Cesc Fábregas drives Arsenal forward with masterful cameo

The Arsenal captain came off the bench to give the Gunners more conviction and penetration after a blistering early exchange between the two clubs.
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It may have been slightly swept under the rug after the masterful cameo provided by the Arsenal skipper but before Cesc Fábregas’ inspirational display, it was Abou Diaby who was the key man. The Frenchman, although lacking his captain’s creativity, linked play up effectively and looked to drive the team forward. His fine solo effort in added time was enough to remind those high on Cesc Fábregas ecstasy, of his existence.

Diaby helped fulfill his manager’s order before the start of the game, Arsène Wenger telling his side to attack with more dynamism and for a good thirty-five minutes, the home side did just that, attacking with great tempo. The only low point was the ease in which the Villa defend were able to deny Arsenal the ability to get behind or it just may have been Arsenal’s reluctance to do so. A physical presence to complement Andrey Arshavin is still a miss to give the side a bit more variety and  unpredictability, nevertheless it was still a solid team performance.

It was a pulsating opening exchange with Arsenal doing most of the thrusting and Villa counter-thrusting as they looked to catch Arsenal on the break. The best defence in the league before the game remained organised and looked to pressure from the front, starting with Gabriel Agbonlahor and Emile Heskey, the latter of whom won plenty of challenges. It was part of the reason why their sheet remained unblemished for two-thirds of the game, that until Cesc Fábregas was introduced close to the hour mark for Denilson who suffered a slight occurrence of a back injury. Theo Walcott helped stretch play and open up the right hand side where most of Arsenal’s play came from.

The first goal came from a sumptuous free-kick as Fábregas, picking up the ball in the striker’s position and luring a foul from Richard Dunne, realised the opportunity to take the shot as quickly as possible to send Brad Freidel scrambling. He second displayed just how good his composure is, bursting forward from a rapid break to meet Walcott’s pass and curl round the ‘keeper. The goal to effectively assure Arsenal of the points came at a cost, as he picked up a hamstring injury, the time on the sidelines still unknown.

Such was Arsenal’s dominance in attack and defence, Stilian Petrov, normally Aston Villa’s most influential played had only 18 passes of the ball, half of what he normal accumulates in a game and around half coming after Fábregas’ introduction where they were required to chase the game.

Abou Diaby evoked memories of another Arsenal captain with a powerful run and finish for the second game running but it was difficult to shift away from Fábregas’ impact on the match. He showed just why Barcelona will want him in his squad; more penetrative than Xavi although probably a lesser dictator, Fábregas will add a new dimension to any side as he did here at the Emirates.

Arsenal 3-0 Aston Villa: Fabregas 65, 81, Diaby 90

Arsenal (4-3-3): Almunia; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Traoré; Denílson (Fábregas, 57; Ramsey, 83), Song, Diaby; Nasri, Arshavin, Eduardo (Walcott, 63). Subs not used: Vela, Silvestre, Fabianski, Eboué

Aston Villa (4-4-2): Friedel, L Young (Delph, 75), Cuéllar, Dunne, Warnock; A Young, Milner, Petrov, Downing; Agbonlahor, Heskey (Carew, 62). Subs not used: Sidwell, Reo-Coker, Guzan, Beye, Collins

Arsenal Team Statistics Aston Villa
3 Goals 0
0 1st Half Goals 0
9 Shots on Target 2
6 Shots off Target 5
6 Blocked Shots 2
10 Corners 4
15 Fouls 20
1 Offsides 5
1 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
80.6 Passing Success 71.3
14 Tackles 30
85.7 Tackles Success 63.3
62.1 Possession 37.9
55.9 Territorial Advantage 44.1
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22 thoughts on “Cesc Fábregas drives Arsenal forward with masterful cameo

  1. I felt we dominated and cesc provided the cutting edge we needed.

    Diaby had an excellent game.

    I feel we can play without cesc and denilson for the next few games against pompey, bolton and everton.

    Midfield 3 of ramsey, song and diaby for pompey.

    During the acon and while denilson and cesc are out we can play diaby, ramsey and nasri.

    1. I dont want to jinx Diaby but he his starting to look like the player we want in that box-to-box role from midfield 2 alongside Song. His decision-making is getting better and his workrate & tactical discpline is improving as well.

  2. Great, helpful analysis but you depressed me by mentioning Barca, was that really so necessary? 😛

    The best part of our season was the period between Man City away and West Ham away, and I think Diaby’s presence was a big part of that.

  3. Great analysis. I hate the fact that the media is making it all about the Cesc show as if it wasn’t a team performance. It’s true he had a massive impact but it wasn’t all about him.

    The media seem to be really milking the Cesc-injured-while-saving-he-game-singlehandedly story.

    And I have to rant about the media for another reason this weekend: what the hell is this hysterical media gushing over Rooney and Utd’s defeat of HULL as if it was an achievement equal to beating the 4th place team? We beat Hull last week and got no media attention for it at all, despite 3 great goals. You’d think Utd and Rooney beat the European champions, ffs! Skysports profiled Rooney and Cesc as the two men of the weekend — they talked about Rooney as if he’d slayed a dragon. Well sorry there’s NO comparison between what Rooney did v. Hull and what Cesc did v. Villa.

    Skysports did provide some interesting statistical comparisons between the 2 players.

    Cesc v. Villa – played 27 mins, scored 2 goals, 0 assists, 3 key passes and 92% pass completion.

    Rooney v. Hull played 90 mins, scored 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 key passes and 64% pass completion.

    In the PL this season, Cesc has played 16 games, scored 9 goals and made 12 assists.

    Rooney played 18 games, scored 13 goals and made 2 assists.

