116street Soccer

Footballing from a lesser authority...

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Location: New York, New York

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Garbage, Garbage Arsenal

Tomas Rosicky couldn't get them to follow. For all of his bounce, zip and attacking might Tuesday evening, Rosicky couldn't get one of his famous teammates to follow his passionate example: Thierry Henry's theatrics of fatigue were not matched by his actual work rate; Gilberto Silva could not make an imprint on the match if he tried (and he could have tried harder); Alexander Hleb seemed overwhelmed by the whole thing, and William Gallas is nowhere near match-ready at the moment; as for Emmanuel Adebayor, was he even playing the same match as everyone else?
Arsenal's ineptitude yesterday could be blamed on a number of maladies, whether Gallas' propensity for giving the ball to players in the wrong shirt, Henry's ineffectiveness against PSV's Brobdingnagian center-half Alex, or Adebayor's curious decision making process (at times I think he thinks he's playing a video game out there, the way he tries to go one-on-eleven), but after watching last night's match, along with several other lackluster Arsenal affairs, we here on 116th Street think it's time to focus our lens squarely on the boy wonder himself, Cesc Fabregas.
Far be it from us to go overboard in criticizing a 19-year-old starting in the spotlight of one of Europe's most glamorous clubs, but it was around this time a year ago that Cesc first started earning plaudits for his play in Arsenal's stunning run through the Champions League. Cesc was composed on the ball, capable of threading a perfect pass, and confident in his marking assignments; he remains all of those things today, and while he was no more or less passive than any of his teammates yesterday, the fact is that his spirit means more to the success of the club than that of any other player, just as it did when Patrick Vieira was captain at Highbury.
Arsenal's renowned style is dependent upon a quick transition from defense to attack, usually generated by a composed, decisive central midfielder; thus it is that when Fabregas plays slow, Arsenal plays slow. For the Gunners, Henry may be captain, and Gilberto may be the heart and soul of the side, but Cesc is the engine. That may be more pressure than should be given to a 19-year-old (and Arsene Wenger might do well to alleviate Cesc some by playing the 4-5-1 that worked so well last season), but for the club to improve it will need more urgency from its precocious midfielder. Thankfully for The Arsenal, time is on the side of Cesc Fabregas.

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