By Chris Harris
Cesc Fabregas has come of age this season. The 19-year-old has shouldered an immense midfield burden since Patrick Vieira departed last summer and was deservedly in the frame for the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
To the casual observer, Fabregas rose to prominence with stellar performances in the Champions League. He mastered Madrid at the Bernabeu and then won a symbolic personal battle with Vieira when Juventus visited Highbury.
Since the teenager scored one goal and set up another in a 2-0 win, no one has questioned Arsène Wenger's decision to sell his fellow Frenchman. But Fabregas is reluctant to pinpoint that famous night as the 'defining moment' of his fledgling career.
"Some people say it was against Real Madrid, some people say Juventus, I don't know," he says.
"To be honest I think I've been trying to do all I could in all of the season but sometimes people don't realise if you are playing well or not if [the team] is not going through good moments.
"I have talked to people in the Club and they say I have played well for all of the season, not just when we won at the Bernabeu. Of course, winning there gives you a good night, but maybe I played the same way against Everton and because I was sent off and we lost 1-0 people say I'm not at the right level."
Fabregas has emerged as the hub of Wenger's exciting young team, roaming midfield with a calm authority which belies his tender years. Fabregas dictates the tempo of Arsenal's play with his vision, passing range and comfort on the ball, but he has added another useful attribute to his game since arriving in England.
"I have developed a lot physically," he says. "I think if you want to be the most complete player in world you have to play in the English league.
"If you have the technique you have to work hard, be patient and wait for your chance on the ball during a game. That is not the same in other leagues and that's why the English league is the most complete.
"I knew it would take time to get the physical strength, even now it happens like the other day when [Wigan striker] Jason Roberts pushed me, he is massive and I am not the kind of player who can match that, it takes time. But Arsène Wenger believed in me and I have showed him I could be in the team.
"Now all I think about is Arsenal. All I want to do is to win the Champions League for this Club and all the people here, and of course for the fans and Arsène Wenger because I think they deserve it."17 May 2006