So our Catalan Captain has finally returned home, after eight years in London. Just the one winner’s medal to take with him, from the 2005 FA Cup victory over Manchester United. Pity.
I won’t go into an intensive analysis of Arsenal-with-Fab or Arsenal-without, there are far better and more insightful writers than I, both online and off, who have penned and will continue to pen articles along those lines. This is more of a personal divulgence of memories about or relating to our now departed playmaker, an indulgence for which I hope you will forgive me.
There are so many incredible and inspiring instances of Cesc’s impact that it is almost impossible to emphasise one at the expense of all the others. His match-winning two-goal cameo as a substitute against Aston Villa at the Grove on Boxing Day 2009, his goal straight from kick-off against Spurs after van Persie had put us ahead, his equaliser and memorable celebration against Liverpool at Anfield in ’07… How about the deft through-ball for Adebayor to score the winner against United in ’06? Or the howitzer at the Lane in ’07? What about his little juggle-&-finish in the rout of Rosenborg at Highbury in ’04? So many fantastic memories, I’m sure there are a ludicrous amount of others I’ve left out.
Amongst the plethora of great moments provided by Cesc during his time at Arsenal, one sticks out, particularly given resonance as a sort of ‘Coming-of-Age’ performance; I speak, of course, of his dominant display at the heart of Arsenal’s midfield in the Bernabeu on the 21st of February 2006. I remember the exact date because it was my 21st birthday. I remember also because I was there.
On that night, a Real Madrid team who were on a ten-game winning streak in all competitions lost at home to an English club for the first time in their history. Thierry Henry’s magnificent solo goal separated the sides but it was Cesc who shone. Players of the galactic calibre of Zidane, Ronaldo, Beckham, Robinho and Raul were comprehensively bossed by a 19 year old. Thanks in large part to Fabregas, a a backline made up of Eboue (huzzah), Senderos, Toure and Flamini with Mad Jens in goal managed to keep a clean sheet against one of the most fearsome attacking sides in Europe at the time. I will never forget that night, and that is a memory for which I am eternally grateful to Cesc.
As with the departures of similar legends such as Henry and Vieira, there is no malice of ill-feeling in this, only a sadness at seeing such a fantastic player and person leave the club I love.
Cesc, I thank you for everything you did in an Arsenal shirt, and wish you the best of luck in every endeavour. Just don’t expect any favours if we come up against your team!
Solidarity brothers & sisters… ☭