“Cesc has gone through a lot, difficult moments, but has always come out stronger - this guy is a fantastic leader.” The words of Arsene Wenger 48 hours after the skipper became an embroiled in a row over an alleged verbal outburst to the fourth official during the Gunners 2-1 battle against Everton on Tuesday night to keep Arsenal very firmly in the title race. But were his actions those of a traditional, passionate, English style captain and leader? No probably not.
It’s hard to believe Rio Ferdinand, John Terry or Steven Gerrard would find themselves in the same position that Cesc did on Tuesday night, their reputations and their style would see them through any problems at first. Indeed, the verbal blasts would be handed out to teammates rather than to the assistant referees and, allegedly, to the fourth official in the tunnel. But does his passion and capacity for getting into trouble in this manner make him any less a captain? Should he reign it in and become more of a skilled negotiator on and off the pitch?
Or is it more of a case of Cesc simply not being a traditional English captain? He will not be the team’s spokesman to the officials, the man to get around the team and deliver Tony Adams style teamtalks or the one in the penalty area in the 87th minute shouting at his team mates to keep their focus and defend for their lives. But if you need some to spring open a defence, take a vital penalty or deliver the right goal at the right time then please look no further than the creative little genius from Vilassar de Mar in Southern Spain.
Perhaps the skipper’s role has been best defined by another young talent in Arsenal’s midfield this season, namely Jack Wilshire. In the January issue of the official club magazine, he is quoted as seeing Fabregas as a mentor-like figure, someone who has walked the same shoes and rose to the prestigious honour of being named Arsenal captain.
“He’s great to me, always has been. He’s been there before – I think he looks at me and thinks yeah I have done that. He’s great leader and I want to be like that when I am older,” Wilshire told Arsenal’s official magazine. There for me lies the rub, Cesc is not a leader of men - he is a standard bearer of the heights all young players need to achieve to deliver a golden future for themselves and for Arsenal Football Club.
So when Denilson talked about the lack of a leader last month, he was right, Arsenal are not ‘led’ or ‘lectured’ by Fabregas, more inspired to use their own talents to deliver a team performance week in, week out that will propel the Gunners to honours at home and abroad.
Just as Arsene Wenger brought a revolution to British football on the field through diet and preparation, could there be one stirring off the pitch with the unveiling of the first captain who does not lead his men but instead embodies a whole footballing philosophy?