Cesc Fabregas—the best player in the Premiership?
Fans of Chelsea (Drogba, Essien, and Lampard), Man United (Rooney and...that’s it!) and Liverpool (Gerrard and Torres) may have opinions of their own, but in my opinion if Fabregas isn’t yet quite there, then he must be extremely close.
The Arsenal talisman’s brilliance was underlined once again this afternoon as he returned from injury to score the opener and help create the second as Arsenal dispatched Bolton to close in on the top two.
This came on the back of one of the most outstanding cameos in recent premiership history when Fabregas, just back from a hamstring injury, came on with Arsenal struggling to break down a resolute Aston Villa side and scored twice, re-injuring himself whilst scoring the second, to send Arsenal on the way to a precious victory.
In all, Fabregas was on the pitch for just 27 minutes but his contribution summed up his importance to the North London giants.
At just 22 years old, it’s incredible to think that this is a player seemingly still five years away from what should be his peak footballing years.
As Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger commented in a recent interview, “What is good as well is that he is 22 years old so there is a lot more to come from him. If he keeps the same attitude a lot more will come from him.”
It is Wenger himself who deserves the bulk of the credit for having the faith to give Fabregas his opportunity at such an early age and helping him become the incredible talent that he has matured into.
In turn Fabregas has shown great loyalty in staying with Arsenal and Wenger, despite serious interest from his former club Barcelona and Real Madrid.
It was an extremely brave decision when in 2005, Wenger allowed the then Arsenal captain and the heartbeat of the side, Patrick Vieira, to leave the club such was his faith in the little Spaniard, but it's a decision which Fabregas has repaid 10-fold.
Many doubted Wenger’s sanity when making the decision with even members of his own team such as Ashley Cole questioning the decision in his biography My Defence , saying, “With all due respect to Cesc, he is no Patrick Vieira. It’s like putting the gloves of a heavyweight champion on the hands of an unproven featherweight and telling him to go out there and knock out the opposition.”
No one is doubting that decision now however because at an age where most players are just beginning to nail down a first team slot at a club the size of Arsenal, Fabregas has already amassed over 200 appearances for the club, assumed the club captaincy, and is a key reason why Wenger is so committed to giving youth its chance.
From the first time Fabregas stepped out in an Arsenal shirt, becoming Arsenal’s youngest ever first-team player in the process at just 16 years old and 177 days, his technique, vision, and composure was there for all to see.
Since then he has added steel, leadership qualities, and an eye for goal to his game, becoming one of the most complete midfielders in world football.
Wenger’s decision to utilise Fabregas in a more advanced position, perhaps inspired by Rafa Benitez doing the same with Steven Gerrard, and switching to a 4-3-3 formation, has payed further dividends with the little dynamo able to impact the game in the most important areas providing assists and goals in equal measure.
The growing maturity of the likes of Denilson, Alex Song, and especially Abou Diaby has helped the transition, with Fabregas able to make the switch without Arsenal unduly suffering.
When discussing the 4-3-3 formation and his role in it, Fabregas expressed his delight with the new system saying, “My position is higher up the pitch. I’m in a part of the pitch where I can do dangerous things in terms of giving the final ball, and I have more time to go to dangerous positions to score a goal as well.”
His goal against Bolton was his 13th in all competitions, as many as he grabbed in the whole of last season, a tally that was the highest of his career to date.
He seems well on course to break the 20-goal mark this season and with Arsenal missing their main source of goals in the form of the unfortunate injury-prone Robin Van Persie, his emergence as a fully fledged goal threat couldn’t have come at a better time.
His importance to Arsenal is now on par with Steven Gerrard’s at Liverpool and when he's in full flow, Arsenal are a hugely difficult proposition for any team to cope with.
If not the best yet, it’s surely only a matter of time.
I just hope he’s still wearing Arsenal colours when that time comes.