Nevertheless, despite Drogba manhandling his way onto our back pages with the sort of muscular physical presence that makes him such a handful and Ronaldo’s post World Cup redemption, in my humble opinion, when viewed through my red & white tinted specs, it’s the astonishing vision and awareness of Cesc Fabregas that deserves the plaudits from the true connoisseurs of the beautiful game.
Almost ever since Chippy went chasing the Italian lira back in 1980, we’ve witnessed a succession of Arsenal youngsters who’ve all struggled under the weight of expectation of “the next Liam Brady” syndrome.
Coincidentally, it was David Bentley who carried the hopes of many of us Gooners for some seasons, as we witnessed increasing evidence of ‘Liamesque’ type ability in Bentley’s cultured left foot. Sadly Bentley flunked the few opportunities he was given. His talent was obvious to those of us who’d watched his progress as a teenager, but having struggled to impose himself on the adult game, it was a big disappointment to see any hope of this homegrown replacement for Dennis Bergkamp demolished, when Bentley’s loan move to Blackburn was eventually made permanent.
For a perspicacious geezer, Le Prof ain’t half prone to some patent gaffes. With his opportunity to prove that he should be gracing our glamorous new stadium as a Gunner, Bentley didn’t really require any more inspiration. But Wenger went and lit the blue touch paper, by suggesting in his programme notes that the Peterborough born youngster is a “big talent when he’s switched on”.
Having been gifted a premature Xmas pressie, doubtless Mark Hughes made the most of this motivational tool, since Bentley was certainly switched on enough to earn a penalty in the second minute.
Luckily Jens Lehmann’s lights were also on and he thwarted a stunning Bentley strike, which would have otherwise given Rovers a 1-2 lead and might have put a completely different complexion on Saturday’s festive fare.
Meanwhile, where Bentley made hard work of keeping his head above water when he was thrown in at the deep end for the Arsenal, Fabregas floated straight to the surface and has virtually been walking on water ever since. I know it might be sacrilege to suggest such a notion on that side of the Irish channel, but it could be argued that Cesc actually has more in his locker than Chippy. Whereas one often finds oneself screaming at less perceptive players, for them to get their heads up, before they end up ignoring a better placed team mate, Fab has that amazing awareness of everything around him.
He also appears to possess that other Bergkamp-like quality, where he’s able to picture the development of a passage of play, as if moving chess pieces about a board, always thinking a couple of moves ahead.
Basically at the tender age of 19, Fab has the footballing brain of a grandmaster and it’s no wonder Wenger has tried to tie Cesc down with his eight year contract.
It was a funny old game and a microcosm of the Gunners’ season so far in one 90 minute match. Apart from buying the penalty by hitting the deck after half an hour, under the “weight” of Neill’s shove in the back, Van Persie struggled to have an impact on the match and up until his goal five minutes before the final whistle, the Dutchman couldn’t hit the proverbial barn door.
After Adebayor calmly slotted home the spot kick to put us 3-1 up, we were in such control of the game that the “olés” were ringing out, as Rovers ran around chasing shadows.
However, after failing to capitalise on our dominance, we suffered the same defensive lapses in concentration that have cost us so dearly this season. It was only more inspired goalkeeping that prevented Blackburn from pegging us back to 3-3 and potentially dropping another couple of crucial home points.
Once the law of averages finally allowed Van Persie to find the target and with the flurry of three fabulous goals in the last five minutes, we exited the stadium thinking this Arsenal side were the best thing since sliced bread.
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