By Chris Harris
Cesc Fabregas took Arsenal to another level on Sunday, according to Thomas Vermaelen.
The Belgian defender did his bit to secure three priceless points against Aston Villa, helping Arsenal keep a valuable clean sheet at Emirates Stadium. But Vermaelen admits that Fabregas gave Arsène Wenger's side an extra dimension when he emerged from the bench for an outstanding 27-minute cameo.
Villa could not handle the Arsenal captain, who scored twice before limping off with a hamstring problem in the closing stages. And Vermaelen can appreciate how the Villa defence felt - because he has enough trouble stopping Fabregas in training.
"He is the best midfielder I have played alongside," said the Belgian.
"He's really smart in his game and in training if you play against him he's really difficult to defend against because I think he has eyes in the back of his head. He sees everything.
"He is a good captain too. He has a lot of qualities in football and I think that’s important for a captain. He talks in the dressing room, not too much but just enough.
"For us he was very important on Sunday. He scored twice in 20 minutes so he was very important. I think before he came on we were the better team but we didn’t create too many chances and when he came on we controlled the game more and we created some more chances.
"He played some good passes behind the defence, they were really dangerous. He has a great vision in the game."
Few would disagree with Vermaelen after watching Fabregas in action this season - he tops Arsenal's scoring charts with 12 in all competitions and leads the way in assists too. But Vermaelen and company may have to do without their captain for up to three weeks after he suffered a recurrence of his hamstring injury on Sunday.
The Belgian believes Arsenal can cope.
"Cesc is very important for us but it’s the same with Robin [van Persie] who is also important for us but they're injured and we have to do it without them," he said. "I think we have other good midfielders who can fill that gap."Copyright 2013 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 28 Dec 2009