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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

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:


Anonymous goonerman said...

this article has nailed it. Fabregas has emerged as world-class. what is not being mentioned is how he seems to have matured mentally in the past few months and gone to a new level. This kid is 18 but is now becoming mentally very very strong. dont know how that happens but it has happened to him in the last few months. he is a big game player u r rite

3/29/2006 11:42 am

Anonymous MARTEEN, UTRECHT NL said...


3/29/2006 11:44 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

It was a great performance form the Gunners, resolute, tight, carving and enterprising, they were to superb as Juventus were to poor. Nedved and Del Piero missing, Thuram, Cannavaro, Buffon, Ibrahimovic, Trezeguet, Camoranesi (spe?), were for me as ill-performanced as Madrid. Arsenal's side had players selected and molded, not necessarily the finished article but on accounts like that from last night they were seldom troubled by others who have graced great football moments over the world.

I'm not aware of Juve scoring many in a match at home, I will be corrected sharpish if I'm wrong but 2-0 against a confident fast moving Arsenal side with a mixture of flair and experience with youth and courage had made most of the home advantage, something which I cannot say equally for their visitors on return to Turin. Previously, Arsenal beat Juve 3-1, again a 2 goal cushion, Juve won the return 1-0, and that is as far as I can see them scoring next week.

Someone I read from made the comparison of Liverpool's erratic season when they won, and Arsenal's current one. It is quite uncanny, the similarities, and signifies for a route into the semi-finals for the first time in the Gunners' history, and very possibly the finals and win it.

Vieira was half the player and told a story about Juve last night, many of them were half themselves. Despite the threat of a booking suspending him from the return leg, he will conceded and now misses out, I think that speaks volumes for Arsenal's chances. Thuram was renowned, Cannavaro a major defensive talent when partnered internationally with Nesta, but together they seemed shaky in dealing with the main threat of Henry. I felt Ibrahimovic would be a major threat but that tackle in the second half by Toure showed completely the Swede was going to continue on the losing streak.

Senderos was ever present, by that I mean when he was needed he was there and cleared without err, Lehmann came when needed to gather with big confidence. And when you score as they did, it made for a stern home advantage. Fabregas another great game, but Arsenal's midfield had the run of the middle for many periods of the game. Excellent progress, the record of Juve and Italian sides with Arsenal bode well again. I see the Italians being short-changed again by an English side for the second consecutive season, and Arsenal clearly on their way to the semis.

Eccellente Eccezionale Arsenal!


3/29/2006 12:00 pm

Blogger Al's Money Shot said...

Hello elitists!
Good article, couldnt agree with it more. Do you guys fancy adding a link to each others sites? Spreading the word can never be a bad thing...check out and leave a comment to let me know what you think. Cheers, keep up the great work

3/29/2006 12:18 pm

Anonymous donato said...

i have not thought about how fabregas has made such a mental leap in the past months but it is so true, senderos was magnifico

3/29/2006 12:19 pm

Anonymous PATRICE (a rennes) said...


3/29/2006 1:08 pm

Blogger SKG said...

congrats yet again to the gunners. what a story it would be if you could get all the way to the final. liverpool did it so there's no reason you can't either.

well done!

3/29/2006 1:18 pm

Anonymous Castanet said...

Thank you for such a well analysed report. I feel it might be appropriate for me to add something to your article, which after having exhausted so many other articles concerning Arsenal v Juventus, I have not come across.
Most of us tend to see this match for what its face value shows - the first leg and an all-important gateway to the last four. Of course this is right but I would also add that the long-term effects of this match will be ringing in our ears for a long-time to come.
The importance of facing Patrick Viera cannot be under-estimated. Pitching not only Cesc Fabregas but the rest of Arsenal's all-conquering youth against - no, not Juventus - Patrick Viera, as I see it, will help immensely to bury that psychological hoodoo that critics have long levelled at Arsenal - that they cannot play as supremely as they did when we had Viera.
This match showed and proved one crucial point - we can play just as well without Viera. This, I can see, is an enormous discovery and the psychological effects will have been equally as imminent on the rest of Arsenal. With this match wrapped up now, I dare say that Arsenal will from that day onwards, will be very different. The proof is there now - we faced Viera and we not only won, but had done so with compelling conviction.
Arsenal can now bury the past and live for tomorrow. Well done.

