'This is your apologetic Arsenal captain speaking...'

Fabregas says sorry to fans over plane's PA system on flight back from Porto

As the Boeing 757 carrying the Arsenal squad home late on Wednesday night gained altitude over the Portuguese countryside on its way back to Luton, the Arsenal captain, Cesc Fabregas, had something he wanted to say.

He had already berated his team-mates for their costly lapses in concentration, describing the club's defending as "schoolboy" and "too soft". Now he wanted to speak to the fans sitting towards the rear of the plane, each of whom had paid several hundreds of pounds to fly out for the first leg of Arsenal's Champions League knock-out stage tie with Porto.

"I want to apologise for losing the game," Fabregas said over the plane's PA system, prompting a round of applause from devoted supporters. The fans were grateful that at least someone had acknowledged that Arsenal should have done better than to concede two of the sloppiest goals seen in Europe for some time. However they might also reflect that the Spaniard's announcement was evidence, if any were needed, that he is starting to run out of patience with the club that is in danger of becoming too small for its rising superstar.

At the age of 22, Fabregas is the man they look to both on and off the pitch, yet his career is still very much in its infancy. What's more, he is also having to play in a different role for the team, often in a more advanced position where he is already closely marked by an opponent whenever he receives the ball. The prospect of a return to Barcelona has surely never looked more inviting.

Fabregas had witnessed 24 hours earlier the lavish praise heaped on Wayne Rooney for his display for Manchester United at San Siro. Now he had to accept another occasion on which Arsenal had failed to meet expectations. One exceptionally talented young man was accepting the plaudits; the other was having to apologise for the failings of others.

His assessment of Arsenal's failure was so cutting it was uncharacteristic, and perhaps indicates that he has had enough. He said: "Sometimes we are not strong enough to lift ourselves. Sometimes we make mistakes that at the top level you pay. It happened against Chelsea and Manchester United and now again so I think we have to try to find the solution to these problems because it is costing us many, many things. The other top teams don't make these mistakes as often as we do."

It sounded like a man at the end of his tether. He had seen stand-in goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski make terrible errors for both Porto goals; first in allowing Silvestre Varela's harmless cross to slip under his body; and then in picking up Sol Campbell's back pass and turning his back as Porto took the indirect free-kick almost immediately.

Fabregas defended Fabianski, saying he will receive the support of his team-mates. "He is strong and we have to be there for him," he said. "The team will be 100 per cent behind him and help him in the next game to come back to his best."

The situation is worrying for manager Arsène Wenger. The longer his side go without a serious trophy – currently four seasons and counting – the more likely it is that he will lose his best player. Barcelona would pay up to £40m to have Fabregas back. The temptation to accept the invitation grows every time Arsenal blow another opportunity to realise their obvious potential.

Arsenal's away goal, scored by the 35-year-old Campbell, means Wenger's side are still very much in the tie and they could still overturn the result in the second leg next month. The evidence suggests, however, that the tide is turning away from Arsenal in the mind of their talented captain.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
boxing
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living