Rogues Gallery: Cesc Fabregas

By Les Crang, Sr. Cescarian

If some day I leave Arsenal it will never be to sign for another English team. I’m very sure….How it happened [that Fernando Torres joined Chelsea from Liverpool], in so few hours, I didn’t expect it. I didn’t imagine Torres leaving the Premiership, but neither that he would leave in the middle of the season.

20th April,2011 Daily Telegraph

How the lies fall so easily from Cesc’s mouth. In writing this, I will say first off, I will try to be fair to him and look at his career with us with an open mind. But be aware, I can write his name, but I always refer to him as ‘the Spanish player’. So, if I seen to be dismissive of his career, that’s only because of him being dismissive to us in 2011 when Barcelona finally turned his head. What a shame. He could have been a legend, but to me he joins Frank Stapleton, Robin Van Persie and Samir Nasri. A turncoat. That is why I could not put a picture up of him in Arsenal colours. Petty? Certainly.

How different it all seemed to be when he first joined us from Barcelona youth set up, the La Masia. Cesc had been seen by two of Arsenal’s scouts at the U17 world cup tournament, where he was player of the tournament, ending shared top scorer with 5 goals. They eventually lost the final to Brazil, 1-0:-

Cesc would be one of three signings that Wenger made in the close season in 2003, costing £500,000. The other two signings would be Gael Clichy from Cannes as an 18 year old and Jens Lehmann from Borussia Dortmund. An outlay of less than £3,000,000 for all three players. By the time all three had left, Arsenal would bank almost £45,000,000. But i’m getting ahead of myself.

Anyhow, Cesc would make his debut in the League Cup game against Rotherham aged 16 years and 177 days old. On learning of his debut Cesc said:-

Getting involved with the Carling Cup was a big surprise to me…Normally the coach gives the team out the day before but he didn’t do it so I thought I’d be on the bench.

Vic Akers came the day before and asked what name I wanted on my shirt, how am I called, you know, because nobody knows me. I am very shocked to be in the squad and could never imagine being part of the starting line-up.

I then found out after the game that my parents already knew I’d be involved because one of the club’s staff had called them so say, he’s going to play tomorrow so come and watch him in his first game at Highbury. They enjoyed it so much.

Cesc would play a mere two more games. The next would be against Wolves, whom Cesc would score against them in a 5-1 win:-

This would make Cesc, Arsenal’s youngest ever scorer. It would also be the first game alongside Patrick Vieira, who said of him after the game:-

He has a brilliant future. He is fantastic. He can read the game really quickly. Nobody can say he is too young. I played first-team football with Cannes when I was seventeen.

The following season of 2004/5 Cesc would start to be a regular in the team, starting 24 games and 9 appearances as a substitute. Cesc would score his first league goal against Blackburn Rovers, the game that would create a record of 43 games undefeated over taking Nottingham Forest record of 42. The fans had started singing ‘He’s only 17, he’s better than Roy Keane’ (even though he was only 16). Wenger said afterwards:-

A boy of that age can have one good game but he is consistent, it is not stupid to say that he could be in the full Spain squad. They have a lot of midfielders but they shouldn’t be scared to bring him in.

If Cesc was impressing on the pitch with his feet, he was impressing with the fans, especially after ‘game 50’ at Old Trafford:-

After the match, rumours came out Cesc had confronted Sir Alex Ferguson, throwing a slice of pizza at the ‘great man’. This was later described by Ashley Cole, who said of ‘Battle of Buffet’ or Pizzagate afterwards in his biography:-

This slice of pizza came flying over my head and hit Fergie straight in the mush … all mouths gawped to see this pizza slip off this famous, puce face and roll down his nice black suit.

In his first full season, Cesc would be part of the FA Cup winning team of 2004/5 over Manchester United, when Patrick Vieira scored the winning penalty in the penalty shoot out.

This would be Patrick Vieira last piece of action for Arsenal, before being sold to Juventus for £13,750,000, for Cesc to take over his mantle in the centre midfield.

The season of 2005/6 would certainly indicate that Cesc had taken the mantle of Paddy. This can obviously be seen in the march to the Champions League Final. Jon Spurling, wrote about Paddy’s return to Arsenal the following season with Juventus in the champions league game at Highbury. It was a match which featured Vieira, the former Arsenal midfield Genral, facing Fabregas, Arsenal’s fresh-faced midfield lieutenant:-

Robert Pires early tackle on Vieira, which set up Cesc Fabregas’s strike, but the symbolism was clear; it simply wasn’t to be Vieira’s or Juve’s night. Arsenal fan John Lowry recalls: ‘It was lovely to sit behind the North Bank goal, and just enjoy the fact that Arsenal were demolishing Juventus. The match was largely about Vieira,.’

