Milan, Spurs, and Stoke: Why Cesc Fabregas Will Always Be My Favourite

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I had been working at my dad’s office over the summer. Of course rumours had been flying all over the place for months that he was off. I had long resigned myself to the fact he was going, and knew that the fact we’d managed to keep him one extra season in the first place had been a bonus.

Still, though, it really didn’t help soften the blow when it was finally confirmed. My sister had sent me a text as I walked to lunch with my dad. “Is he definitely gone then?!” it said. “No, don’t worry,” I replied. “Still rumours… I don’t think he’s definitely gone yet.” But she had me anxious. As we queued in the cafeteria, I checked Twitter again… and there was the confirmation. I follow quite an array of people, so it’s not often my entire timeline is united in its talking point. Felix Baumgartner’s space jump was one such time, as was the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in July. The other time was the day Cesc Fabregas left Arsenal.

Oddly enough, he was never a particular favourite of mine when he was here – I clearly took him for granted as much as everyone else did. But while others had talked about players whose careers I’d only caught the tail end of, I remember seeing Cesc’s at Arsenal from the start. There are three things I remember about Arsenal v Rotherham in 2003: the strawberry laces my sister and I got off the man with the stall on Gillespie Road; the fact it really went on and on; and the name Francesc Fabregas. I was 14 and he was 16. If I’d been a boy, I probably would have been thinking ‘Well there goes my footballing dream”. As it was I just remember thinking “Jeez, how can someone practically my age be playing with these huge big men?!”

Francesc, who we later learned to call Cesc (it took commentators a while longer with ‘Fabrice Fabregas’ becoming our youngest goal scorer), soon settled in well. I used to sit in the North Bank Lower at Highbury and one of the songs I remember singing the most was ‘He’s only 17, he’s better than Roy Keane’. In his early days, he was surrounded by world class talent which is of course testament to his own talent for one so young, but towards the end of his Arsenal career, the occurrence of one of his many sidelining injuries proved absolutely gutting for a team that had learned to consistently lean on one man.

Cesc Fabregas and Roy Keane battle in the midfield. Getty Images

He gave us fans eight years of performances that have him very often described as having been the most talented player to have ever played for Arsenal. My personal highlights included his through ball to Emmanuel Adebayor against United at Old Trafford in 2006 – that game you’ll remember no one gave us a hope in hell of winning. I’m not sure why it’s up there – maybe because it marked the last time we actually won there in the Premiership. His goal against Tottenham in our 3-0 win over them in November 2009 brought us the solo goal, the one scored 49 seconds after another former captain of ours had broken the deadlock early in the second half.

The match against Stoke City in the Premiership in March 2010 will always be remembered as the day of Aaron Ramsey’s dreadful injury, but it also provided Cesc with the chance to give us one of the best captain’s performances I’ve ever seen. It was also the day he shushed Tony Pulis. Sometimes there are moments in football that simply can’t be improved upon.

His goal against AC Milan in March 2008 and the ensuing celebration with Arsene Wenger is head and shoulders above all my other Cesc memories – and possibly even most of my Arsenal memories. It has now been wiped from the pre-match montage shown at the Emirates. Understandable, but still a shame, as it was incredibly moving every single time. Calm and composed goal celebrations are all well and good, but even from my seat somewhere near Jupiter up in the away end of San Siro, it was still my favourite goal celebration ever.

In the way Jack Wilshere is becoming, he was as despised by fans of other teams as he was loved by ours. This hearty dislike was always a barely-there sheen concealing an all-consuming desire to have him playing for them rather than against them, naturally. There were times at which it seemed the British media seemed content to chase him out of English football. Besides, he was a wind-up merchant, a very under-appreciated trait in footballers these days, I feel.

It’ll always be one of the great Arsenal tragedies that he went to Barcelona. Or rather, that he was at Barcelona first. We’ve seen an awful lot of players leave Arsenal in recent seasons, and most have gone with no more than a ‘Good riddance’. If they’re lucky, we’ll decide to really hate them for a few years. Our most recent captain’s departure was infuriating, but I felt no sadness whatsoever. With Cesc, perhaps it was the inevitability of it, or perhaps it was just that it was the end of an era far too soon, but either way I cried like an absolute baby in that cafeteria when I heard it was certain he was moving. Some Arsenal fans will probably never fully accept that he’s now no more than the one that got away, because he was one of the few who really got it. It’s just a huge shame we got to him second.

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21 Comments on "Milan, Spurs, and Stoke: Why Cesc Fabregas Will Always Be My Favourite"

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  1. true tat..i completely agree with you..

  2. Gregory says:

    Cesc was a wonderful player who had a tremendous passing ability. A great player!

    Lovely article

  3. Sudhir Samuels says:

    Cesc was incredible from his first game for us, he gave us so many memories to cherish and his passion on the pitch was tremendous. I still watch some Barcalona games, not for Messi but for our little wizard. Top Top Player!!

  4. Sean says:

    An article with a soul…. very well done.

