Is Fabregas the new Bergkamp?

By on March 12, 2010

Watching the Dennis Bergkamp LEGEND DVD for the 234th time the other day, I began thinking about which of our current players most resembled the greatest player in the club’s history. Some of you may know but Dennis Bergkamp is the reason I am an Arsenal supporter today. Seeing him during the 1994 World Cup here in the States was like a revelation. When people would say to me, “What’s so great about football?” I could only answer, “Dennis Bergkamp.” Bergkamp showed me the grandest possibilities the game had to offer. A few years later after having watched some Champions League finals, I “realized” that Bergkamp was now playing for a club named Arsenal. If Arsenal were good enough for Bergkamp, they were good enough for me. That was 1997.

Of course, you only have to watch Arsenal for a short time and read a bit about them before you begin getting a larger sense of the club and what it stands for. There was just something otherworldy about those rare times when you could see Arsenal on American television, usually at a pub or on pay-per-view cable. And especially when they were playing at Highbury. To an American on television, Highbury looked like another world… an idyllic world. The smallness of the ground, the stands, the row houses visible between the stands, the closeness of the supporters to the pitch, etc… When you then added Bergkamp to that equation, it all seemed so magical and mythical. But, I digress…

For me, Bergkamp’s greatness was due to his technique and his intelligence. He had the intelligence an creativity to conceive things you or I couldn’t even imagine, but, even more importantly, he had the technique and confidence to not only try them but make them come off. Obviously the Leicester and Newcastle goals come to mind, but just as much in his passing. He had a vision of the pitch that was unrivaled anywhere in the world at the time and, once again, his technique allowed him to utilize that vision. The other quality Dennis had was fiery desire. Remember all those bookings and sendings-off for tackles that were a bit too enthusiastic? Dennis did not sit back and take whatever was dished out to him. He gave it back.

And now, I see all these qualities in Cesc. His vision on the pitch has no equal in the world at the moment. He has a similarly deft touch in his passing. Having started scoring regularly has only made him look more and more the most complete player in the Premier League, if not the world. Cesc also has that mean streak that Bergkamp had. Think back to the Stoke match when a late tackle was put on him after he had already scored the penalty. In retaliation, Cesc made that tackle from behind just outside the opponents’ box that Tony Pulis was complaining about. Cesc doesn’t just take it either. He has also become much more committed in his defensive play over the last two years originally pulling inspiration from his partnership with Flamini. Ronaldo and Messi might be more explosive offensively, in the sense of scoring goals, but both are less-than-interested when their respective sides are not in possession. The Actim Index has Cesc as the leading player in the Premier League this season, far ahead of Drogba and Rooney. In this case, the numbers actually confirm the impression given by watching.

He also has a similar level of technique and strength to Bergkamp. It is a glorious sight to watch him turn his marker around in the center of the pitch and then get two strides ahead as he breaks forward. His control of the ball is almost cartoon-like at times, very similar to Bergkamp. Now I am not saying Cesc is better than Bergkamp or that he is the same type of player as Bergkamp. I am merely saying that he has very similar qualities to those that enabled Bergkamp to be, for a short time, the best player in the world, and the best player in the history of Arsenal Football Club. And I believe that if this Arsenal team starts winning trophies, they won’t stop for some time to come and that if Cesc stays, he has a very good chance at being considered alongside Bergkamp and Henry when supporters discuss, “Who was Arsenal’s greatest player?”


  1. Monty

    March 12, 2010 at 11:39 am

    spot me ol’ mucca spot on!!

  2. ruffneckc

    March 12, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Very nice write up. Fabregas is improving and becoming a leader of men. If Wenger continues to surround him with players that are adept at timing runs, getting into dangerous positions and scoring, the team will be unstoppable.

    At this point, many of Bergkamp’s strengths were compatible with his teammates, who were in excellent of taking advantage of them – Henry, Freddie, Pires, and even Vieira.

    You can see it when van Persie was fit and on song, Fabregas’ excellent shun through even more because they were on the same wavelength.

  3. Ralph

    March 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

    I think you’re absolutely right to draw the comparison.

    For me Bergkamp only played as a (proper) striker for us in his first couple of seasons as after that he played far deeper (much in the area Cesc plays) with other players ahead of him.

    Also interestingly Wenger has used the same word (quarterback) for both of them and as far as I know he has never used that terms for any of our other players.

    Funnily enough after the first time I saw him play I had a conversation with someone and we both agreed that he was the most aware player (in terms of looking around before he got the ball) that we’d seen apart from Bergkamp.

