Every time Chelsea and Arsenal meet, attention turns to Cesc Fàbregas. This time is no different, with the 30-year-old ready to face the team that made him famous, ready to face the coach he still considers a father figure.
"I love Arsene, the man. I love him of course as a coach too. This is a decision he made. I always said that he's like a father to me, and he will always be."
“I feel very attached, even now, to Arsenal. My feelings for the club, well I don't have to repeat myself, every single time we play against them, because it's known. Whoever doesn't believe me, or doesn't feel it is this way, is not right. I know how I feel, my family does, and that's all that matters to me.”
The decision that Fàbregas talks about is of course Wenger’s decision to not take him back in 2014 — Dad, how could you!? — when Chelsea surprised the entire football world by signing him from Barcelona. Since that day, anyone doubting Cesc’s commitment to Chelsea Football Club has been quickly proven wrong.
“Once I made the decision to leave Barcelona, Arsenal had the first option, and Barcelona had the obligation to contact Arsenal first. Then they had a week to basically respond yes or no to the buy-out clause.
"I knew Chelsea were on the side, among other clubs, but after I spoke to [Jose] Mourinho in the meantime he convinced me that it was a great place to come. The week passed, Arsenal never responded, never contacted me either, so I took it as them having enough players in their squad, so I made my move to Chelsea.
"Because I felt they wanted me the most, Jose spoke to me in a way that not many have spoken to me before, and I knew what he wanted from me. He motivated me so much in that meeting that my choice was very easy.”
Fàbregas, whose arrival heralded a title-winning season at Stamford Bridge, outlasted Mourinho by a fair margin. Not many expected him to last this long, certainly not with the arrival of Conte last summer who surely would not even give the time of day to such a non-two-way player as Cesc. Mr. Magic Hat had other ideas however, and his resolve and determination to prove himself to the new coach and work his way into the rotation as the 12th man was one of the more impressive developments of last season.
“It was a difficult first half to the season for me last year, something I have never experienced before, but I feel I turned it around by working hard, getting my head down, being humble, training and training, playing well when they called me, and earning the manager's trust.
"I am very ambitious, hungry, and I feel very, very good. So all I can say is positive things. I feel young, I feel hungry for success to keep fighting for my place, to make things difficult for the manager and of course to win trophies, which is of course what it is about for a club like Chelsea.
“I'm the type of guy that when I'm told I can't play under this type of manager, not with his style, if you tell me this some fire comes inside me, and I want to prove everyone wrong. And that's what I did, and hopefully I can keep it up for as long as I can.
"Because mentally I feel like a boy that is only just starting, and physically I feel very, very well. It's all about the attitude and hunger to do well for the team and yourself."
-Cesc Fàbregas; source: Sky
Fàbregas has started every game he was not suspended for so far this season, but that might change today against his old team. Whether it does or not, he looks set to be a key player yet again this season for Chelsea as we look to make a better first of defending a title, his second in three years (after winning zero in seven season with Arsenal).