When Patrick Vieira came on as a substitute against Sheffield Wednesday in 1996, you could not help but expect him to become one of the biggest names in English, if not world football. His drive and his passing, along with his strong and robust style, made him a darling to most Arsenal fans.
When young Cesc Fabregas played his first match outside the League Cup, against Manchester United, he created even more expectation from fans, because he outclassed perhaps one of the greatest midfielders ever in Roy Keane—he made the Irishman look abysmal.
He was still a teenager, yet he started four consecutive Premier League matches in the wake of Vieira and Edu's injuries at the beginning of the 2004-05 season. In all four matches Arsenal won, and Fabregas was already making himself a worthy member of the first team.
He is a player of absolute class, who reminds me most of Paul Scholes in his prime. Even though Wenger compares him to the great Platini, I can't agree since I have never seen Platini play.
But Scholes and Fabregas are very similar, they have superb vision and creativity, they like to play at their own pace. They can spray the ball long or short, quick or slow, and they both like to burst into the box when they see a good goal-scoring opportunity.
They are players who can always help you get out of trouble, which is why players always pass to them, because they always do the right thing with the ball. They are both dangerous outside the box as well.
He has become the heartbeat of the team, without him, the Gunners are much more vulnerable in midfield. He dictates the midfield through skill and intelligence, not power and bite.
He is the most important player in the squad, and he gained this role when he was only 20-years-old, and it is a role that he thrives upon. I can't think of any other midfielders who had been able to do that at the age of 21. Not even the great Stevie Gerrard or Roy Keane.
However, one attribute that stands out the most must be Fabregas's maturity, and his outstanding rate of improvement. Playing in the central midfield role demands great physicality, but also great mentality. We all know that Cesc has all the skills needed for the CM role, even though he lacks physical statue and speed, as he makes up for it by his tremendous mentality—he always looks to improve, never gives up a fight.
His passion means that he never stops working, never stops looking for space to attack, and never stops going forward or tracking back.
That is what separates him from players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, Robinho etc. He is a complete player, who never stops working and also has his feet on the ground. Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard also deserves praise in this department, but I expect Fabregas to surpass them in the future in the ranking of best midfielders in the world.
The next step for Fabregas will be to show consistency and an ability to deal with the ever increasing pressure on his shoulders. Also, that he can establish a new partnership with either Denilson or Diaby. There are arguments that Flamini was a key reason in Cesc's blossom last season, and that without him, Fabregas will not be as influential.
Well, that we have to wait and see, but from his intelligence and already proven adaptability, it really is a question of time before becoming the undisputed best midfielder in the game, just like how many believed Vieira was.
I would not swap him for any player in this world, because his potential is truly, scarily unlimited.
Damn, how do you do it Arsene?