  4. Comrade23

    March 12, 2010 at 11:56 am

    I completely understand your comparison, and it’s not without merit, but there are differences as well. Bergkamp was as good with the ball at his feet, especially for a tall man, as just about anyone I’ve ever seen. And the physical differences are obvious, which means differences in their style of play as well. Additionally, as a “true” midfielder, Cesc seems to be more concerned with man-marking an defending in general.

    I’m with you in that DB10 is the main reason I became a football fan and an Arsenal fan, so I often find myself in danger of making the man better than even he was, in my mind. Not so much as a footballer, since he had no equal on the pitch. I just wonder whether or not he could fly and just never showed anyone. Hey, it’s a thought.

    • ArsenalStation

      March 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm

      Definitely there are differences. But in the combination of great technique, intelligence, creativity, and desire, they are very similar. You know I wasn’t trying to compare their specific games or styles just those kind of intangible qualities that set the great players apart.

      And I absolutely think he can fly.

  5. maxwell

    March 12, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    i do agree this season fabregas have shown that he is a complete player. you also have to consider that he is not playing in a team flooded with stars like man u , bacelona or madrid.

  6. joni goonah

    March 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    fabregas is a super player.. but please stop trying to compare him to Bergkamp… one of the most gifted footballer ever!!

    similarities or no.. there;ll never be another bergkamp.. Cesc is a completely different player then Bergkamp anyways imo.. the end result might be similar.. but they play in a totally different style..

    • ArsenalStation

      March 12, 2010 at 12:45 pm

      I didn’t compare him to Bergkamp. And, even if I did, what is wrong with comparing players. Assertions of superiority are not inherent in comparisons. I could just as easily compare him favorably or unfavorably with Bergkamp. However, I did neither. I merely pointed out a few of the same qualities that he shares with Bergkamp.

  7. Solondon

    March 12, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Don’t get me wrong I love DB10, and was as surprised as evryone else when we signed him. But the true Arsenal great of the same or similar era is Thierry Henry. I would become unable to breath at times when he played, in fact no girlfriend at the time or since has been able to rouse as much passion in me as TH14.

    If there is one player who we can say is our best ever then it is Thierry Henry.

  8. Asif

    March 12, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I can relate to this article like for like. Great article.

  9. Osi

    March 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    Cesc is much better than Bergkamp. Forget about techniques and controls and look at the value of both for their club. Now you gonna tell me that Cesc has won nothing, but football isn’t individual sports. The value of Cesc this season is uncomparable to anyone’s else, that’s, 29 goals and assists ahead of Rooney. and he haven’t reached his peak yet and playing in a team composed by, arguably, lesser players opr potentials, whereas BergK played in a team of stars. Plus his later successes came as he played that included THE GREATEST ARSENAL PLAYER EVER THIERRY HENRY, and best diffensive midfielder in th world plus a LEGEND like PIRES.

    • joni goonah

      March 12, 2010 at 3:41 pm

      i dont mean to sound personal but surely you know very little about football…

      Bergkamp makes everyone he plays with looks world class.. when he passes.. its not just the weight of the ball.. most of the time he makes sure to impart the correct spin on the ball so the receiver will have the easiest of tasks to score..

      and here you are devaluing Dennis Bergkamp in comparison to Cesc becoz he plays with Thierry.. Bobby P.. Anelka.. Overmars… Ian Wright.. club legends!

      i;d see it in a different angle all together and wld rather believe DB10 played an important role in all the careers of the players above making them legends that we love so much

  10. Dennis Unwise

    March 12, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Well said. They have a slightly different game and style but both DB10 and CF4 both have that undefinable quality we call “greatness.”

  11. Davi

    March 12, 2010 at 6:24 pm

    They are similar in attitude but the way they play and their specific talents are quite different.
    Van persie is a much better bergkamp comparison in that he can use his close control to score spectacular goals, whereas cesc is a less effective dribbler. I dont think his close control is as good as either rvp or dennis (although still very good).
    I also reject the comparison between the passing of bergkamp and fabregas. I agree dennis could see and play passes no one else ever could, but cesc doesn’t really play passes like that, it’s not his game. He’s more of a playmaker who likes to have everything in front of him. Imo fabregas is an extremely talented version of frank lampard. Very consistent, plays through balls very well, makes runs into the box and finishes chances. Fabregas is a much better player though imo.
    If there’s a good pass on, you can count on cesc to spot it 100% of the time and play the pass perfectly 99% of the time, but he wont often spot the passes that don’t exist to normal players, like bergkamp could.

  12. Shevo

    March 12, 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Top man , Top Player, Top post.
    It’s great to be an Arsenal supporter. Happy days.

