This Fabregas doesn’t look like that Fabregas. Or play like him.

A sensible young footballer, mature beyond his years, Cesc Fabregas was an instant favourite at Arsenal.

Creative, determined and consistent, the kid was loyal too. He always rebutted news stories that said he was leaving. He did that immediately and that reassured a million Gooners

On June 29, Spain won Euro 2008 and Fabregas became a champion.

On September 27, Fabregas the champion didn’t rate promoted Hull City and Arsenal lost 2-1 at home, which surprised him.

On November 25, Fabregas captained Arsenal for the first time against Dynamo Kiev and they won 1-0 with a goal by Aaron Ramsey.

On Sunday. December 21, he was injured in a 50-50 with Xabi Alonso and was out for the next three months.

In the last week of January, Arshavin arrived, a world class half-striker who can play on the wing.

Oddly, Fabregas is now playing in the role that Arshavin wants.

On February 21, I was at the Emirates to see the Russian’s first game against Sunderland and it was soon obvious that Arshavin should be playing in Robin van Persie’s position as a half-striker. He is far more talented than the erratic Dutchman.

That game was a 0-0 draw because Arsenal were not creative enough to open Sunderland up. Their left back said it was the easiest game he’s ever had against Wenger’s team.

Arshavin is a footballer of genius, as good as Fernando Torres or Wayne Rooney.

Incredibly, on Saturday April 18, in a decision which will echo forever in the annals of infamy, a decision which even now is being talked about from Vienna to Vladivostock, Arsene Wenger didn’t pick Arshavin for the FA Cup semi-final against Chelsea.

Arshavin was not eligible for the Champions League, he was fresh for the semi, he was a player Chelsea had never faced, even if Hiddink knew him very well, and instead Wenger picked Diaby and lost the game 2-1. He preferred Diaby, who plays one good game in eight.

He gave Arshavin 15 minutes.
He gave Arshavin 15 minutes !
He gave Arshavin 15 minutes !!!

After 75, he took off Van Persie and brought on Arshavin.

And he expects us to take him seriously after that?

In the last week of April there is a possibly dodgy story quoting Dennis Lachter, Arshavin’s agent.The following day, Lachter denies he said those things.

But the quotes rang true. For me, the quotes rang true. What was said was a bit similar to what Ashley Cole said about the French clique who ran the team when he was at Arsenal

A story in the Metro said that the top players at the club are jealous of Arshavin’s growing status as a hero to the Emirates fans, especially after scoring four goals at Anfield.

The Metro reported that Dennis Lachter had told a Russian newspaper, “To tell the truth, the players of Arsenal are not easy to deal with. The squad consists almost entirely of foreigners. The French diaspora rules there. Also there are guys – like  van Persie and  Fabregas – who are rather jealous about Andrey’s fast growing popularity in England. But such situation can only add motivation for him to work harder and improve his football skills.”

Lachter had apparently hinted that his client had been the butt of some mockery from the teammates. “He was a target of jokes. Not very smart jokes, I must admit. But that’s a football team for you. Such jokes are the same everywhere – in Russia or England.

“To put it mildly he doesn’t like playing on the left. But at the moment Wenger has a problem in that zone. So until they buy a good left-winger, Andrey is going to play there.

“It’s not only Barcelona. After the game at Liverpool where Andrey scored four goals several teams told me they were interested in him.

“But currently he is an Arsenal player. Taking into consideration the amount of money which was paid for him and important role he’s already acquired at the club, my client is not going to leave.”

Reading this sort of stuff, you have doubts. You think : What is the agent’s agenda? Is Lachter a cowboy? Did he really say that to a Russian paper?

But it had a ring of truth, given the body language that we see, and what goes on at The Colney Creche.

Next day that was denied in a story by Andrew Allen.The headline was this :

Agent: Reports are all lies – Arshavin is very happy at Arsenal

Lachter said the stories were completely false and the work of scurrilous former associates.

“All this stuff is made up. It’s quite strange to see that I’ve made comments like that after nine months of fighting for Andrey’s future and within three months of his success at Arsenal.

“Listen, I’ve received several links with articles from Metro, Daily Mail and something else. There is no name of a newspaper from Russia, there is no name of reporter. The only thing that it says is that I’ve spoken to someone from St. Petersburg – I don’t understand what is going on, I definitely have not!

“It looks like somebody – definitely not teammates of Andrey – are jealous of Arshavin, in particular, and of Arsenal as well.”

“It is not a secret that Arsenal have young players and the most potential of all teams in the Premier League. Definitely, in the next two or three years, all of these things together will bring success – I have no doubt of this. It’s somebody trying to damage team spirit and Andrey’s relationship with his teammates. I still have a lot of so-called friends who’d be happy to put a knife in my back – they are probably the ones making controversial comments.”

So there you have it. You’ve been told. You’ve been reassured. It didn’t happen. None of Werger’s babies chucked their toys out of the pram. His two biggest toddlers didn’t go into a huff and didn’t pee in the sandpit.

Personally, I’m not bothered if Robin van Persie stays or goes. He’s over-rated.

But I do care about Cesc Fabregas. This is a new Fabregas, not the boy-next-door teenager. This Fabregas has  tattoos on his arm, a macho swagger, a spitting controversy that won’t go away, and has been thrust into the crucible of fame, which is a nasty place, a very dangerous place that can  re-arrange your DNA, your molecules. The crucible of fame can kill you.

Does Cesc Fabregas fully embrace Arshavin? Does he really welcome a Russian who is a better player than him? Is Fabregas a man? Is he big enough to do that ? If he can’t, then he’s smaller than I thought he was. And less intelligent than I thought he was.

Yes, Fabregas lost his best mates Hleb, Flamini and Senderos, they loved to hang out in that Spanish restaurant in Enfield. In five short months he became a champion, lost his best buddies, and became club captain. All that together is a stretch for anybody. It’s far harder now than it was in 1974 when Ray Wilkins captained Chelsea at eighteen.

But if Fabregas is not big enough to welcome a truly world class footballer to his team, he should go back to Spain. He’s not irreplaceable 

And if Wenger can’t manage the egos of big spoiled babies, he should leave as well.

Dick Advocaat could teach Arsenal how to defend in three weeks.

So could many other coaches.