  5. Rufusstan says:

    Wonderful article. It triggers so many memories.
    I always wondered how many people in the stadium actually saw the Spurs goal. I know it was pure chance that I looked around and saw the kickoff, when everyone around me was still going nuts.

    If I would add another memory it would be his penalty against Barca; if only for the idea that even a broken leg couldn't stop him.

    With all the players we have lost recently, often with bad blood, is it wrong that of all of them, I'd have Cesc back in a heartbeat

  6. Arsenefication says:

    Fantastic article. However, I feel that RVP's move was the most painful… Espceialy with the sizzling form he's showing for Fungus' team.

  7. john says:

    Its a measure of his ability that he made everyone he played with play better ( song, hleb, nasri to name a few ) . he is still my favourite football player on the planet and like sudhir samuelsi look forward to watching barcelona just to see him play . a trequartista in the truest sense of the word . h

  8. Vikram Singh Negi says:

    The day Fabregas scored that penalty at the Britannia and ran towards the crowd, i cried and i am man enough to admit. It is days like these that make us feel we just dont follow Arsenal, but we bleed Arsenal too.
    Fabregas, along with DB10, is my favorite player, and it was really sad to see him leave. Hope he comes back one day. Cause he ll never be loved at Barca, like he was here.

    Thank you for the beautiful article

  9. John Dale says:

    Wow. I had no idea I wasn't the only one who watched Barcelona matches just to see Cesc play. I love that guy

  10. Mithridate says:

    I watch Barcelona only for him too. Never did that for Henry. It conforts me to hear that I am not the only one.
    I think he is the only player I have seen who would be good in any position on the pitch (except GK, of course).

  11. Tim says:

    Top Gooner in my opinion also. Would welcome him back in a heart beat and I wouldn't say that about any of the others who left us.

  12. SamuraiJackWilshere says:

    Great article, echoes how I felt about Cesc leaving, you knew it was coming for a year but it still made you sad. RVP's departure might have been similar if he hadn't shit in his back garden.

  13. Great article Sian – brilliantly put together and quite emotion invoking!

  14. Irishgray75@aol.com Irishgray says:

    Excellent article Sian :) And yes I too would take Cesc back in a second. I well remember that game against Milan and that celebration. We could have won that game by 6 or 7 goals to be honest. There was a report that at halftime the Milan players sat in their dressing room asking each other who the hell we were? They had not taken us as serious opposition but they could not get the ball off us and we outplayed them all over the pitch. They were truly shocked. And above everyone else it was Fabregas they were amazed by. I personally think 2008 was our best team and if it was not for that incident, I think we would have gone on to beat everyone we played. We were outstanding.

    Could you imagine Jack alongside Cesc now? :(

  15. Yankee Gooner says:

    Great article. That second half at the San Siro might be my favorite Arsenal half in ever.

    On that note, any of you gooners know how I could get a dvd or footage (hell, i'd even take a vhs) of that game? I've had no luck tracking it down.

  16. Alex says:

    Well written Sian, I remember when Cesc left, I must have gone into a media lockdown for the next 3 days, because I don’t remember anything after that out of depression or willingness to forget :( Wish I got to see him live at the Emirates, for Arsenal. Maybe one day :)

  17. elkieno says:

    Yep me to love article etc.
    I read this authors other blog ‘I believe in arsenal’ I think, then followed the link here. I got to watch the invincibles but didn’t really grasp the game as a whole, despite being arsenal mad! Cesc was the one that made me see the difference between a Play Maker and just a player. I remember the Aston villa game where he was coming back from injury and scored 2, a free kick and another to win us the game, then pulled up with his hammy later.
    Ahh, Memories – Barbera Streisand, is playing in my mind right now, while my throat gets lumpy…

  18. elkieno says:

    Yep me to love article etc.
    I read this authors other blog ‘I believe in arsenal’ I think, then followed the link here. I got to watch the invincibles but didn’t really grasp the game as a whole, despite being arsenal mad! Cesc was the one that made me see the difference between a Play Maker and just a player. I remember the Aston villa game where he was coming back from injury and scored 2, a free kick and another to win us the game, then pulled up with his hammy later.
    Ahh, Memories – Barbera Streisand, is playing in my mind right now, while my throat gets lumpy…

  19. elkieno says:

    Twice? now thrice!

  20. Die Hard Gunner says:

    He is who we should call creativity with the ball, i actually gave him a name which i now use for Wilshere now, but will be willing to give back to him if he ever returns to play for the red and white, I used to call him "Lord of the Midfield"…I cried also when he left, he was the reason i ever visited those cunts website just to see his image…Oh! My dear Francesc "Fabre-pass, Fabre-goal," Fabregas. I Miss Him Sooooooooooo Much.

  21. ellie_b8103@hotmail.com Ellie Bromage says:

    Brilliant article, Really enjoyed reading it. Agree with everyone else in that I would take him back without thinking twice. Still hold that glimmer of hope that maybe one day he will.

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