The 2007/2008 season began with several changes for Arsenal. David Dein, the clubâ€™s vice-chairman, left amidst allegations of internal politics and the club legend and captain, Thierry Henry, signed for Barcelona. There was also speculation over Wengerâ€™s future with the club. However this was soon laid to rest and Arsene’s future at the club was secured.
Arsenal started the season well, with Cesc scoring five goals in the first six matches, he was a major contributor to the teams early success. As the club prepared for the group stages of the Champions League, Arsene Wenger singled Cesc’s vision out for praise saying, “Cescâ€™s vision is comparable to Platiniâ€™s. It is a compliment but he is at the start of his career. Cesc has it all in front of him, but he has a vision.”
Cesc in turn has given much of the credit for his development as a player to Arsene, he told reporters, “I am learning from Arsene all the time. He speaks to me even more now. In the first years I was here he never put any pressure on me. But he has so much knowledge that all you have to do is listen.â€
His start to the season also earned him the O2 Player of the Month award from Arsenal fans for August, September and October, as well as the Premier League Player of the Month for September and the Evening Standard player of the month for September. He also made the Ballon dâ€™Or shortlist for European Player of the Year .
Arsenal lead the English Premier League table until March. They were having a superb season and looked sure to break their trophy drought when bad luck struck. The team was rocked by a terrible injury to Eduardo during the match against Birmingham city. They followed this horror game with a series of draws and by the time they recovered their mental composure, they had dropped too many points to take the title. They could still be proud of a season in which they only lost three matches.
The highlight of Cesc’s season was to come in the clubâ€™s Champions League campaign. In Arsenal’s return leg 2-0 victory over AC Milan at the San Siro, Cesc scored Arsenal’s first goal in the 84th minute to put the tie all but out of AC Milan’s reach and to re-write history as Arsenal became the first english club to ever win at the San Siro.
AC Milanâ€™s playmaker and FIFA world player of the year, Kaka, said of Cesc Fabregas after the match, â€œHe is a great player, for the future. Heâ€™s an amazing talent because of how he plays and how he controls how others play. Heâ€™s always moving. Heâ€™s the prototype of the modern footballer because he is aware of everything that is happening on the pitch. In some ways he reminds me of (Andrea) Pirlo.â€
One newspaper described Cesc’s performance saying, “He arrived with the quickest mind, the sharpest intellect and the most mesmerising array of skills on the pitch. But most significantly, he returned with a hunger that took him beyond all competitors – even Kaka, the World Footballer of the Year – and scored a goal fit to win any match.”
Cesc was nominated for the PFA Player of the year and won the PFA Young Player of the year award which he dedicated to all Arsenal supporters. He was also named in the PFA Team of the year. He finished the season with the most assists in the English Premier League, a staggering 19 and a total of 24 assists in all competitions and 14 goals.
When asked about his increased success in-front of goal, Cesc replied “Last season I had a lot of chances but they just didn’t go in. This season they are. Goals just come. I haven’t been working on my finishing in particular, but I always try to improve on everything in my game. People around me say that I’m too self-critical and perhaps it’s true. But I’ve always been like that. Even if we win a game if I think that I haven’t played my best then I get angry with myself. I can’t sleep. I’ll watch the game back again and again to try to see how I can improve.”
He also explained Arsene Wenger’s role in his improved goal tally, “In the summer, The Boss called me to his office. He told me, ‘You have to be calm’. He showed me a video-tape and said, ‘See? You have more time than you think.’ Before there was something in my head saying, ‘Score!’ and I wanted to do things quick, without thinking. The good example is my goal against Man United. I had control of the ball and [Edwin] Van der Sar and [Rio] Ferdinand in front of me and time to put it past them. Last year my body would have gone towards the floor,” he says showing himself leaning back, “and the ball would have gone into the stand. Of course, I’m not perfect every time. There was the chance I missed against Liverpool [Cesc skied a rebound] and I remember one against Steaua Bucharest, just two metres from goal. “What I’ve learnt is that goals really make a difference to how people see you. People are saying Cesc is better because he’s scoring. I don’t know, I had the same chances last season, I’m the same player. But, now, I can really feel how a goal can change everything for you, and the person who is repeating that most to me is my national coach, Luis Aragones. He’s always saying, ‘You have to score, a goal is the most important thing in football’.”
At the end of the season Cesc starred in his own television programme, called â€œNike Live: The Cesc Fabregas Showâ€, that aired on May 19, 2008. The TV special was sponsored by Nike, one of Cesc’s commercial partners and was shown on Skysports. The show featured Cesc in several sketches with Arsenal teammates like Philippe Senderos and Nicklas Bendtner. It also featured appearances from Arsene Wenger, Carles Puyol, Pep Guardiola, Cesc’s parents and Little Britain comedian Matt Lucas.
In UEFA Euro 2008, Cesc wore the number 10 with Fabregas on the back of his shirt, replacing the 18 and Cesc he had worn on his shirt previously. He made a considerable impact on Spainâ€™s campaign, featuring mainly as a super-sub but also starting Spain’s third group game, as well as the final.
He scored his first international goal in Spainâ€™s 4-1 win over Russia during the group stage, and also had an assist in that game. Spain won all three of their group games and met Italy in the quarter-finals.
In that match, Cesc scored the match winning penalty after the teams remained deadlocked 0-0 after extra time. Although he had not taken a single penalty during his time with Arsenal, he held his nerve to send Spain through to the semi-final. Afterwards he joked with reporters that when he had looked up as he was about to take the penalty, the goal had looked very small and the goal keeper looked very big.
In the semi-finals, Spain defeated Russia 3-0 with Cesc providing two assists. He gave a man of the match performance after replacing an injured David Villa in the 32nd minute.
Cesc was in the starting eleven in the final against Germany in which Spain prevailed 1-0. Spain were crowned European Champions, their first major title since 1964. For his efforts, Cesc was named in the Team of the Tournament, a 23-man squad selected by the UEFA Technical Team.
He told reporters after the final, “It is the best day of my life, as a football player. Itâ€™s a long time since [we have seen] a team of that quality, trying to play football and put the ball on the ground and create chances and play beautiful football, I donâ€™t think I have seen any teams like that having success. Finally, football has the success it deserves.”
He dedicated the win to all Arsenal fans.
The following week, Cesc was chosen as the Arsenal supporters player of the 2007/2008 season. It was the second consecutive win for Arsenal’s young Spanish talisman.
Now the story continues…
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