From all of us at Arsenal Action and all the gooners around the world.
Happy Birthday captain
Fàbregas was born in Arenys de Mar, Barcelona. Fàbregas has supported Barcelona since childhood and went to his first match when he was nine months old with his grandfather. It was at Barcelona where Fàbregas began his club football career. Initially, he was played as a volante (defensive midfielder), yet he was also a prolific scorer, sometimes scoring more than 30 goals in a season for the club’s youth teams. However, he did not manage to play a first-team game at the Camp Nou. Sensing that he would have limited opportunities at Barcelona, he joined Arsenal, signing for the London club in September 2003. Initially, he found life difficult in England’s capital but soon struck a friendship with Spanish-speaking team-mate Philippe Senderos, who helped him settle down.As a 16-year-old, Fàbregas did not contemplate breaking into the first team immediately but looked up to senior players like Patrick Vieira and Gilberto Silva, while concentrating on training and learning the English language. He nevertheless made his debut for Arsenal not long after, on 23 October 2003, in a League Cup tie at home to Rotherham United. In doing so he became Arsenal’s youngest ever first-team player, aged 16 years and 177 days. He then became the youngest goalscorer in Arsenal’s history in a later round of the League Cup, scoring in a 5–1 victory against Wolverhampton Wanderers.Although Arsenal went on to win the league unbeaten in the 2003–04 season,Fàbregas was not awarded a winner’s medal because he did not play a single league game.
It was not until the start of the 2004–05 season that the Spaniard started making first-team appearances in matches outside the League Cup. His first match of the season was against Manchester United in the Community Shield. Following an injury to Vieira, Fàbregas stepped in and made four consecutive Premier League starts. He was praised for his performances in those games, even claiming a goal against Blackburn Rovers in a 3–0 victory, and becoming Arsenal’s youngest ever goalscorer in a league game. With further injuries to Edu and Gilberto Silva, he received more playing time in all competitions. In the UEFA Champions League, he became the second-youngest goalscorer in the competition’s history after scoring the third goal against Rosenborg in a 5–1 win. He concluded his season by winning his first honours with Arsenal when he was in the starting eleven that defeated Manchester United on penalties in the 2005 FA Cup Final.
After the departure of Vieira to Juventus, Fàbregas featured regularly in the Arsenal central midfield alongside Gilberto Silva. He made 49 appearances in all competitions during the 2005–06 season.Despite his young age, his performances came under greater scrutiny due to his increased involvement in the first team. Further, as Fàbregas possessed a smaller frame and played with less aggression than Vieira, there were initially doubts over his ability to fill in the void left by the Frenchman.Nevertheless, Fàbregas asserted his own style of play and impressed pundits in the Champions League against Real Madrid and Juventus. In the latter, he scored Arsenal’s first goal and set up Thierry Henry for the second, at the same time proving that he could compete against tough, hard-tackling midfielders like Vieira. He then played in the final against his former club Barcelona, but Arsenal were defeated 2–1, completing a trophyless 2005–06 campaign for Arsenal.
Fàbregas’ increase in exposure drew transfer speculation during the summer; Real Madrid expressed a desire to sign the Spaniard despite his long-term contract with Arsenal.
In September 2006, with six years left on his deal, Arsenal offered a new five-year deal (with an option to extend by a further three years, making eight years) to the midfielder, which he signed on 19 October 2006. While the contract was unusually long, Fàbregas cited Arsenal’s playing style and Wenger as reasons for his long-term commitment to the club.
The 2006–07 season was a learning experience for the young Arsenal squad and Fàbregas. The club again failed to secure any major honours and were defeated by city rivals Chelsea in the League Cup final. However, Fàbregas emerged as one of the key creative players for the team, playing in every single league game. He kickstarted Arsenal’s UEFA Champions League 2006-07 campaign when he scored a brace in a 3–0 win over Dinamo Zagreb in a qualifier match. In the Premier League, he notched up 13 assists, which was the second-highest total in the league. He ended the season with several individual honours, including the Golden Boy award, presented by the Italian paper TuttoSport, based on a poll of leading writers across Europe. He was also named in the 2006 UEFA Team of the Year, and named FA Premier League Player of the Month for January 2007. Additionally, he was nominated for both PFA Players’ Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year, although both awards went to Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo. In June 2007, he was named Arsenal’s Player of the Season, taking in 60% of the votes.
The 2007–08 season began with much uncertainty for Arsenal. First, David Dein, the club’s vice-chairman, left amidst allegations of internal strife, followed by the departure of the club’s all-time top goalscorer and captain, Thierry Henry, who signed for Barcelona. There was also speculation over Wenger’s future with the club.Fàbregas knew that he would become the most important player for Arsenal, but stated he was ready for the challenge. He started the season well, chalking up goals and assists, and website soccernet attributed the early success of Arsenal to the young Spaniard. 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. With Arsenal leading the league table until March, Fàbregas was equally instrumental in the club’s Champions League campaign; in the return leg against Milan, the midfielder scored late in the game to send Arsenal into the quarter-finals. Though Arsenal ended the season trophyless,Fàbregas amassed several personal awards. On 11 April 2008, Fàbregas was nominated for the PFA Player of the Year and PFA Young Player of the Year awards for the second year running; he was later crowned the winner of the latter, and named in the PFA Team of the Year. He was also named the 2007–08 Arsenal.com Player of the Season.
On 24 November 2008, 14 league games into the 2008–09 season, Fàbregas was named as the successor to William Gallas as club captain.
And how lucky are we to have him….
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