This weekend will see former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas return to the Emirates Stadium for the first time as a Chelsea player.
From 2003 until 2011 the Spaniard was a fan favourite amongst Gooners until the lure of boyhood club Barcelona proved too much. Now at London rivals Chelsea, many fans have turned on their former hero.
In October, Fabregas was pivotal in Chelsea’s 2-0 home win over Arsenal, providing the assist for Diego Costa’s 78th minute goal.
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Booed from the start by travelling Gunners fans, he did himself no favours when he blocked Jack Wilshere’s shot on the hour mark with his arms raised.
Whilst Arsenal could accept their hero’s move to his hometown club Barcelona, playing for Chelsea against his old club was too much to stomach for some.
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Old shirts destroyed
Such has been the anger amongst the Arsenal faithful that shirts have been destroyed, none more creatively that one fan who turned a replica Fàbregas shirt into a Mertesacker strip.
Arsenal fans will probably boo Fàbregas every time he touches the ball on Sunday, and rightly so. This sort of rivalry will bring out the best in both sets of players and keeps the most entertaining league in world football strong.
Fabregas triumph must be respected
However, regardless of Sunday’s crunch match result, Chelsea will probably still win the league. When they do, Fabregas will achieve with Chelsea that which he did not at Arsenal. And Arsenal fans should all be good sports and congratulate their club’s prodigy.
Fabregas is a real passer of the ball, a mark of the typical Arsenal philosophy. He himself credits the French manager with so much, and it is even rumoured that his daughter Lia is named after Wenger’s daughter, Lea.
Fabregas a good sport
Unlike certain others, notably Ashley Cole, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie, Fabregas left Arsenal with dignity, not for money or trophies but to play at the club he loved as a child. At first his request to leave was denied, so he played on and led the team superbly.
As Fabregas scored against Barcelona on 31st March 2010, despite having already fractured his leg, fans have no grounds to question his commitment to Arsenal at the time.
Not returning to Arsenal was ultimately Wenger’s decision, not the player’s. He has reiterated that a love for Arsenal still remains, and fans should retain a little love for their former captain.
By all means they should boo him, this sort of competition is the reason the Premier League is watched the world over, but no fan should begrudge Fabregas his league winner’s medal come the end of the season.
Instead, Gooners should be proud that an Arsenal youth product has gone on to achieve so much, regardless of where he achieved it.