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?”