3/29/2006 1:58 pm

Blogger T said...

Many thanks Goonerman, Marteen, Al, Donato, Patrice, and Castanet for your comments...

Castanet, I tried to make the point about the major psychological impact of taking on Pat and winning in my last paragraph, but yout put it across much better... which is great because I agree that its an important point to make!

Thanx Redsman and SKG as ever for your sporting comments. From my point of view - as you would expect - I am like the AFC players in taking nothing for granted because over-confidence usually comes before a fall. Equally we must not go to Juve next week with trepidation or on the back-foot looking simply to defend.

Simply, we must keep the same mentality as displayed in our previous European games thus far this season.

3/29/2006 3:16 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good game for Arsenal.Do not worry, we Juve will conquer you all when you all guys come over to our place.

3/29/2006 6:05 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Anon (5.05PM), please. Seriously, you are a Juve fan? If so, you should be elaborating on what went wrong for your side last night. Arsenal worked around Juve, kept numbers in front of them, and, breaking that, had a keeper who was in no-nonsense mood and showed handling the likes of which any defence would take confidence from, or even expect playing as they did. No, Lehmann wasn't fantastic, he simply did his job.

Juve are impressive in Serie A, but Arsenal were not the type of team Juve face regularly. That could divulge partly why they were 2nd best, have to score three without reply, and will already be missing three key players come the return. Not having a go but Juve is having its European pedigree questioned yet again.


3/29/2006 11:50 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How come everytime you play a good foreign team they turn into Brentford for the evening?

3/30/2006 8:20 am

Anonymous Nturtle said...

Fantastic comments and article. I have nothing to add except to say I'm really looking forward to next week without taking too much from this game.

I truly believe we are on the verge of something special and it is not only Cesc that is powering through. Almost everybody got a mention but for's reserved for Wenger himself. The team has truly rewarded him for his belief in how it can work out...luck has sometimes not gone out way..but the self-destruction that happened was icing on the cake. For experienced players...I found it interesting how many howlers Juve made, especially in posession. They had the measure of us for half an hour at least...until it all went wrong.

Capello needs to really understand what is going on...and hope this doesnt undo his league title as well! How demoralising!

For Arsenal...Aston Villa are not Juve...but EVERY game is important and Saturday just the same in the need to catch up with Blackburn and Tottenham...

Come on you gunners! Using your heads and minds works so well! Simply a fantastic result to dispel any doubts about a great young and developing side!

3/30/2006 4:01 pm

Anonymous Castanet said...

Thank you nturtle. You added one point I totally forgot about and that is, Mr Wenger. Without him, Arsenal just isn't Arsenal the way we know of today. While the chips have been down on Arsenal for many months now, team rebuilding has always been a laborious and thankless task. I have been following the Gunners since 1972 when we bought Alan Ball from Everton for PS220,000, the highest fee paid for a player at that time. And since then, I had never looked back.
Today's Arsenal is simply scintillating and even when they seem to have hit rockbottom, somehow I knew that Wenger's vision would endure because as I'd said, team building is a thankless task.
Against Real and then Juventus proved the point that the young guns have now begun to materially mature but I must add a word of caution.
I believe Arsenal's natural hunting ground is Europe because there's space to play and we're all happy for that. In the EPL, the style of play seems to stymie us somewhat but I do hope and pray that Mr Wenger and his wonderful youngsters will prove me wrong. I'll be happy then!!! :)
In any case, to all of you, thank you for a great website. I'll be sticking around now that I have found all of you. I believe that this has to be the most matured, calm and sensible forum I have come across for a long time now. Thank you again.

3/30/2006 5:39 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

Nturtle, good to hear from you again.