    1. Marcus, I agree with you, but don’t get the complaint. There is no malice in it; it is just easier for the media to tell ‘hero narratives’ then to describe team efforts. And Cesc really was heroic yesterday. As good as the rest of the team was, he has become a difference-maker. He adds an extra dimension and his teammates start expecting more of themselves, making runs, showing for passes and the rest when he is in there.

  4. @ The Brain, while i agree that last season Xavi was the best creator last season in Europe, i dont think he is better creative midfielder than Cesc. No player since Cesc was 17 has given more Key Passes every season in Europe than him apart from last season when he was injured for 4 months.

    Wouldnt swap Cesc for any creative midfielder in the world despite his lack of phyiscal gifts [his decision-making, passing, technique in tight space, intelligent movement, touch and exceptional vision are just awesome]

    1. Xavi made about 80-90 passes a match, no exaggeration as you well know. In one sense, Fabregas is better and that is looking to create chances quicker. He is more penetrative and that is probably because of the footballing culture he has been entwined in since making the move. Xavi can see great opportunities but his role as a dictator is unrivaled higher up the pitch as the interior.

        1. Supergunner07; I don’t disagree. I feel they both offer something different. Fabregas is more penetrative while Xavi is better at keeping the ball and dictating play, although you may argue Fabregas is better at the latter as he tries to be more dynamic.

          I would have voted Xavi as the player of the year last year, just as Wenger would have as he was around 95% accurate in his passes. A fantastic ratio. But you would bet Fabregas would make more direct assists.

    2. Supergunner, I wouldn’t trade Cesc for anyone either. But I suspect that an improvement in the physical aspects of his game is in part behind his greater confidence to take on opponents and make runs this year. I can’t tell for sure, but Cesc ‘feels’ stronger. His goal against Tottenham, his aggression in the first half against Burnley and his run for the second goal yesterday all suggest a player who is perhaps stronger and faster than he has been in previous years. He is, after all, only 22. So that doesn’t surprise me.

      1. Exactly. What makes Cesc soooooooo special, the reason he played regular first team football at 17-18 rather than 19-20 that the others in our team do, is his gift of doing “what is best for the team” and that, I didn’t realise till this season, included his ability to know not only his weaknesses, but to work on them and recognise when he was good enough to start dribbling and using his physicality. He would have played the game at AC Milan quite differently if he were to play them this year than what he did in 07/08 where all he did was spread the ball until that magic moment.

        That’s the reason he’s one of the golden few (perhaps the only one?) to have played so many games and captain a Champion’s League contending club at the age of 22.

  5. Great article, mostly because I agree! I hate that most are reporting that until Cesc came into the game, it was an even contest. While lacking the ultimate finish and conceding that Villa had a few half chances, Arsenal always looked the more likely to score. What impressed me more was the team defending. Villa just couldn’t maintain possession for any length of time and rarely looked threatening on the counter. Song, Denilson and Diaby all did a tremendous job of suffocating their midfield, tracking back and breaking up the play consistently, making it very difficult for Villa to pass it through the middle. More impressively, I can’t think of a single instance of Villa successfully playing a long diagonal ball behind the fullbacks, which is one of their key tactics. This speaks to the tremendous concentration of the entire back four and defensive midfielders to hold their shape and cover for each other while we held the ball and tried to pick apart a very solid Villa defense. A few nervous moments aside, it was a fairly comfortable clean sheet. If they can defend like that, the second half of the season starts to look very promising indeed.

  6. There is no doubt about Cesc’s ability and shredness. He is the type who only needs a blink of an opponent’s mistake and that is what exactly happened.

    But Song has not been mentioned as though what he did was not seen, a block as always. Viva all players, they all palyed very well including the keeper.

  7. Good analysis and a great performance by our Gunners!
    Arsenal normally play narrow and depend on movement to drag the defenders to create goal scoring opportunities. Fabregas’s introduction saw him play high up the pitch where he offered lots of penetration. If you see the free kick for the first goal, he was playing center forward. Even for the second goal, he was the furthermost arsenal player along with Walcott. He also attracted defenders towards him, freeing up Arshavin, Diaby, etc. Song had a great game and Diaby’s third goal was incredible! Walcott will be an important player with his well timed runs along the flank. Can’t wait for Bendtner to come back. He will offer us a great option upfront.
    Do you think we need a CM considering Denilson and Fabregas are injured?

    1. Wenger’s considering it. Time will tell but I have no doubts Nasri can step up as a creative midfielder but probably not as penetrative as Cesc. What will help them most is if Arsenal have enough dynamism on the wings and up front. That’s why a return of Bendtner is crucial and Eduardo recapturing his form otherwise the team will begin to rely on certain players.

  8. Unless I missed something, Denilson’s freekick was our first goal from direct freekick of the season. And now Cesc made it two. It feels very good that we have rediscovered that part of our game – after all, we have a midfield full of master passers.
    I also notice that we let in 0 goal in all home games of December. This is a remarkable improvement relative to September and October (November is exceptional due to the Chelsea game).
    Last, we are scoring goals and winning games despite a horror list of injuries and very efficient at that (goals were scored in first meaningful chances at Liverpool, against Stoke and Hull). Again, a remarkable improvement from the comparable spell of unbeatable run starting late last year when we drew too many.
    All signs show that we’re playing like champions. The only question remains is whether we could sustain this mentality and confidence till the end of the season.
    A note on transfer. Though I can live with the argument for another striker, all the talk of buying new central midfielder to cover for Song and Cesc sound completely idiotic for me (Skysports comment: Arsenal would be wise to buy up to 4 players, including a keeper and 2 midfielders, though Wenger will be unlikely to do what. Corollary: Wenger is probably stupid). We should be buying to cover for players who will be absent for 3 weeks, shouldn’t we?

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