Fabregas has power to rock Barcelona
Arsene Wenger is set to unleash a more powerful Cesc Fabregas against his former club when Arsenal take on Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final at the Emirates tomorrow night.
The 22-year-old Arsenal midfielder has scored 18 goals in all competitions this season and is averaging one goal every two games.
If he hits the net three more times, the Spaniard will have equalled his combined tally for past three campaigns.
The midfielder is hoping to shake off a knee injury to play against his former club but boss Wenger believes his scoring form has been the result of a calmness in front of goal and more physical power.
“I believe he is more relaxed,” said Wenger. “There is less tension in his finishing. You feel that before he wanted to force the chance and now he is more relaxed. Also he has gained more physical power. You can see he resists much more the runs of his opponents and he is more powerful in his runs. These two ingredients make a big difference. Also I believe the change in formation has had an impact as well. He has more freedom to join in now.”
But it was his perceptive passing and not his eye for goal which first attracted Wenger to the player.
Back in 2003, the Arsenal manager travelled to Finland for the Under-17s World Cup in order to run the rule over, among others, a blossoming young midfielder in the Spanish team.
Fabregas had Barcelona in his blood and was rising rapidly through the ranks at the Nou Camp alongside the likes of Lionel Messi and Gerard Pique. Fabregas won the Golden Boot as top scorer and was voted Player of the Tournament for his overall contribution and 12 days after losing to Brazil in the final, the youngster signed for Arsenal.
“I couldn't go to watch a youth game at Barcelona because they would not have welcomed me,” explained Wenger.
“So I could only watch him in the Under-17 national team.
“You could see straight away that his vision of the game was exceptional. He was physically a little bit weak at the time but he could score goals.
“He signed for us because he knew we could give him a chance to play.”