By Adam Clark

With the wealth of talent that has risen through Arsenal's ranks in recent seasons it was inevitable that some players would go on to prove their worth elsewhere.

Jerome Thomas has done so at Charlton. Moritz Volz at Fulham. Jermaine Pennant is now with Liverpool. Blackburn's David Bentley could be on the verge of an England call-up and Jay Bothroyd even went to Serie A with Perugia. But perhaps the most impressive of Arsenal's departed youngsters has been Reading's Steve Sidwell.

The 24 year-old midfielder is now the heartbeat of the Royals side which has produced a brand of highly-entertaining - and successful - football in their incredible inaugural season in the Premiership. 

Arsenal's home may have changed but on Saturday Sidwell will return to the Club where he learnt his trade, hoping to add to a season already littered with highlights.

Opposing him will be player who did come through in his central midfield position - at just 16 years of age. Cesc Fabregas may not yet have completed his teenage years but his importance to Arsenal is not in dispute. Still just 19 the Spaniard has already featured in two Cup Finals and a World Cup.

But how have both Sidwell and Fabregas truly performed this season? We analysed the statistics to see who might have the edge on Saturday.

Fabregas, widely revered for his passing ability is actually behind Sidwell in terms of distribution. The Reading man has found a target with an impressive 62 per cent of his passes in the Premiership while Cesc has recorded a respectable 55 per cent success rate.

In fairness to the Spaniard he has attempted to find a team-mate on 47 more occasions and has also been the king of the killer pass. Testament to this is the 10 goals he has created for Arsenal so far this term. Sidwell is a little way behind with six assists.

Something Fabregas hasn't provided is goals. A brace against Dinamo Zagreb at the beginning of the campaign suggested he might improve on last year's return of three Premiership goals. So far however he has drawn a blank.

Sidwell certainly hasn't. The slight midfielder has found the target four times and a recent double at Aston Villa was completed with a finish of the highest quality.

The top scorers chart doesn't tell the whole story however. In fact Fabregas has had more attempts, more of which have been on target, and more of which have been blocked. Of the Spanish teenager's 59 efforts on goal, only 20 have meandered off target while 10 have been stopped en route. Add another two that have come off the woodwork and one begins to think he's been plain unlucky.

In comparison Sidwell has managed 53 shots on goal and seen 14 hit the target, three blocked and another cannon off the post.

Finally, an area in which they're actually fairly even is dribbling. So far this term Fabregas has taken on an opponent on 27 occasions and produced an end product 17 times. Sidwell on the other hand has made 21 runs and only relinquished possession on eight occasions. 

So there you have it. It's a topsy-turvy set of statistics and it's hard to predict who will have the edge this weekend. One thing is certain - both men have benefited from their years on Arsenal's training pitches.


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View Cesc Fabregas player profile


Head to Head Statistics Cesc Fabregas Steve Sidwell Premiership Appearances 26 28 Minutes on pitch 2148 2463 Attacking Goals 0 4 Shots on target 27 14 Shots off target 20 35 Shots blocked 10 3 Offside 2 3 Supporting Assists 10 6 Passes made 279 232 Passes complete 154 143 Passes incomplete 125 89 Crosses successful 6 0 Crosses unsuccessful 27 8 Total dribbles 27 21 Dribbles successful 17 13 Dribbles unsuccessful 10 8 Defending Tackles made 49 84 Tackles won 31 56 Tackles lost 18 28 Interceptions 10 15 Blocked Shots 2 6 Clearances 18 32 Penalties Conceded 0 0 Own Goals 0 0 Discipline Fouls 34 66 Yellow Cards 6 3

5/1 - Arsenal v Reading: Julio Baptista to score the first goal


Copyright 2014 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source 2 Mar 2007