Ironically, in the Champions League Final, with Arsenal down to 10 men, Barcelona started to see how good Cesc was when Barcelona, trying to put some ‘bite’ into the midfield had started with Mark Van Bommel, rather than the returning Iniesta. Ironically, it was not until Cesc was substituted and Iniesta came on for Barcelona that the Catalians took advantage of Arsenal being a player down to equalise and then win the game.

Over the next five years, Arsenal would get to see the best of Cesc, with him becoming a full international and appearing in the 2006 World Cup.

So where does one start with his great games? The season of 2007/8 was probably one of Cesc’s finest, with so many goals and great performances. Cesc had felt shackled by Thierry Henry whilst he was at the club saying:-

Henry intimidated us. He is a great player, but it was not easy to play alongside him.

Henry’s departure in 2007, meant Arsenal had a new team and certainly a new focal point in Cesc. Kevin Whitcher wrote ‘With Flamini and Fàbregas prepared to contest the midfield, the team actually contained a more robust spine from defence to attack’. How true.

The other day, I sat down to watch Arsenal – Season Review 2007/2008 (I’m sad like that). I forgot how many goals Cesc scored. Like The first equaliser against United at home:-

Or the equaliser against Liverpool:-

Maybe the goal away to Spurs:-

What about the goal against the European champions, AC Milan in the San Siro:-

AC Milan vs Arsenal (Classic Match 2008) by Arsenal2011Season

So many great goals in a season which he would score 13 league and cup goals. It was not to hard to see that Wenger saw him as are most important player.

Cesc would have other great games for Arsenal. Perhap my two personal favourites being two 3-0 home wins. The first against Spurs in 2009, when Cesc scored a second goal from a Spurs kick-off, after RVP had put us 1-0 up (Sky was still showing RVP’s first when Cesc scored):-

Or maybe a couple months later when Cesc, with a thigh strain, was a substitute, came on for less than an hour, and scored two goals before being substituted. The Guardian headlined the game as ‘Cesc Fábregas’s brief masterclass keeps Arsenal upwardly mobile’.

By now, Cesc had taken over the captaincy at Arsenal from William Gallas, who had gone out late one night and been caught smoking. Many felt it was Gallas disintegration at Birmingham, after the Eduardo leg break that had made Arsene consider changing his captain.

On gaining the captaincy Cesc said:-

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 fulfill our potential.

Was Wenger right in building his team around him? Was Cesc really that great? To me no and no.

On Wenger building the team around him, actually, at the time (the season of 2004/5) it was tactically not. Matthew Whitehouse in his interesting book Universality – The Blueprint for Soccer’s New Era: How Germany and Pep Guardiola Are Showing Us the Future Football Game wrote :-

Cesc Fàbregas, Mathieu Flamini, and Alexander Hleb into the side. If this was Wenger’s belief – that the Spanish type of player was the future – then he was both right and wrong. The Spanish model of development, notably being put in place by Barcelona more so than others, was already over a decade old, having been set up around 1990 by Johan Cruyff. For Arsenal to overhaul their previous French/African type of player and style was risky, dangerous, and ultimately flawed.

What Wenger needed was some strength and height in the team (like Chelsea had done with Geremi, Essien and even the short but strong Claude Makélélé). As Gilberto Silva said in an interview:-

Patrick’s departure was a huge loss. It did give Cesc [Fàbregas] the chance to break through, but I don’t think I’m being too controversial by saying that Arsenal have never replaced Patrick’s leadership since then.’

Cesc was constantly under rumor that he would return to Barcelona. This seemed a repeat of another former Captain constantly rumored to be going to Real Madrid, Patrick Vieira less than 10 years before. The incessant tapping up of Fabregas by Barcelona players, who would say things like ‘Cesc has Barca DNA’, became sickening. Then, Spain won the World Cup and on the return flight, out came the picture of Pepe Reina and Puyol putting a Barcelona shirt on Cesc. In fun and jest they said. It hardly enamoured him anymore to Arsenal and had made it abundantly clear he would only return to Barcelona if sold.

As for his greatness as a player, i’m not really that sure. Often, Cesc would have an outstanding opening four months and then just disappear for the rest of the season. Fallacy? check his goal scoring stats for 2007/8. Most of his goals were scored at the beginning of the season. Though it would be unfair to say he totally faded at the end of the season, as he won a World Cup (2010) and European (2008) for Spain. Always nice that he put that extra effort in.

