Arsenal captain they met yesterday.
The Gunners' number four has been nothing short of outstanding this season for his side.
After been handed the captain's armband last season it seemed to weigh the young man down slightly.
However, the transfer of the honour from William Gallas to Cesc Fabregas has seen both men transformed.
Gallas has gotten over his ill-judged tantrums and has formed a highly under-rated partnership with Belgian Thomas Vermaelen.
Meanwhile, Fabregas has become an all new leader this season.
He is not someone who orders like Tony Adams or rules through fear like Roy Keane.
He is a Steven Gerrard, a captain who leads by example. His performance yesterday echoed those we have seen so many times from the Liverpool stalwart.
In 22 appearances this season in all competition, Fabregas has scored 12 goals and set up countless more.
Fears have resurfaced now over Fabregas' hamstring, which could see him ruled out for up to three weeks.
Was Wenger right in gambling his Captain? Of course he was, 100%!
Whatever about Tottenham Hotspur, Fulham or Manchester City, Aston Villa will be big challengers for a top four spot this season.
Lessons a plenty will have been learned from their dramatic fall from grace last season. Martin O'Neill is a coy manager and the signing of Richard Dunne has helped Villa form one of the meanest defences in the land.
Victory yesterday was imperative for Arsenal. It closed the gap to four at the top whilst also creating breathing space with Villa in fourth.
Arsenal were playing the pretty football until Fabregas arrived, then it became a lot more direct.
Despite the victory against a side who have claimed the scalp of Liverpool, Chelsea and Manchester United, Arsenal are not been taken seriously as title contenders.
This morning papers are full of questions and criticisms of how Arsenal depend too much on Fabregas and the injured Robin van Persie.
Forgive me, but would Chelsea not suffer without Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, Liverpool without Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres and Manchester United without Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney?
Every team has its key player and it is true that Fabregas is the key cog in Arsene Wenger's machine. However that is not to say that the club couldn't manage without him for three weeks.
Samir Nasri, Andrey Arshavin and Abou Diaby have proven they can step up to the mark.
The media claimed Arsenal wouldn't be able to score without Emmanuel Adebayor, but the goals still came.
They claimed they couldn't score without Van Persie, but they are still coming albeit in less coherence.
Now they claim Arsenal won't score without Fabregas, but the Gunners got three last week against Hull without him.
These ramblings in the media have extended once again to question what Arsenal will do without Fabregas period.
Instead of concentrating on his outstanding performance and how he has put Arsenal back into the title mix,the newspapers were quick to link once again with a move away from the Emirates.
"And then, in the 57th minute, there was Fàbregas. Where would Arsenal be without him? And how long can they keep him?
Sooner or later, Barcelona will come back for the boy from Catalonia. They must, because otherwise Real Madrid would be favourites. "
Arsenal fans are no fools. They know Fabregas is highly coveted in Spain and one day he will return.
However, just because Barcelona president Joan Laporta keeps talking to the papers in Spain doesn't mean a deal is any closer.
Arguably there are two types of footballers out there — those who play for the love of a club and those who play because they get paid to play for a club.
There is no harm or disrespect in the latter.
Ronaldo never thoroughly "loved" Manchester United. He was more concerned with having the spotlight on him. Upon winning the Champions League, Ronaldo left his teammates to run off in celebration while he stopped and cried alone — all the cameras were on him.
But there is no harm in what Ronaldo did. He was massive for Manchester United and added to their already vast trophy cabinet.
Andrey Arshavin is the same. He is more concerned with contrived celebrations than hugging his teammates, but as long as he scores, who cares?
Then there are players like Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Alessandro Del Piero.
There are no elaborate back flips or "look at me" celebrations, just a pumping of the fist and sheer joy as they run towards the fans.
Cesc Fabregas is one of those.
The boy bleeds Arsenal and has always given 100%.
How can someone who celebrates like he did against Tottenham and Aston Villa seem like they want away from their club?
Look at the sheer joy in his face.
This wasn't because he thought of how great he was for scoring such a wonderful goal, it was because he had put his team ahead.
Arsenal fans appreciate what Fabregas gives to the club and by equal measure Fabregas appreciates what Arsenal and Arsene Wenger have done for him.
He was thrown in to play first team football at 17 in what was then one of the most awe-inspiring teams in Europe.
Wenger trusted him and in the five years since he has repaid that trust but Fabregas isn't done yet. It is obvious he wants to win trophies at Arsenal, just as Robin Van Persie does.
Imagine how much it would mean for him to lift the elusive Champions League or guide Arsenal to another Premier League?
Fabregas will undoubtedly move back to Spain but not just now and at 22, you would wonder why others seem to be such a hurry to see him leave English shores.
Most ludicrous of all is the rumours linking Fabregas to Manchester City.
"And, if you were the poor souls trying to make Manchester City as big a club as Sheikh Mansour’s budget demands, would you not be wondering how to tempt one of the world’s best midfield players — one, moreover, who should have the best years of his career in front of him — to the City of Manchester Stadium?"
With their pursuit of everyone from Kaka to Buffon, City have found out that money can't buy you everything and, no disrespect to Manchester City, but Fabregas isn't a mercenary that can be bought.
Fabregas has his pick of any club in the world. Why would he move to one that is a haven for overpaid, over-hyped egos?
Likewise the links with Arsene Wenger are just as mad.
The same article goes on to suggest that the Frenchman may soon leave the Emirates.
"Already we read that City have eyes on Wenger and believe they might get him. Such reports are lent enhanced interest by the possibility that Arsenal will shortly have a new owner, Stan Kroenke."
Maybe the Manchester City owners do believe in fairy-tales but they won't get Wenger.
Even at that the reasoning behind Wenger choosing City over Arsenal are laughable at best.
He would move because there is a possibility that Arsenal will succumb to a takeover and be owned by one man.
Just as well for City then that they are owned by lifelong fans from their own City!
Both Stan Kroenke and Alisher Usmanov are well aware of how Wenger likes to operate club business and there is little fear that either would overly interfere with on the field matters.
The same cannot be said at Manchester City.
It wasn't Mark Hughes who signed Robinho or told Richard Dunne that he hadn't a famous enough name for the club. There is a part of most neutrals that would delight in seeing Aston Villa make the Champions League so Dunne could stick up his two fingers at the club he served so well but was treated so badly by.
Wenger won't leave Arsenal now for the same reason Fabregas won't.
It's not time.
The media severely underestimate how stubborn the Frenchman is and how much he loves to say "I told you so."
They laughed when he suggested his team would go through a season unbeaten. The laughs soon turned to head scratching and admiration.
Wenger is now adamant that the team he is creating can win the Premier League and Champions League. He doesn't like being wrong.
And why would Wenger leave now when his five years of madness look like him being right after all?
The sales or Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor have proved to be a stroke of genius.
Toure is past his sell by date while Adebayor is still caught up in his own ideas of self-worth.
Furthermore, the players Wenger has championed for a few seasons who previously had fans pulling their hair out are now proving their worth.
Alex Song has gone from the cliched zero to hero.
Many thought they'd never see the young Cameroon international after he disappeared down the tunnel at half time in that away game against Fulham.
Fast forward to now and Gunners are wondering just how they will cope without their defensive shield while he is away at the African Cup of Nations.
The much maligned Emmanuel Eboue has transformed into a vital utility player while Abou Diaby seems to be finding the consistency that has evaded him.
Having dropped the pink boots and ego, Nicklas Bendtner's performances before his injury had indicated a dramatic increase in his value to the squad.
Even the oddness at buying Mikael Silvestre became clear as he filled in at left back as the first three choices were out through injury.
Wenger's Arsenal aren't there, yet but they are getting there.
The shrinking kids of last season are no more.
Song, Diaby and Denilson are much improved over the last twelve months.
Vermaelen has been another Wenger bargain buy while Fabregas, Van Persie and Arshavin are leading their troops.
This season is a massive opportunity if Wenger decides to invest in some more quality in the January window.
Ferguson seems to have more problems than he has money to fix it, the gaping wound left by the departure of Ronaldo clear to see.
Liverpool are all but out of the equation while Ancelotti has to run naked around London if he signs anyone.
So why would Wenger want to leave now when the last five years finally look like they may pay off?
Simply he doesn't.
Last season when he was linked with a move to Real Madrid, Arsenal fans told him they loved him, hugged and made up and continued on.
The links with Manchester City are laughable at worst, barely feasible at best.
Arsenal will survive without Wenger and Fabregas of that there is no doubt but for now life is much better with them.
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