Fabregas finds stage to flourish

Arsenal 6 Blackburn Rovers 2
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Arsenal came of age a long time ago under Arsène Wenger but the 13th anniversary of the Frenchman's time in charge proved that future years at the Emirates are more full with promise than the threat of teenage angst.

If the Frenchman can be said to have revolutionised the way football is played in this country, it has also been his ideas on recruiting that have made every other club look again at how they bring players through the ranks.

Wenger has made stars of many individuals in his time, but none – not Patrick Vieira, not Nicolas Anelka and not Thierry Henry, who was watching here – embodies Wenger's spirit and ideals more than Cesc Fabregas.

The Arsenal captain, brought to the club aged 16, was unplayable and untouchable yesterday, and the bare statistics only begin to do the 22-year-old justice. Fabregas laid on the final pass for four Arsenal goals and got on the scoresheet himself after four earlier attempts that either brought excellent saves from Paul Robinson or hit the crossbar. He was not involved in the final strike from Nicklas Bendtner because he had left the pitch, to a standing ovation just a minute after his pass had teed up Theo Walcott for the Gunners' fifth goal, one that epitomised Wenger's beliefs as much as any in the 746 games he has been in charge.

Fabregas started a counter-attack with a pass to Andrei Arshavin, who glided down the left. The Russian gave the ball back to his captain, whose first-time pass was perfectly weighted for Walcott, on as a substitute, to sidefoot low inside Robinson's far post. It took all of 20 seconds, from box to box, and was sublime from start to finish.

It would be hard to imagine if there was a better goal in Europe this weekend and Wenger could not recall a superior one in his time at the club. He said: "That goal was fantastic, I can't think of any better in my time at Arsenal. Sometimes we look like we can score from anywhere. We looked a bit vulnerable in defence. It's difficult to have everything."

Yet this was the day when Arsenal's cup was spilling over, as Fabregas declared he wants to stay at the Emirates. The Spaniard – born in Barcelona – has long been linked with a move back to his home city or Real Madrid but having kissed the badge on his shirt after scoring, he said: "There's always speculation I don't like it here. I'm committed to this club 100 per cent. It's my seventh season and it's hard to hear people say they think I'm not committed enough. It was a good time to show them I love this club."

Wenger was effusive about a player who is as important to this club as Wayne Rooney is to Manchester United, Steven Gerrard is to Liverpool or John Terry to Chelsea. Wenger said: "A team goes through its strong points and so it goes through Fabregas."

Yet Wenger, whose reign started with a win at Blackburn in October 1996, did not see his day get off to the best start, as Stephen Nzonzi outjumped Thomas Vermaelen to loop a header over keeper Vito Mannone. Vermaelen quickly had his revenge, drilling his fifth of the season low past Robinson from 20 yards, although it was back to the drawing board, briefly, when David Dunn's shot deflected off William Gallas.

By then Fabregas had already hit the crossbar and seen two efforts saved before he guided his pass into the path of Robin van Persie, who scored against Blackburn for the sixth consecutive season. Four minutes later Fabregas passed to Arshavin, whose finish brooked no argument either.

The visitors' last chance of a way back came after 48 minutes, when the referee Peter Walton refused a penalty after Vermaelen's foul on Dunn. Sam Allardyce, the Rovers manager, felt it was a match-changing decision.

Fabregas's goal, chesting down Thomas Rosicky's hooked ball and finding the top corner, was the match-winner. After that it was party time for Walcott, making his first appearance of the season, before Bendtner rounded off the rout from 20 yards.

Arsenal (4-1-4-1): Mannone; Sagna, Gallas, Vermaelen, Clichy; Song; Rosicky (Walcott, 69), Fabregas (Ramsey, 76), Diaby, Arshavin (Bendtner, 76); Van Persie. Substitutes not used: Szczesny (gk), Silvestre, Eboué, Gibbs

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-1-1): Robinson; Jacobsen, Chimbonda, Givet, Olsson; Emerton (Pedersen, 55), Nzonzi, Andrews, Diouf; Dunn (McCarthy, 62; Hoilett, 70); Di Santo. Substitutes not used: Brown (gk), Kalinic, Salgado, Jones.

Booked: Arsenal Van Persie; Blackburn Di Santo.

Referee: P Walton (Northamptonshire).

Man of the Match: Fabregas.

Attendance: 59,431

Comments