In the summer of 2005 one of Arsenal’s best player in recent times, Patrick Vieira, had been sold to Juventus and Arsenal hadn’t brought anyone in to replace him. He had trusted an 18 year old kid from Spain to fill in the considerably big shoes that Vieira had left behind, and that kid was Cesc Fabregas. Fans knew that he was a good player with plenty of potential, but was he ready to take over the great Frenchman?
After knocking Real Madrid out in the last 16 round of the Champions League, Arsenal were seeded against Juventus, another giant of European football, and a return for Vieira to the club he played for over 400 times. Fans couldn’t wait to see the match up between the two, and who would come out on top after 90 minutes. Fabregas had been having a good season and had been starting matches regularly, but this time he was going to battle in midfield against his mentor, the man he was meant to replace, an Arsenal legend. All this did not daunt him, in fact it did the opposite, it motivated him, and that night he showed everyone that he had the quality to be a Gunner legend.
Juventus came into the match in top form, leading the Italian league by more than 8 points, Buffon in the form of his life, and a strike force that included Trezeguet and Ibrahimovic. The atmosphere in Highbury was electric and the stage was set for a cracking match. Within 2 minutes, Vieira let Fabregas now what European football is all about with a hard tackle on that knocked him down.
But Arsenal matched that intensity and within 10 minutes Fabregas almost got the opening goal but scuffed his shot wide. But he wasn’t going to let this affect his game. Minutes before half time, Henry found Fabregas who struck the ball through Thuram’s legs into the bottom corner with Buffon unable to do anything but admire the kid’s talent. Highbury exploded. Fabregas was running the show from midfield, passing the ball around running into the box looking for another goal, running back, tackling, this guy has everything, and he was only 18! He made Vieira look old, a player past his best and every minute of the match Gunners fans were more and more convinced that Fabregas was the future of Arsenal and a world class player.
But his show didn’t stop there, and throughout the 2nd half he tormented Juve, made them look like amateurs. With 20 minutes to go another perfect run by Cesc into the box leaves him 1 on 1, but he sees what other players don’t see, and while the Juve defense was scrambling back to stop him from getting his second goal of the night, he saw Henry unmarked with the goal at his mercy, and unselfishly passed it to him to kill Juve off.
That night Cesc showed all his skills and went on to become one of the best players the Gunners have ever seen, a legend of north London, just a shame we couldn’t keep him for a few more seasons!