Nov 252008

So tonight Fabregas ushers in a new era for Arsenal Football Club, in a crucial European tie against Dynamo Kiev, who normally don’t travel well but will be looking to jump above us in a group that doesn’t look as easy as it did a month ago.

The debate has raged about Cesc’s appointment today, although the contrast of media reaction to blog thoughts is quite stark. With a couple of exceptions, most of the fans running the more popular blogs are completely behind the decision, albeit recognising that this addresses but one of our issues – it isn’t a silver bullet. Look into the wider media world and you’ll find some hacks determined to write him off before he begins. But then a few years ago, Cesc was deemed not ready to replace Vieira in central midfield, so this is nothing new.

The man himself has been making the right noises, speaking of his pride at taking the armband:

“It is a great honour for me to captain one of the biggest clubs in the world. It is a proud moment. I know it’s a big responsibility but together with my team-mates, I know we have the spirit and commitment to get back to winning ways and fulfil our potential.”

It’s a proud moment for Cesc, but it is also a proud moment for us all, who now have a captain who represents the Arsenal tradition in the manner that Wenger would expect and demand. I don’t want to be too negative about Gallas, who tried to lead but just wasn’t up to it, but Fabregas is a different animal entirely.

It is incredibly rare to find a footballer who has achieved so much by 21. He ousted Vieira, became the fulcrum of the midfield, rose to international level and became a European champion in the summer. It is even rarer to find someone who combines that with the ability to speak like the most educated 30 year old, a man who inspires those much older than him. Whatever the ‘it’ factor is, he has it.

Another constant point people like to make is that he’ll leave for Spain at some point, with those lazy journalists again raising the point that Henry was given the captaincy and then left for Barcelona. But there are crucial differences – Henry was given the armband due to him being the best player, and nothing more, whereas Cesc is more of an organiser, more of a leader. And as for leaving the club, Henry was 29 when he departed and had given his best years to us. Cesc is 21, years from his peak and able to lead this side for a while before fulfulling his dreams back home. Over to the man himself again:

“Each year people talk about me leaving yet I’m still here and I want to be part of the future of Arsenal. I love the club and I’m totally committed to it. I’m not looking to play anywhere else.”

Good man.

It feels like the start of something again. Tonight will be tough, and Sunday’s trip to Stamford Bridge might be daunting, but it feels like the valley has been reached now, and it is time to climb back up.

Bet of the day

(Current winnings: £-3)

Football has it’s ironic touch, so what price Gallas popping up to score tonight? He managed a goal in each of the first two Champions League games, and Betfair are offering a healthy £9.80 return on a £1 bet at the moment.

Enjoy the game tonight.

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