Fabregas gamble made for a great occasion

April 1, 2010

SOCCER-CHAMPIONS/“It was a gamble worth taking, it was an amazing experience,  an amazing game and I will remember it all my life. This was the best team I have faced in my life.”

In a couple of short sentences, Cesc Fabregas summed up Wednesday night’s humdinger of a Champions League game pretty well perfectly, and made a persuasive case for a selection gamble that could make or break the Arsenal season.

Fabregas didn’t look fully fit in a first half that saw Barcelona’s technically impeccable team run rings around the Arsenal players. Messi, Xavi, Sergio, Pedro and the rest seemed to be playing a game of their own for the first 25 minutes or so, with Arsenal left scratching their heads at the intricate patterns being passed around them.

Perhaps it was the booking that would have ruled him out of the second leg anyway, but Fabregas seemed to redouble his efforts in the second half, in a heroic final effort that ended with him suffering a nasty injury, one that could end his season, in the very act of scoring the equalising penalty.

The gamble may end up costing Arsenal dearly. Barcelona remain strong favourites to reach the semi-finals, with two away goals, when the teams meet again at the Nou Camp on Tuesday and the loss of Fabregas makes a successful late dip for the title look even less likely.

But it was a gamble worth taking, wasn’t it? Whatever happens, Arsenal are guaranteed third place and a return to the Champions League next season, so why not give it everything in an attempt to prolong their participation this season?

“I don’t regret it,” Cesc said before hobbling away from the stadium on crutches. “You never know when games like this are going to come up again.”

PHOTO: Arsenal’s Cesc Fabregas (R) reacts after fouling Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets during their Champions League quarter-finals first leg soccer match at Emirates stadium in London March 31, 2010. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh


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Oh enough already about Barcelona’s wonderful football. Yes they played some mesmeric stuff and created a few chances but the only goals they scored came from two long balls over the the top of turning Arsenal defenders for a centre forward to run on to.
If Kevin Pietersen strokes six succcessive drives straight to cover point it might be nice on the eye but it’s not effective or winning cricket.
Likewise a soaring 350-yard drive might have the crowd ooing as it flies off Tiger Woods’s Ping but if it rolls 10 yards into the rough then it is no good, however dramatic.
A five-man passing move – not that England fans have seen one for a while- might have rugby fans up and roaring but if the last man tries one more and drops it instead of crashing over the line, it’s not something to celebrate.
One of the reasons football has become the world game is that there are so many different ways to succeed. And by succeed I mean winning games – and scoring goals.
Yes, Barcelona get a 10 for artistic impression but that doesn’t pay the bills.
When I ploughed my centre-back trade in the low, low leagues of my youth I liked nothing more than watching a tricky opposition midfield play neat triangles 30 metres in front of me.
Lots of teams can play that game and Barcelona are certainly amongst the best ever and orf course they often turn it into goals as last year’s trophy cabinet shows.
But to me that doesn’t make them any more attractive than Everton of the 1970s where Dave Thomas would beat a defender then plant a cross on to the head of Bob Latchford for a certain goal.
A team of Xavis might attract more fans than a team of Roy Keanes but I know where I’d put my money every time.

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Brilliant post there Pinhead, i have to agree with you to a large extent, Arsenal were always gonna struggle in that game due to the style of football that they play, i’m sure that Barca are delighted that Chelsea are out though as they have the perfect game, strong, powerful midfield and forwards, to really knock Barca out off their stride, just as they so nearly did last year.
My money would be on Keano over Xavi any time, also.

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