Cesc Fabregas came off the bench to make in inspirational contribution that proved to be the difference between the two teams at Ashburton Grove yesterday. Until his entrance into the fray it had been an even contest but, within the 27 minutes he was on the field, the captain had scored twice, turned the match and ensured that Arsenal took a vital three points from Aston Villa.
The only disappointment of the afternoon was seeing Fabregas pull up with a recurrence of his hamstring injury after his lung-bursting sprint on the way to scoring his and Arsenal’s second. It remains to be seen how much further rest he will require before Arsene Wenger feels comfortable with picking him again, but looking at the upcoming fixtures, it would seem understandable if he were to miss tomorrow night’s trip to Portsmouth. He would have been an unlikely selection for the FA Cup tie with West Ham anyway as the manager will almost certainly shuffle his pack for that encounter.
Ideally, it would be great if he could return for the home games against Bolton and Everton to try to help ensure that maximum capital is made out of those matches but, if he does require the maximum three weeks of rest that has been mooted, then there are worse fixtures he could miss.
Yesterday’s victory highlighted once against how absolutely vital Cesc Fabregas is to Arsenal right now. He is the one player that consistently raises the level of the team and the individual players around him. Even during his quieter matches his is always still massively influential and the fact that he has added goalscoring to his repertoire over the past couple of seasons has made him invaluable.
Wenger was right to risk him in what was a very big game yesterday but it is not a trick you would want to seem the manager pull too often. One senses that much of Arsenal’s season relies on whether Fabregas can stay fit and injury-free throughout and making sure he recovers properly from this hamstring pull is worth risking a few points in the short-term for.
Whether Cesc travels to Portsmouth tomorrow night remains to be seen but, after a highly satisfying win over Villa, following up with a victory at an awkward away ground is hugely important. Though Pompey are struggling, Fratton Park is never an easy place to go and Arsenal have had several hard games down there in recent years.
A couple of weeks ago, the Gunners followed up a great win at Liverpool with a disappointing draw at Burnley. Hopefully, tomorrow night they will go one better and, with or without their captain, take a valuable three points that will maintain their current momentum and intensify the pressure on Chelsea and Manchester United.