I also feel Cesc’s departure from Arsenal was poorly handled. As summer 2011 approached, Cesc, Captain of Arsenal, flew off to attend the Spanish Grand Prix as his teammates fought for fourth place against Fulham, hardly “captaining” the team. His refusal to entertain moving to any other club, plus a refusal to train with and play for Arsenal in the summer, meant we lost Cesc to Barcelona for the pittance of £35,000,000.

Worse, his leaving meant the end of Wenger’s project youth and essentially dismantled an established Arsenal team. Gael Clichy had left earlier in the close season and Nasri left soon after Cesc. As Kevin Whitcher said:-

If it came to pass that three of his young stars, who were supposed to stay in north London for their most productive years summarily departed, then ‘Project Wenger’ would be dealt a fatal blow.

It certainly was a blow to Arsenal as a team bereft of their entire core lost 8-2 to Manchester United in our third game of the 2011/12 season.

But I was quite glad that Pep Guardiola finally did get Cesc at Barcelona. Their annihilation in 2011 of Manchester United in the Champions League final (before Cesc joined) was an outstanding spectacle of tiki-taka football.

Then Cesc joined. A player they did not need and could not fit into the team. They needed a new striker to replace David Villa and a centre half to replace an aging Carles Puyol really. What team drops Iniesta or Xavi for Cesc? No team and certainly not Barcelona. So what to do? Pep, in his recent book said :-

Look at my last year with Barça. We changed everything and started using a 3-4-3 system so that we could accommodate Cesc Fàbregas.

They played Cesc as a false 10 and it worked with limited effect. In fact with Messi now the main striker, in Cesc first season Messi scored 73 goals in all competitions. But with no Eto’o, Henry, Villa (often injured) or Zlatan to help with the scoring, Real Madrid won the title by 9 points. Cesc added a mere 16 goals.

By April 2014, with Pep gone and Cesc not a regular in the Barcelona team he was booed in a home game with Atletico Bilbao. This followed strong speculation during the January window that Cesc was going to join Robin van Persie at Man U. 50% of Barcelona fans wanted him sold. It seems they checked and Cesc was only 50% Catalan DNA.

Although many Arsenal fans (I was one of them – Tim) wanted him back in the summer, I was certainly not one of them. He had made his bed. He had gone to a team that didn’t need him and couldn’t use him. He was an extra in a cowboy film dressed as Robocop. He then hinted he wanted to come back to Arsenal, but in the end joined Chelsea. We had signed Mesut Ozil (a better player than Cesc in my mind), and although Chelsea look likely to win the 2014/5 title i’m not worried Cesc didn’t join us. Since the beginning of 2015 he has been anonymous until he scored against QPR recently.

Cesc certainly did give us some wonderful years and goals (see below for his 57 goals). But he also left us with a ‘fait accompli’ on his departure to Barcelona in 2011. Thankfully we replaced him with an excellent stop gap in the much maligned Mikel Arteta. And since the stadium and corporate sponsorship deals have started flowing in, Arsenal have started signing some great players in Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla, David Ospina, Gabriel Paulista, Olivier Giroud, Nacho Monreal and Alexis Sanchez. Cesc, at Chelsea, seems part of a machine. No longer the central point of a team. He is Eden Hazard’s water carrier. What a waste. Thankfully, we are moving in the right direction. I also do not think I am the only one who feels this. In So Paddy Got Up, Sian Ranscombe wrote of Cesc departure to Barcelona:-

I still think Dad summed up the feeling of the sad football fan the best with this comment: “I just get annoyed when people don’t love my club as much as me.” And isn’t that exactly it? Players can come and go, but we can’t. Or won’t.


empty seats

Empty seats and the Americanization of the FA

By Tim Todd, Tout-in-Chief

Watching the FA Cup semi-final on television this weekend I was struck by a camera shot just after kickoff. It was a scene from the half way line which showed a huge swath of empty seats. These were the best seats in the house; lower tier, center line, directly behind the player’s entrance tunnel and yet there were a ton of empty seats. It only took me a moment to remember that, at Wembley where this match was being played, the Football Association takes control of over 40% of the ticket allocations and gives them away to their corporate sponsors and partners. It was those seats which were empty.

