The Arsenal.com Player of the Season is Cesc Fabregas. The midfielder deservedly polled 33.26 per cent of vote following his wonderful campaign for club and country. Editor Richard Clarke reflects on the increasing influence of the young Spaniard.
You didn't really think it would be anybody else did you? One in three voters put their online X in the box next to name of Cesc Fabregas and you suspect the other two will have thought about it.
Two seasons ago, the boy became a man. But during the campaign just gone, the man became a force.
Plenty of players have shown the youthful potential to become a footballing megastar - few have done it. Fabregas is not there yet but the trajectory of his career keeps going up and up while the rate of ascent just gets faster.
It is not going too far to suggest his individual display at the San Siro in March was one of the best ever in an Arsenal shirt. Remember this was a Milan side who had dominated Europe over the past five years and had proved their mettle a fortnight earlier with a 0-0 draw at Emirates Stadium. Yet Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini overwhelmed, overran (and perhaps ran over) a midfield of world renown. Milan were so impressed with Arsenal's display that night they signed Flamini at the end of the season. Thankfully Fabregas' heart remains in North London.
The Spaniard struck the opening goal that night and his scoring abilities returned with a vengeance last season. He hit 11 in the opening three months of the season including a run of six in successive games.
Arsène Wenger has said goal-scoring is "a disease" Fabregas contracted early in his career and he would never really be cured. However, handy knack though it is, goals do not define his game. In the previous campaign the Spaniard did not hit the net between August and April yet it hardly hampered his form. Goals catch the eye and grab the headlines but the football of Cesc Fabregas has many more facets than that.
For a start he has been the top of the Premier League 'assists table' for the past two seasons. Last term, Arsenal scored 74 goals. Fabregas hit seven himself and directly contributed to another 19. Although not statistically provable, it is highly likely that he played a role in at least 11 more goals. If we can make that assumption, then we can say Fabregas contributed to half the Premier League goals Arsenal scored last season. That’s some feat - but it’s still not his main job.
In fact Fabregas' primary function is to control the tempo of Wenger's Arsenal. The Frenchman asks his side to play a pacy passing game and the 21-year-old is the metronome. To fulfil this role you need all-round abilities - passing, tackling, vision and tenacity.
Having been privileged enough to see Fabregas' debut in the Reserves, I can confirm those qualities have always been apparent. The only difference is the level at which he is operating these days.
For Arsenal, he is now the principal corner-taker on both flanks and takes almost all of the long-range free-kicks.
He also elbowed his way in to the Spanish side during their success Euro 2008 campaign and his shoot-out winning penalty in the Quarter-Final against Italy illustrated the amount of responsibility resting on his relatively young shoulders.
Of course there were many factors behind the success of the previously underachieving Spain this summer. But, along with Fernando Torres, Fabregas is leading a new, different generation, one that has already achieved success at a young age and is now cauterised against the white heat of international competition.
Something similar is needed at Arsenal next season if he wants to match international honours with Club ones. Everyone knows Wenger's side is young, developing and, on the basis of last season's table, closing in on Manchester United and Chelsea. However their points tally still left them third.
With Henry gone, Fabregas became the player to look to last season and he delivered. Yet now his job has gone beyond even that. He may not be captain but Fabregas will be charged with bringing out the best in himself and those around him next season. It is a difficult trick to pull off because as the pivotal player in the side he'll be targeted for special attention.
But all the evidence of his career so far suggests he’ll be more than able to cope.
|9 July 2008||Fabregas Week: How Cesc eclipses his rivals|
|8 July 2008||Fabregas Week: 'He is magnificent and will improve'|
|7 July 2008||Fabregas Week: Have you say about the Spaniard|
|7 July 2008||Fabregas Week: Watch the midfielder in action|