  13. jhon peter

    March 12, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    quiero brindar mi comentario acerca del tema , tengo 46 años y veo al arsenal desde fines de los setenta , obviamente soy fanatico del arsenal club desde siempre, y solo quiero decirles que nunca ha habido un futbolista tan fantastico y mitico como MR. Denis bergkamp en este club , algunos dicen que henry fue el mas grande , claro yo los comprendo , henry fue mas grande que bergkamp desde el punto estadistico y de cantidad de goles , incluso era mas veloz , pero no tenia la magia y la fantasia que bergkamp poseia , ahora con respecto a la comparacion con fabregas es respetable , pero por favor¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡ Denis bergkamp ha hecho jugadas y goles que maradona y ronaldinho habrian soñado con hacerlas alguna vez en una cancha de futbol .

  14. Shifty cent

    March 12, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    What a fantastic read up, i read your posts as often as i can, but this is the first time i can recall of commenting on your post. Both are gr8 players in what they did and do. I have to be honest i loved the article, dennis was the reason i became an arsenal fan, i remember when he signd i was only 7 years old and i watched every game the master played whether it was at highbury or on tv, i neva missed a single game of his. He was my idol when i was kid. Keep up the great work, i will b back to read more.

  15. ArsenalStation

    March 13, 2010 at 12:03 am

    Thanks for all the compliments on the piece, guys. I really appreciate you reading and especially commenting on my pieces. Here’s to a result tomorrow afternoon…

  16. Neil Youngson

    March 13, 2010 at 1:54 am

    I started going to see Arsenal at Highbury around the time they signed Bergkamp, though I’d supported them since I was about 12 years old. I remember being amazed that Arsenal could sign such a player, the very name “Bergkamp” conjured up images of foreign mystique, players from mainland Europe who could do things with the ball that were rarely seen in the blood and guts game that was English football, back then.

    I wasn’t disappointed. One image from a game, I remember not who it was against, stuck in my mind. Bergkamp received the ball a little inside his own half, near the East Stand, facing his own goal. He cushioned the ball on his chest and as it fell, turned and volleyed it as a perfect pass into the path of his teammate who was haring down the wing. He just knew instinctively where he was and where his teammate would be when his pass arrived – he did this without looking and of course the pass was weighted perfectly, not an easy thing to do when you’re volleying a ball. The move resulted in a goal though I don’t remember the other players involved – I guess they weren’t as memorable as DB10.

    A few seasons ago it was a trademark of Cesc that when he ran forward, with or without the ball, you could see his head swivelling from side to side as he built a picture in his head of where all the other players were on the pitch. He doesn’t do that so much now, I guess he doesn’t need to!

    In my mind DB10 is still the greatest, followed by TH14, but Cesc is closing fast and given his age, assuming he sticks around which I think he will, he could well become the greatest AFC player of all time.

  17. UberGunner

    March 13, 2010 at 2:29 am

    what can i say. DB10… the reason Aston Martin have to come up with stupid names for thier cars.

  18. Arsesession

    March 13, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Terrific write up!
    I also follow Arsenal because of DB10. He made everyone around him a better player and I agree with your comparison to Cesc.

    Style of play maybe different, but same talent with the ball. 1 in a million !

    Who can forget the ’98 WC, Netherlands v. Argentina – the 89th minute –
    his winning goal, a MASTERPIECE OF TECHNICAL BEAUTY.

  19. rafi

    March 13, 2010 at 6:14 pm

    awareness and technique we all know they are masters. It is the desire in cesc, as with DB10 that made me dream of this boy one day becoming arsenal captain. some people doubted him for age, but this boy is a born footballer. thats why he is already being seen as captain FANTASTIC.

  20. Microraptor

    March 15, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    @ Arsenal station “I absolutely think he can fly…”

    So are you saying DB10 just made up the fear-of-flying thing? Cos that cost us heavily in past…. DB10 could not make lengthy short term round trips for the CL and had repercussions in the Premiership when we faced “must win” CL home games having lost away against the likes of Shaktar Toofartotakeatrain and Dinamo Fuckingmilestogobeforeyousleep FC, and then we were jaded in our domestic fixtures those weeks.

    Bergkamp’s inability to get on an aeroplane — or take whatever therapy necessary to make him able to do so — was a big black mark against his all round usefulness to Arsenal in an era of international and domestic games being played all over Europe in short time-frames.

  21. money with affiliate program

    June 11, 2010 at 7:22 am

    I find myself coming back here a lot to read. I have learned many new things here. Thanks a lot!

  22. PJ

    October 15, 2010 at 4:29 am

    At the risk of being boring I have to say a completely agree with this post

    Character, technique, vision attitude all have string similarities

    Key difference overall is Bergkamp had first Wrighty, then Anelka, then Henry to plunder the goals

    Shows how we’re missing that vital link in the team – one that I am sure would lead to trophies

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