Francesc Fabregas: 17 years on
Arsenal v AZ Alkmaar - UEFA Champions League
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 04: Cesc Fabregas of Arsenal celebrates scoring the third goal of the game during the UEFA Champions League Group H match between Arsenal and AZ Alkmaar at the Emirates Stadium on November 4, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images)

In October 2003, Cesc Fabregas became the then-youngest player to ever play for Arsenal football club.

Aged just 16 years and 177 days, the Spaniard featured in Arsenal's 1-1 3rd round league cup tie with Rotherham United

  • One of the best

Even though he went on to become the then-youngest Arsenal goalscorer in the very next round of the same season with a goal in Arsenal's 5-1 win over Wolves - not many would have expected him to be named Arsenal captain just five years later at 21. 

Within 57 goals and 92 assists in 304 appearances for the North London side, many see him as one of the few club legends post-Highbury - but needless to say not all. 

At times, Fabregas would take the game by the scruff of the neck and single handedly win a game for Arsenal.

During a period in which the Arsenal squad continued to grow weaker as it's rivals strengthened - Fabregas was one of the few world-class players who remained at the club.

The Catalan-born midfielder was truly remarkable at times - the 2009/10 season in which Arsenal fell painfully short of the Premier League title.

The playmaker registered 19 goals and 19 assists in all competitions. An outstanding return at still the young age of 22. He was putting up numbers similar to the likes of Kevin De Bruyne now, 7 years younger.

  • The downfall

Cesc will struggle to receive enough praise and credit among the Arsenal fanbase today.

Many cannot, and fairly, look past the Spaniards decision to return to London to play for Chelsea - or the 2010 incident where the Spanish team forced him into a Barcelona shirt as he stood and laughed and even missing training as he forced a move to Barcelona in 2011.

As club captain - this did not sit nicely with the Arsenal faithful.

  • Fond memories

But even a lot of these happenings do not stop Arsenal fans regarding Fabregas as a club icon. It is sad that looking back at his time at Arsenal, he failed to win anything in which he really played a heavy part in.

He was involved in the Invincibles squad and also the 2005 FA Cup Final win - but he was not a stalwart first team member at the time. 

He was involved in so many outstanding moments at the club. His excellence in the 2006 Champions League run as he took the mantle from Patrick Vieira and became a regular starter - his performance at Highbury against the latter in a 2-0 win over Juventus was superb.

Numerous goals against Tottenham and a string of fantastic games against Manchester United - Fabregas was a big game player not shy of the big occasions.

Arsenal fans will remember fondly his passionate role in Arsenal's seemingly annual Champions League tie against Barcelona - on one occassion in which Fabregas took a decisive penalty whilst hobbling through injury - he played through the pain barriers for his new adopted love.

But it was Barcelona where his heart lay. For many fans it was painful to see him leave but they could understand - it is everyone's dream to play for their childhood club.

But it became abundantly clear that he never found the same mutual respect from a set of fanbase as he did at Arsenal.

After a few years and having left Chelsea; the truth about his transfer to the blue side of London from Barcelona becomes clearer and clearer.

Arsene Wenger states in his new autobiography that he in fact turned down pleas by both Robin Van Persie and Cesc Fabregas to return to the club.

In his words; “He called me because he wanted to come back, but it was impossible: he was at the end of his career and we were investing in young players.

This was three years after joining Manchester United and a year after Fabregas made the switch to Chelsea. It was clear that once you left Arsenal - Wenger would be reluctant to let you back. 

  • In need of another

17 years on and the Arsenal team would love a player of Cesc's calibre. The severe lack of midfield creativty is crying out for the 'next' Cesc Fabregas at Arsenal.

The Gunners have found solutions since Fabregas left in 2011 - Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey and Santi Cazorla have all played their parts in filling the large void left with the Spaniard's departure.

The current Arsenal squad is desperate for the playmaker and goalscorer's special qualities. 

Many are talking about who Arsenal should sign in the coming January transfer window to cure their creative woes.

Let's put our faith in youth again like we did 17 years ago to this day and sign Hungarian teenager Dominik Szoboszlai - someone with all it takes to emulate the Spaniard that came before him's impressive career.

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