Many of those seats remained empty throughout the match. And in the match the next day between Liverpool and Villa the exact same scene played out: empty seats in the FA allocation. This wasn’t a case of a few corporate sponsors lingering over a cocktail after half-time, many of these ticket holders simply didn’t sit in the stands or didn’t even attend the match. And so, there on international television was a glaring example of corporate cronyism, greed, and a pure indifference to the sport.

Clearly unperturbed that their semi-final allocations weren’t used, the FA announced ticket allocations for the final; Arsenal will get 25,000 tickets, Villa will get 25,000 tickets, the FA will give away 20,000 to their “football family”, and the FA will allocate 17,000 to Club Wembley members.

The FA did something similar last year and their actions prompted Arsenal CEO Ivan Gazidis to write a letter pleading with them to get the balance right. And that’s, unfortunately, what we are really talking about here, getting the balance right. Changing the numbers just a little bit in favor of the fans.

No one expects the FA to take tickets away from the Club Wembley partners. Those are the super-rich, the corporations, the lard which greases the pig that is modern football. Without them at the match, the FA officials wouldn’t have rich folks to rub elbows with. They need those tickets to give away to the mega-rich so that FA officials can bask in the glow of their power.

And the FA need corporate sponsors because they need money to pay the salaries of guys like Martin Glenn. Martin Glenn, former chief of United Biscuits, is apparently a marketing genius or at least that is how the FA sold his appointment, calling him “a veteran of industry”. That is exactly what the football association needed in order to improve the quality of their international football program, a great new marketing campaign. That way the fans can sing, “We are lions hear us roar!” as England crashes out of group stages of the World Cup, again.

The other 20,000 tickets will be given away to the FA’s football family. This means, practically, that clubs who hate Arsenal and Aston Villa will get an allocation. And it’s all done on a very fair basis as well: last year, volunteers distributed the 20,000 tickets. Arsenal and Villa are going to use complicated arithmetic to figure out who get their paltry allocations, meanwhile the Football Association are using “volunteers.”

And there you have it, 55% of the tickets for the FA Cup final go to the real fans and 45% go to everyone else. That 55% will be divided by lottery and will hopefully be going to the fans who travel week in and week out to see their team play across the country.

It’s a shame that the allocation couldn’t be 90% of the tickets for the clubs and 10% for the corporations and associations. It would be nice for once to be able to give every season ticket holder a seat at the final and make the corporate sponsors and friends of the FA have to enter into a lottery.

But this… this is modern sports. They renovated Wembley in order to build more corporate box seats. And it’s not like the FA are doing anything unusual, they are simply becoming more American in the way they allocate tickets.

The NFL’s signature game, the Superbowl, is divided in a similar way that the FA did their ticket allocation. The NFL give each team 17.5% of the total seats and a further 5% goes to the host team. After that, 35% are divided equally among all the other teams in the NFL and the organization takes the remaining 25% for themselves. In terms of percentages, the FA actually give a much bigger chunk to the two clubs in the finals, doling out nearly 28% of the tickets to each team.

The result of the NFL allocations is that an infinitely small number of real fans go to the Superbowl. With online ticket resell sites run rampant in the United States, combined with the rarity of obtaining a ticket, the average fan can pay for his season tickets many times over with the profits from the sale of a single Super Bowl seat. How many “real” fans attend the Superbowl is unknown but I’ve only ever known one.

This last bit could be misconstrued as me saying “hey it could be worse, you should quit complaining” but it’s actually just the opposite: “hey, it could be worse, you don’t want it to be worse, COMPLAIN LOUDER!”

Those empty seats in semi-finals were just a symbol. They are a symbol of how English Football is changing, is becoming more Americanized. And if that continues, the average fans might not even be able to go to the games.

But hey, if you’re really lucky you’ll get Katy Perry and Left Shark as your half-time entertainment for the Football Association Sponsored by Doritos Budweiser Cup Final presented in Sony Humorphic 3D.


It will almost be like being there.



By Tim Todd, donut without a hole

Al: Oh, this is Anfield, huh? A lovely stadium. Hey baby, you must’ve been something before electricity.

Al: And this kid Sterling? Nice kid, great looking kid. Now I know why tigers eat their young.

Al Czervik: (dancing with Brendan Rodgers) You’re a great manager, you know that? Yeah, wanna make 14 dollars the hard way?

Tottenham Fan: I want a beefburger. No, cheeseburger. I want Champions League football. I want to finish above Arsenal. I want to keep Harry Kane this summer
Arsene Wenger: You’ll get nothing, and like it!

Carl: In the immortal words of Jean Paul Sartre ‘Au revior, Tottenham.’

