Big-match-player Fabregas is setting right tone across the whole team
The reigning Italian champions and runaway league leaders came to Highbury last night, and ended up losing their cool as Arsenal's next-generation side again put on a team performance of total spirit combined with total football to deservedly earn a two goals to nil win.
To not concede an away goal is a big bonus, and for this we must primarily thank our young back four led superbly by the magnificent Kolo Toure - who more and more is making good my prediction three years ago that he is going to be Arsenal's version of Thuram - plus the hugely underrated Gilberto whose ability to play as a virtual fifth defender is so important to the balance of the side.
Just as I did after the Madrid matches, I feel the need to give massive credit to each individual who wore the Arsenal shirt last night against the experienced world-class players of Juventus.
Flamini's tigerishness as a utility left-back is brilliantly reminiscent of a young Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn, and this quality really helped set the great tempo and determination in the side last night.
Eboue - as I continue to say -is a superstar in the making (and I'm going to write a big article on him soon!) because he has every quality you can possibly dream of in a full back!
Senderos is developing superbly and rapidly having just made his league debut fourteen months ago.
Pires' seasoned ingenuity set up the two goals- and THAT tackle on Vieira has the potential to long be etched on the memory.
Hleb is thriving with full confidence and looks to be a fantastic combination of a young Pires and magic-man Merson with his driving and mazy dribbles. The measured pass to put through Fabregas for the second goal is the best pass I've seen him play and is evidence of why he was known as the assists-master in the Bundesliga.
Reyes is an ever-present threat that scares the opposition into rash fouls (Vieira, Camonerese, and Zebina all received costly bookings last night after meeting tricky young Jose);
And, as my friend who was at the match last night told me in a text: 'the Skipper was a real Skipper!'
But I want to single out 18 year old Fabregas for special attention. After the Madrid match I wrote that he is a big match player- and this is a superb asset for Arsenal to have. In big matches its great to have in the centre of midfield a player, who, with fluid passing, enormous composure on the ball, and an automatic instinct to attack, can set the right tone across the whole team to play in the same 'total football' manner. He has played a major role in leading Arsenal to wins against Madrid, Liverpool and Juventus in the last month alone- and teams don’t get much bigger than these three.
To score the crucial first goal with a great run forward to support Thierry followed by a controlled finish, plus -in a great example of the special Wenger method - wisely assist the second for the Captain to put into an open goal when he could have gone for goal himself, says it all about Cesc's magnificent contribution last night.
The day Pat left I wrote an article on EFT headed: 'Fabregas is the reason why Arsenal can afford to let Vieira go.' In this article, dated 14 July 2005, I highlighted this sentence: The emergence of Fabregas is the reason why there is no need to fear the departing of Vieira.
The essence of my point of view was that although Pat was obviously a massively key player for our success, £13.7 million for a 29 year old who increasingly suffered from niggling injuries was a correct decision in light of the evident quality of Fabregas and the need to integrate him into the side as quickly as possible.
Pat is great and I loved his smile and handshake after the match with Arsene Wenger- mutual respect shined through. But it was also great to see that this new Arsenal proved to themselves against a side containing Pat that they are over the expected short-term shock of losing such a talismanic player. More than that they showed that the loss of Vieira no longer needs to be seen as a big negative… and on the contrary should be viewed positively because it has accelerated the progression of the young midfield playmaker who can step-up in the big matches: Francesc Fabregas.
Update: For scintillating writing on the Arsenal performance by the best writer on football in the UK check out this link: