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Arsenal midfielder Cesc FabregasArsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas (©Getty Images)

Fabregas plots Arsenal revival

Friday, 13 April 2007

by Michael Harroldfrom London


This time last year Cesc Fabregas was riding the crest of a wave. His first-half strike against Juventus had put Arsenal FC on course for a place in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League, and a towering performance against former team-mate Patrick Vieira ended the debate over whether Arsène Wenger had been right to put so much faith in the precocious teenager. "It was a really important moment in my life, in my career, because I showed everybody that I could play against a player like Patrick Vieira and try to win the battle," Fabregas told One year on and the Spanish international faces another battle, of no less significance, as the 2006 UEFA Champions League finalists fight just to return to the competition.

"In life you have to learn to win and to lose. You have to wake up, get strong and go for the next one"Cesc Fabregas

Having come so close to tasting success in Paris last May, Arsenal's early elimination from the UEFA Champions League this season was hard to take. Failing to qualify this time round does not bear thinking about. "I don't like to go back to the past because I'm still really young," said Fabregas, whose stirring displays last season led to him being voted by readers into their Team of Year. "Everything has gone really quickly for me in the last three or four years and I just want to think about the present and what is going on right now. What is past is past. I just want to play another Champions League final and I have a dream that maybe soon we will play in it again. In life you have to learn to win and to lose. You have to wake up, get strong and go for the next one."

Listening to Fabregas, it is easy to forget he is just 19. Already a veteran of one FIFA World Cup, he became the youngest player to feature for Arsenal when he made his debut aged 16 in October 2003 and made his 100th league appearance against Newcastle United FC last weekend. He is thoughtful and reflective, an eager student of the game. His meteoric rise since leaving FC Barcelona for London three years ago has not gone to his head and he is clearly driven to improve. Some said his slight physique would be a disadvantage in the Premiership, but Fabregas has proved otherwise. "I'm not the strongest man in the world. Sometimes you need to learn, to look at the situation. Sometimes when you lose a game you watch it afterwards and you pay attention to the way you put your body about. I'm still more or less the same weight I was last season but maybe I have learned to move my body in a different way. I think it's important for me to get this kind of experience and to learn from the defensive part of the game because I think I can improve a lot."

Fabregas will face another physical test on Saturday against Arsenal's main rivals for the fourth UEFA Champions League qualifying place, Bolton Wanderers FC. Arsenal have won just once in five games after being eliminated from Europe by PSV Eindhoven, scoring just twice since injury ruled out Thierry Henry. Since kicking off the campaign with two goals in the UEFA Champions League qualifying defeat of NK Dinamo Zagreb, Fabregas himself has failed to score, but he is convinced his luck will soon turn. "If you look at the chances I've had this season it's unbelievable to think I haven't scored a goal yet. I've hit the post I don't know how many times, the keeper has made a great save or it's me who is just with the net in front of me and I don't score. I have to be patient and to be relaxed in front of goal. I think the goals will come."

For a young side that has come so far so quickly, Arsenal have been learning all about patience this season. At times that has spilled over into frustration, as seen in the fracas at the end of the League Cup final defeat by Chelsea FC. Fabregas, though, believes supporters should not have too long to wait for success. "We have the quality, we have been playing well, we create chances but we haven't had the results we had last season or two years ago. Hopefully it will come back and we can talk again about Arsenal winning things. Football is about now, the present. I know the fans understand the policy of the club and Arsène Wenger. It's a young team and we're working for the future, but the fans also want to see trophies and they want us to win things. Let's hope for next season we can change in that respect. All our young players, including me, will be stronger, so I'm sure next year will be different."

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