They are the double-act taking the Champions League by storm and after taming Kaka and Andrea Pirlo, the Arsenal duo of Cesc Fabregas and Mathieu Flamini would appear to fear no team. "There are no limits to what this team can achieve," Flamini said on Tuesday night, and for once it seemed that the old football hyperbole had its roots in truth.
It was a monumental 2-0 victory over Milan, last year's champions, and one that Fabregas said was tribute to his manager, Arsène Wenger, to whom he ran when he scored Arsenal's first on 84 minutes. An excitable touchline presence, Wenger is nonetheless not really the type to hurl himself into the goal celebrations at the age of 58 and Fabregas admitted that his manager's reaction took him by surprise.
"I went straight to the boss after I scored because without him I would never have had the chance to play in games like this," he said. "Everyone was a bit in shock to see the manager so excited. There was just a huge relief after that first goal because we knew then they had to score two."
Fabregas was the toast of San Siro after a performance that, by his own admission, he "needed" after a couple of weeks below his best and affected by injury. Alongside him was Flamini, 24 tomorrow, whose growing reputation means that settling his future looks set to be a more expensive task for Arsenal with every big game the Frenchman contributes. Out of contract at the end of the season, the midfielder gave the clearest hint yet that he will sign a new contract with Arsenal.
"I'm very happy. Do I look as if I want to leave?" Flamini said. "I want to be part of this squad. We are a new generation and we have created a bit of history in this stadium [first English team to beat Milan there], and I want to be part of the history of this club. I hope I'll be here for the next season. At the moment my adviser is talking to the club and I really hope everything will be OK. I cannot say when it will be sorted out, but I really want to stay here."
Beating Milan was, Fabregas said, a performance that Arsenal had threatened as their season has faltered over the past few weeks: four points dropped in the last two Premier League games, defeat to Manchester United in the FA Cup and Eduardo da Silva's injury. The problem, he said, was breaking down the teams that try to stifle Arsenal's natural game.
"Maybe Arsenal haven't been playing as well as we were, but still we came back in some difficult games," he said. "All games are very difficult because opponents know if they let us play we can be very dangerous so they close down quick and defend, then get lucky like last week and get an own goal [against Aston Villa]. That is what they are praying for when they play Arsenal. So we have to make sure we don't make mistakes.
"When you play against teams like Milan and players like Kaka and Pirlo, you have to play with no fear. You have to enjoy it and you could see that even in the warm-up before the game. The atmosphere in San Siro, everything, you could see the faces of all the players, we were smiling. We play football because of nights like these. We wanted to enjoy it and that's what we did."
The last word goes to Flamini on Fabregas, the man whom he says plays like a "veteran" at the age of 20. "We believe in Cesc, he will be even better and become a legend at Arsenal," Flamini said. "He has the capacity, skill and quality to be as good as a player like Kaka and he can win titles and become a great player. But he also needs to win titles to become a great player."Reuse content