Cue David Attenborough: “Cesc Fabregas, one of earth’s most talented and bravest football captains. Thick with passion, he tops the Arsenal scoring chart with 10 goals this season, all high in quality and vast in importance.
“Behind him, the Catalonian leads a team of young Gunners wishing to stamp their seal on the wicked world that is the Premiership. Here at Turf Moor the time has finally come for Arsenal’s tots to face the winter harshness. Not all of them will survive.”
Wouldn’t Arsenal make for a great BBC documentary? It almost felt like that type of viewing last night when Fabregas left the roost on the stroke of half-time, presenting his pups with the task of facing life without him. And like a brood of newborns Fabregas’ family ambled along with caution, concerned by a menacing Burnley and struggling to fend for themselves in their captains absence.
Considering the conditions, Arshavin, Ramsey, Diaby, Nasri, Walcott and Eduardo all battled bravely, but were halted by a feeble attempt to make the night completely their own. Having Fabregas incited confidence in Arsenal – seeing him hobble off after 43 minutes left Arsenal helpless and limp. Now Fabregas misses Hull on Saturday and the extent of his hamstring injury is unclear.
We had barely scraped the problems Arsenal face without Robin van Persie and now it seems we turn our attention to how Arsenal cope without the midfield diamond. Fabregas appeared to have gained something from the wrath of Wenger during half-time at Liverpool on Sunday, starting the Burnley game brightly in the full form of a man motivated to get out and win a league.
Early on Cesc began loitering around Burnley’s box. After seven minutes he jigged through Burnley’s defence when they failed to clear, keeping his composure to shoot low into the side of the net.
Moments later he was demonstrating how to attack around the box, collecting a pass from Alex Song centrally, dinking the ball over the Burnley defence, settling it down with his chest on the other side but volleying wide with his left foot.
It was a sign of responsibility and parental instinct to lead his team into the wilderness of Turf Moor. Sure enough they followed. Samir Nasri made a searching run through the middle but his touch let him down, then Andrey Arshavin struck the upright. How this changed when Cesc left the feeding ground.
There were chances, as Arsenal’s natural inquisitiveness to creep into the Burnley box led to two decent chances. After 60 minutes, Walcott had found room 10 yards out. Still tenderfoot though he panicked at the sight of goal and skewed the ball over in which was neither a shot nor cross.
After 77 minutes, Eduardo had found the bravery to make a run beyond the Burnley defence but turned green at the sight of Brian Jensen bearing down on him when it looked like he was going to reach the ball first.
It’s difficult to tolerate Walcott who perplexingly looks to have festered into a state of stagnation. Likewise, Eduardo is in the same deteriorating trance and at the moment both look completely worthless to Arsenal’s drive.
Fabregas though had listened at half-time on Sunday and had the managers grilling buried in his mind; present was a leader. Sadly, most others forgot, slipping back into the comforts of passing accountability onto somebody else.
Yes, there have been games where Fabregas was part of a similar performance to last night’s second-half. For one, I have been a little critical of Fabregas in the past – as recent as Chelsea’s mauling – for not fulfilling his captains duties to the level expected, and needed.
That isn’t to say he hasn’t put in shifts creditable of the armband he wears. He has, yet the difference last night was a sense that Fabregas was fighting for the title, not just for the one off game. It was showing in the steely look of his eyes, to the point where I could almost see through them and into the future where Cesc holds aloft a silver trophy.
Do the rest of the team share the same vision though? For a moment on Sunday it appeared so, only to be cut short by the murmurs of last night and the echoes of Arsenal once again taking a sideways step.
Also side-stepping was Wenger, blasting the fixture list before his players performance – a lame excuse. He talks so positively about the quality of his squad, but fresh legs like Eduardo and Carlos Vela remain on the bench. Fatigue cannot be an issue here. Diaby is another who should be unsullied, as is Ramsey, Silvestre and even Walcott.
Instead of beating out tired pretexts, my suggestion is another lampooning upon the players – Almunia is in desperate need – nothing quite like it to bring around festive cheer. Actually, Wenger should be taking note of the fixture list and singing it’s praises, for Chelsea travel to Turf Moor January 30.
If Attenborough ever did film a documentary on the strength of the Premier League, it might begin at Turf Moor. Work rate, desire and responsibility have been a key part of Burnley’s fair success this season, something which Arsenal could learn from. A copy of last night’s game should be all the team find in their Christmas stockings this year.