Castanet, welcome, return when you can, we look to encourage such a site as you described above.

Here I think it worthy to note the no-score draws between Lyon v AC Milan, Benfica v Barcelona. Along with Arsenal's return in Turin, ensure your TV is working next week, I expect it will be a hard fought week of European football.

Note too that Boro had a somewhat wretched Basle stadium to play in tonight, couldnt get their pass-and-move game succinctly enough on a chewed-up pitch, though they tried very hard. Basle made a number of good link-up play and good attacks, and gave Boro two sucker goals just before half-time yet but had been warning Boro before then. Pogatetz is treated for a suspected broken nose, it wasn't a pleasant clash to have seen, so next week is a bigger night of European football.


3/30/2006 11:50 pm

Blogger T said...

Great comments as ever Nturtle. I should copy and paste my comments that I made about Wenger at the end of my Madrid post and apply it here... he is simply the most sensational manager that I could dream for Arsenal to have!

I totally ditto what you say too about every game being's definitely a one-match-at-a-time mentality for Arsenal until the end of the season... and we should simply look to give our best in each one. I expect Ade to be back 2mo... with RVP and Bergkamp as our super-sub options (I love it when we have two proven quality strikers available to come off the bench). Come on you Gunners!

Yep, good to have your quality contributions Castanet. Thanks too for the kind comments about the site.

Redsman, I didn't see the Boro match but the point you made about their pitch reminded me of my shock at seeing the Juve pitch when they played AC MIlan three weeks ago. It was in a terrible condition that made passing and maintaing balance very difficult to achieve. I wonder what condition it will be in next Wednesday?

3/31/2006 11:31 am

Anonymous Manish Keshwani said...

Over the season, I've had a lot of acquaintances (Man Utd. and Chelsea fans) tease me about Arsenal's poor performance. Later, after Christmas when Arsenal began their recovery, they shut up.

I suppose most of them saw and understood the amazing talent and potential in Arsenal young side. What makes it more special is that the players like Fabregas and Flamini are pure home-grown stars.

Arsene Wenger's brilliance comes to light here - his ability to nurture potential and bring the best out of lads like Senderos is shown.

As far as the Juve match goes, Arsenal owned Juve. It's Arsenal's year in Europe . We're gonna give Grand ol' highbury a fitting farewell.


4/02/2006 4:20 pm

Blogger T said...

Nice one Manish- excellent confidence and thanks for your comments!

4/02/2006 8:09 pm

Anonymous Castane said...

Thanks T and Redsman for your kind words. The beauty of this site is that everyone's so well mannered, accommodating AND analytical. It's pure joy to belong to a site where everyone respects one another's opinion.
Arsenal's two forthcoming matches, first against Juventus and not too long a wait, we have Man Utd at the weekend. It's going to a nerve-wrecking few days ahead. Let's see what I make out of these two.

Juventus v Arsenal
Alessandro del Piero may be back. Nedved is there already, raring to go. I don't know much about Juventus and their characteristic play style but there're already - reported elsewhere - that 40,000 and counting are attending from Juve's side. I don't think the stadium is going to be as empty as it usually is this time.
Arsenal needs to concentrate on playing football, as Mr Wenger has always said. If we do that, keep a tight midfield packed and play Henry out at the front. Maintain the same team for the 2nd as for the 1st leg. Contain them but play our game. Go for blitz attacks to catch them. I don't think Juventus is a fast team. So if we continue to fire the way we have been, go for early goal and then consolidate. Don't have to be overly defensive but do that wonderful passing game. Frustrate them and force them into errors. Break again. Get the second goal somewhere late in the second half. That will break their hearts. Sit back a little but don't take off the gas pedal.
Yes, we can definitely do it again.

