The Transformation of Cesc Fabregas
Gooners don't need another reason to love Cesc.
For most he is the most liked player. A testimonial of Wenger's unflinching faith in the youngsters. A player who made it through the Arsenal ranks, where countless others have failed. One who doesn't hide his love for the club or its supporters (and they in turn show him exactly how they feel about him).
And now this, I'll illustrate just a few incidents. One was from the 2004-'05 season, Arsenal against Bayern Munich. The teenager confronts the superstar Michael Ballack. Nothing much, just saying a few words on what he, and we, felt about him. A tiny teenager, daring to take on one of the biggest names on the football planet. Youthful exuberance? Maybe.
Fast forward to Feb. 2007 and the Carling Cup final. Chelsea leading and son-of-a-bitch Mikel tugs Kolo Toure by his shirt. Toure (another all-time Gooner favourite) lets his fists do the talking. In comes big-mouth Frank to wrestle with Toure. And, guess who...19-year-old Cesc—much lighter than Fat Frank—catches him by the neck, wheels him across, and gives him a tight slap. Of course it was not all one-way traffic, but it showed this kid had some guts. He may be light in weight, but when you've got the daring, nothing else matters. Ask Frank.
Cesc epitomises everything I want an Arsenal player to be. And for that, he has been my favourite for some time now (even when Henry was in the team) and will continue to be so.
The 2007-'08 season saw Fabregas emerge from Henry’s shadow and really establish himself as the top dog at Arsenal Football Club. It was a season when he showed that he wasn’t afraid to take on the bullies of the big, bad world of football. Not surprisingly, Arsenal’s strongest title challenge in the past five years coincided with Fabregas having one of his best seasons at the club. Sadly, fate had different plans.
Without going through a painful diversion, let us focus back on the object of our attention and affection.
2008-'09 saw an Arsenal team thrown back into disarray with the departure of two of our best four players of the 2007-'08 season. In a midfield shorn of creative talent, it was easy for the opposition to focus all their energy on strangulating Fabregas. A Euro-weary Fabregas played on injured and Arsenal floundered.
The stumble soon became a free-fall in what is described as Wenger’s worst season to date. His appointment as captain was one of the few inspiring moments in an otherwise disappointing season.
The January transfer window saw the arrival of a diminutive Russian dynamite. Fabregas found the necessary creative outlet to free him of his shackles. The hunger and cheer were back.
A sign of true greatness is that you are never happy with what you are, you are always looking to improve. The precise reason why Adebayor will never be great.
Fabregas was special; Wenger saw that, which is why he risked tearing apart one of the best teams in the Premiership to build a new generation of players suited to meet the game of one player.
Yet he had many weaknesses. He didn’t have a great shot, he was easy to push off the ball, and had a weak tackle, he had a natural disadvantage in aerial play, and most importantly, he had left his scoring boots with Spain’s U17 team. He has worked hard on each of them. He ironed them out one by one.
Today, Fabregas is one of the most complete football players on the planet. He may not have the crazy dribbling skills of a Messi or a Ronaldo but he makes up for that with his telescopic vision. There isn’t a team in the world (national or club) that he wouldn’t walk into. And as a Gooner, I am delighted that we have him.
There are two players I always look out for after a goal is scored. One is Eboue, and the other is Fabregas. He has been with Arsenal for six years now, yet his delight when he, or anyone else, scores a goal is a joy to watch. When I first saw him as a 17-year-old (Community shield game), what endeared me to him was his enthusiasm.
Six years down the line he still shows that same passion. He is a winner. Watch Fabregas after any Gunner goal. He is always there, he is always there for the team. Hell, I remember his reaction after Fran Merida’s screamer against Liverpool in the Carling cup. Money can buy talent but not love. Fabregas loves Arsenal Football Club.
When he kisses the badge you realise it is not some fake and nauseating action of a mercenary. Rather, through his expressive eyes you can see a person who truly values the jersey.
What we have witnessed over the past year is "phase II" in the transformation of the boy from Catalonia. I could flower him with adjectives but none would do justice to what he means to me.
He is on the verge of fulfilling his destiny. I just hope that when he reaches his zenith he is still wearing the Arsenal captain’s armband.
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