Carl Spackler: The grass at Wembley is a hybrid. This is a cross, ah, of Bluegrass, Kentucky Bluegrass, Featherbed Bent, and Northern California Sensemilia. The amazing stuff about this is, that you can play 90 minutes on it in the afternoon, take it home and just get stoned to the bejeezus-belt that night on this stuff.

Steven Gerrard: [as he misses a chance at goal in the dying minutes of an FA Cup semi-final, a goal which would have seen him play in the FA Cup final at Wembley on his birthday] OH, RAT FART!

Roberto Mancini: Tevez, get dressed you’re playing football.
Carlos Tevez: No I’m not grandpa I’m playing tennis.
Roberto Mancini: You’re playing football and you’re going to like it.
Carlos Tevez: What about my asthma?
Roberto Mancini: I’ll give you asthma.

Ty: Just be the ball Ramsey. Be the ball. Be the ball. You’re not being the ball, Ramsey
Ramsey: Well, it’s kinda hard with you talking in my ear like that.
Ty: Ok.. just… be the ball.
[Ramsey kicks the ball]
Ramsey: where’d it go?
Ty: Into the lumberyard.

Porterhouse: [watching Newcastle play football, turns to his friends] 50 bucks that Steven Taylor kid picks his nose.
Friends: [you got it, you're on]
Porterhouse: [encouraging Taylor as his finger slowly makes its way toward his nostril] come on kid, that’s it, take your time… [Taylor picks his nose] YEAH!
Friends: [grumbling as they pay the bet]
Lou: Hey, another 50 says he eats it.
Friends: [you got it, you're on. They turn back to watch Taylor contemplate the booger on his finger]
Don’t do it.. come on kid, you can do it… [Steven Taylor eats his booger]
YEAH! Ha ha, what a pig.

Maggie O’Hooligan: Samir Nasri? He’s been plucked more times than the Rose of Tralee, biggest whore on 5th avenue I’ve heard.

Al: [Sees West Ham's third, purple kit hanging in a store] Oh hey, nice kit, I bet you buy a kit like that and you get a free bowl of soup!
[looks over and sees Alex Song in the third kit]
Oh, looks good on you though!

Carl Spackler: A looper, you know, a caddy, a looper, a jock. So, I tell them I’m a pro jock, and who do you think they give me? Arsene Wenger, himself. Three time League champion, five time FA Cup winner. The big puffy goose down jacket that looks like a sleeping bag, the grace, grey hair… striking. So, I’m on the first tee with him. I give him the driver. He hauls off and whacks one – big hitter, Arsene Wenger – long, into a ten-thousand foot crevasse, right at the base of this glacier. Do you know what Arsene Wenger says? “If you eat caviar every day it’s difficult to return to sausages.” So we finish the eighteenth and he’s gonna stiff me. And I say, “Hey, Wenger, hey, how about a little something, you know, for the effort, you know.” And he says, “Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive two season tickets to Highbury, in heaven.” So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

Carl: Yaya Sanogo stands on the penalty spot. This crowd has gone deadly silent. He’s got about 11 meters, looks like he’s going to go straight down the middle. Its a Cinderella story. Outa nowhere. Former greengrocier. About to become an FA Cup champion. It looks like a miracle! It’s in the net!

Al: [sees Smails about to tee off] hey Smails, I bet you a pair of match tickets to Arsenal-Chelsea, that’s over $1000, that you slice.
Smails: touting is illegal in England, SIR, and I NEVER slice.
Al: Hey, you can owe me!

Judge Smails: It’s easy to grin
When your ship comes in
And you’ve got the transfer market beat
But the man worthwhile
Is the man who can smile
When Coquelin returns from loan, plays amazing in the DM spot, and Arsenal go on a 10 game win-streak.

James Beattie: [from inside the showers, hears someone, assumes it's his manager Tony Pulis] Tony, will you come loofah my stretch marks?

Mesut Ozil: [sees Alexis Sanchez for the first time as he strides into the club] Madonna with meatballs.


Thanks to @P_Dors and @giantgooner for the inspiration. We will return with more “serious” fare tomorrow.

What… you wanted to talk about Gibbs, and rotation, and why Wenger didn’t play Monreal and Bellerin? Ugh. That stuff is dreadfully boring. Besides, I already talked about that on the Arsenal Review USA podcast – give that a listen tonight and you can hear me complain about Gibbs being 80 yards out of position constantly while pretending that I’m not complaining about Gibbs being out of position constantly.