Josh's analysis of the return of Captain Cesc...

Saturday April 4th – 3pm.  This is when we will see Cesc Fabregas back in an Arsenal shirt, sporting the captain’s armband.  We have missed Cesc, Wenger even admitted that we had to make changes to how we played, just to adapt to his absence.  He was the heartbeat of this team, the creative spark and to a large extent the passion also.  He had not had the best of seasons before his injury, possibly due to a busy summer at the Euros immediately after a full 2007/08 season.  Was the injury a blessing in disguise?  I am going to analyse this question as well as looking at who will partner Cesc on his return…
During the summer, Wenger opted to save his cash and give Denilson. Diaby and Song the chance to partner Fabregas.  These three young midfield players had all shown promise, often out wide in the case of Diaby and Denilson, and at centre back in the case of Song.  However, none of them had played a full season vying for the central midfield position.  Due to Diaby’s unfortunately timed injury, Wenger went for Denilson as the man beside the talisman.  Early on, Denilson played well, he scored goals, and did a solid job in midfield.  However, he never really broke sweat for me and this affected Cesc.  Alongside Flamini, Fabregas flourished as he had someone next to him to do the donkey work.
Once Fabregas got injured, something seemed to bring Denilson to life.  He decided that he had been the mainstay of the Arsenal side this season and was going to prove he had every right to start as many games as he did.  He manned up, grew some bollocks, whatever you want to say, he got better.  He was forced to.  Wenger had faith in him as he refused to bring in another central midfield during the January window, despite calls from ex-players, pundits and fans for him to do so.  This was a big statement of his faith in Denilson.  Before the injury to Cesc, Denilson never put himself about as he did during the home leg against Roma.  That game sparked a change in Denilson and took him from the solid regular in the side this season, to a determined midfield player who believed he could dominate matches.
Not only did Denilson find added responsibility on his shoulders, but the likes of Robin Van Persie and Samir Nasri were forced to move up a gear.  With Adebayor in a slump, Van Persie turned his belief in Wenger’s philosophy into performances on the pitch.  He seems to be a real leader for this young side and this season has shown the new levels of maturity that he has.  Alongside Nasri, Van Persie has taken up the mantle as chief attacking threat.  It was simply a necessity that he did this with Cesc out.  In January alone he made or scored each of our goals.  Van Persie thrived on the new pressure he had to perform.  When we needed Robin, more often than not he produced something special.
Despite the new attacking impetus in certain players, the defence also found new found togetherness.  Arguably, the shaky defence was what put us out of the title race long before the New Year.  There seemed to be an attitude around the club that we would concede but hopefully score more times than the opposition.  Once we lost the creative talents of Fabregas, we lost an awful lot going forward.  Goals became hard to come by, resulting in, at first, scraped 1-0 victories, before a succession of 0-0 draws.  There is no coincidence that the defence started to sort itself out once it appeared the side might struggle to score.  Any problems between Toure and Gallas were put to one side for the good of the side.  Sagna began to look a bit more secure although still not at his best.  Clichy seems to be improving once again after what was a horrible first half of the season.
All over the pitch, the injury to the skipper seems to have shown players that they needed to change.  The examples I gave can be applied to the likes of Eboue who has also tried to turn his season around.  Hopefully, once Cesc is back these players will not fall back to the manners in which they began this campaign.
Now I will move on to the issue of who will be Cesc’s partner.  I alluded to the fact that Denilson has improved considerably, but the question still remains as to whether Denilson and Fabregas work as a partnership.  I still do not believe it functioned well early on this season and it did affect how Cesc played.  He was given more defensive responsibility than he should have and we lost his influence going forward.  The key for Denilson is that his game has developed.  In this new 4-2-3-1 formation, Denilson has taken up the role of midfield general, ala Mascherano for Liverpool.  When he plays with Diaby, he has far more influence than when he plays with Song.  When Song and Deni are together, the two do a similar job, but alongside Fabregas, Denilson’s new found talents could be perfect.
The most obvious choice to partner Cesc, in terms of how he plays, is Song.  He does the simple things: wins the ball of an opponent and plays it to a team mate who can start an attack.  That is the job Wenger has given him.  It is not pretty, but as the say, someone’s got to do it.  We saw against Burnley that Song has an eye for a pass.  However, alongside Cesc, the job he does would be perfect.  With Fabregas acting as the deep lying playmaker, Song would solely need to act as a shield to the back four as those in front of him have the job of scoring.  The 4-2-3-1 formation suits Song as it is almost the sole responsibility of four most attacking players to score the goals.  IF he does his job, no one can complain.  The problem for Song is that he has been the scapegoat for many Arsenal fans, should our attacking players fail to score.
It is probable that Wenger wanted to partner Fabregas and Diaby together at the start of this season.  The Frenchman had a good pre season and would add steel to the midfield.  An injury set him back quite a bit and only now are we beginning to see what he can do.  He was brilliant against Roma and against Newcastle, at a ground where we often struggle, he was awesome.  He showed power, strength, poise and skill.  It is hard not to compare it to the performances Vieira so often put in for Arsenal.  If he can become a box to box midfield player, who can tackle and attack, this may be too tempting an opportunity for Wenger.  It was a travesty that Vieira and Fabregas never played in the same side for a long period of time.  It would have been the ideal pairing, if Diaby can improve aspects of his game, this could be the chance to try something similar.
I honestly cannot pick who I would prefer to play alongside Cesc on April 4th.  Wenger may have to give every man his due and give Song, Denilson and Diaby equal chance.  We will have many games should we advance in the cups and rotation for different matches will always be needed.  I am inclined to say Denilson will get the nod but feel that Song will compliment Cesc better.  I am more than happy to be proved wrong by Denilson, who I feel has done very well this season and deserves his chance.

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