Arsenal v Manchester United

If there is a grudge match, this will always be one. Perhaps with the emergence of Stamford Bridge, some gloss has come off this traditional tear-each-other-to-bits match. I believe this match is going to be so much harder than playing Juventus. But playing United isn't the same as playing Bolton or Chelsea. Much as I feign no adoration for the Red Devils, there is plenty of respect for who they are.
I believe that this will be a draw. Manchester United is very keen to win this game because they have a belief in reeling Chelsea in. Arsenal need to keep the boiler hot to harrass Spurs.
United could score first. Arsenal will reply in the second half. The last 20 minutes of the second half will be mind-blowing. United will add intense pressure on Arsenal to get that elusive winner. It won't come.
Arsenal 1 Man United 1.

I'm sure many amongst you will have something to say about these very amateurish predictions!

4/03/2006 6:38 pm

Anonymous Anonymous said...

GunnerPete says....well, this has been afew weeks of joy, and 't' will remember that my stomach told us this was about to happen.

Nicely written article 't', and yes Castan..this is a polite site. Your point about Alan Ball signing brought back memories to me, good and bad. Good because (A) it added the missing link to our superb double winning side, but bad (B) because it was the catalyst to the breaking up of the same superb side ie; the stupid selling of Charlie George, Ray Kennedy, Frank Mclintock, and others who were the flair players that we had then.

Bertie Mee, overruled Don Howe, and sold Charlie because of his own dislike for Chas, nothing to do with his skill, potential & record. Bertie was an administrator only, Don was the football man, and from that day when Bally was signed, we said goodbye,yet again, to the chances of winning the title over & over again. In fact, that bad judgement, allowed Liverpool ( just look what Kennedy achieved there) to return to the top and stay there.

The real hurtfull thing about that mistake was that I and millions of other Gunners had just got over the 17 years without winning a thing thanks to this team, when it was castrated prematurely.

As for the kids today....I have forecasted many times, and before he played in the first team, that Eboue will be a star. He is as good as ive seen in that position, and I think it will allow Arsene to sell Lauren whilst he has some value. After all, we have Gilbert coming through, and those two together will give us the powerfull right hand side we have needed for a few seasons. I also think Freddy could be sold too, as he has lost that spark & agressive value that was his trade mark. It is also obvious that Ashley Cole has decided (stupidly) that he is better off leaving us. If that is the case, Flamini & Clichy+ Hoyte will give us superb options down the left. Yes I would prefer Cole, because of his attacking skills,and he is a Brit, but he has made his bed etc.

This may sound negative, but that is the method used by Shankly & Fergy over their long periods of success ie; a continuous stream of improvement. Arsene has always had to do this because of the limited finance. This year he sold PV4 £14 mill.....bought with the money...Diaby,Adebayour & Walcott. Fantastic business, and he still has a nice big sum for the summer buys of world class players that will only strengthen this fantastic squad. Unlike Chelski & Manure though, Arsene moulds potential, rather than buying the instant product.

As for the forecasts above, well, I hope Im correct in saying that, I see another hard but, great game in Turin. Based on the result, the Manure game could be a cracker. If all goes well in Turin, I expect Arsene to spring a surprise and play Walcott as a secret weapon. If i am correct I expect us to win 1-2.

Well, youve got to dream have you not?

4/04/2006 11:12 am

Blogger T said...

Castanet and GunnerPete, your predictions and analysis make for good reading!

As for me, it has been a policy of mine since first supporting the Gunners in 1988 to avoid making scoreline predictions on Arsenal games for fear of tempting fate or any other negatives.... so I'll decline the opportunity to make one myself.

What I do like is the quotes I've seen from Wenger and Henry this week stressing the need to be prepared mentally to meet any challenge. The focus on the mindset in what will undoubtedly be a pressure match is something I like to see. I would also like to stress that Arsenal must look to score an away goal tomorrow... which is something we are capable of if we stay organised and play our natural attacking game.

GunnerPete, the comments you made in November about Eboue being an outstanding talent ready for the first team, plus what you said in your comments after the Anfield defeat about your senses telling you something good was imminently going to happen to the Gunners, are two of the best statements we've ever had on EFT... you definitely make good use of your excellent vast experience following AFC!

4/04/2006 10:40 pm


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