For a club with an endless supply of talented young players, Arsenal FC has become surprisingly reliant on one player.
22-year-old Cesc Fabregas has become so influential for the Gunners this season that some say the destiny of the EPL title lies in the hands of one man: team physio Colin Lewin. If Lewin keeps the Spaniard fit, Arsenal could once again lift the trophy.
Fabregas is putting together a magical season. He has scored 11 goals in 18 league appearances and is four goals ahead of his best-ever tally for a full season. He has been directly involved in either scoring or assisting 24 of Arsenal’s 59 league goals.
Fabregas is playing with such flair that he alone seems capable of lifting Arsene Wenger’s charges.
But the question remains: will this season be his last for Arsenal?
On Tuesday’s “Football Focus”, Spanish journalist Guillem Balague told ESPN’s Asian viewers that he recently interviewed Fabregas for UEFA’s “Champions” magazine. Balague said he got the impression Fabregas was talking about Arsenal and his title hopes as if he were making his club swansong.
The Daily Mirror this week ran excerpts from the interview, the most significant being a passage in which Fabregas addressed the topic of a return to Spain. He said: “You can never say never, but I feel grateful, wanted, comfortable and important at Arsenal. Some people will never understand if I ever leave, but you have to feel comfortable with yourself.
“I’ve given my all for Arsenal. I’ve played when I’ve felt ill, and through injury. I even played in the Champions League a few hours after my grandfather died. I’m proud to be a part of this club, and I’ll always be proud of what I’ve done.”
There is no doubt Fabregas is hot property right now. Real Madrid have made no secret of their intention to sign the player. He has also been tipped to return to Barcelona, the club that developed him as a youngster.
So does this potential move explain the almost superhuman efforts Fabregas has been putting so far this season?
Fabregas has partly attributed his form to a change in mental attitude. Quoting from the interview: “I don’t internalise now. I’ve got other things to distract me - my family, girlfriend, friends. I deal with criticism very differently now, whether it’s something I read in the press or hear from fans.”
Arsenal fans (as well as neutrals) will welcome Cesc’s candour, but fear for the implications of that statement. Here’s hoping it’s just a figure of speech from Arsenal’s main man.
Catch John Dykes on ESPN’s Football Focus every Tuesday (8pm) and First Edition on Friday (9pm)