'One long ball, Drogba goal' – Fabregas reflects on past Chelsea-Arsenal clashes

The midfielder says it was the same old story when he used to face the Blues with Arsenal, arguing that Arsene Wenger’s would dominate only to be sucker-punched by the Ivorian


Cesc Fabregas says he could sense Chelsea’s drive to win trophies when he was still playing for Arsenal, and believes it was reflected when the teams faced each other.

Fabregas joined Chelsea from Barcelona last summer and has been one of the most impressive performers in the Premier League this season, racking up 15 assists so far, seven ahead of Gylfi Sigurdsson in second place.

His formative years in English football were spent with Arsenal, however, and was part of the Gunners side which lost to the Blues in the 2007 League Cup final.

And the Spain midfielder says losing to the west Londoners was a common theme of his time at the Emirates Stadium.

“At Arsenal, we were most of the games the better team, but we were always losing,” he told The Telegraph. “I always said the same thing. Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal, Arsenal. Then one long ball or one free-kick, Drogba goal. It was always the same.

“That tells you that it’s not always about the quality and the talent, it’s also about how much you want it, how much you know how to play your game. Their game was stay compact, compact, compact, compact, take your chances. They did it very well and they had good players, so you have to respect that.

“In terms of winning titles, of course I felt that at Arsenal we could have won more than we did because we arrived to finals and semi-finals, and most of the time we were nearly there.

“Of course, there is something in your heart that regrets not having won. You need that drive. I always felt it at Chelsea from the outside. You need trophies.

“You see Chelsea as a team who has to win trophies. It’s the same as Barcelona.”

Brighton 2-3 Arsenal: Ozil, Walcott & Rosicky strike as Gunners clinch tense win

The FA Cup holders edged one step closer to etching their name onto the trophy once as Arsene Wenger’s side battled against the resilient Championship outfit to progress

 to move one step closer to retaining the FA Cup.

England winger Walcott set the tone for a dominant first-half display from the holders with the opener in just the second minute, while Ozil - making his first start since October – added the second before half-time.

Having offered precious little in terms of an attacking threat prior to the break, Brighton reduced the arrears early in a much-improved second-half showing when Chris O’Grady capitalised on some poor Arsenal defending to score.

Hopes of a stirring comeback on a weekend of upsets appeared to be dashed when Tomas Rosicky volleyed in Olivier Giroud’s chipped pass from the edge of the box.

There was still time for Sam Baldock to set up a nervy finish with a measured 75th-minute finish, but Arsene Wenger’s men held firm.

Arsenal started with the confidence of a side enjoying a three-match winning run without conceding a goal, their most recent triumph having come against Premier League champions Manchester City.

Walcott and Ozil were unused substitutes in that game but came to the fore at the Amex Stadium, the former opening the scoring inside 90 seconds with his first goal in more than a year.

When the sides last met at the same stage in 2013, Walcott broke Brighton hearts with an 85th-minute winner in a game that also ended 3-2, but he was much quicker off the mark this time around, collecting Calum Chambers’ right-wing cross with his first touch and steering home with his second.

Brighton struggled to stem the flow of attacks and fell two behind midway through the half as Ozil turned neatly in the box and swept a precise finish beyond David Stockdale following Rosicky’s neat pass into feet.

A rare foray forward from Chris Hughton’s side saw Baldock fire high and wide from 12 yards just before the half-hour mark, but when Brighton finally did manage a shot on target it changed the complexion of the match.

It came five minutes into the second half when Rosicky’s poor clearance allowed O’Grady to seize possession in the box and he showed excellent composure to fire a low shot past the flat-footed Wojciech Szczesny.

The goal energised the home fans and suddenly Brighton seemed to harbour hopes of matching Bradford City’s stunning FA Cup turnaround against Chelsea on Saturday, with Phil Parkinson’s side having come from 2-0 down to win 4-2.

That notion was soon dispelled, though, as Rosicky scored the pick of the bunch in the 59th minute. The Czech looked one way and played a pass the other before volleying the return ball from Giroud beyond Stockdale.

Baldock’s chipped finish gave Brighton a glimmer of hope, but a record home crowd were denied the equaliser that would have forced an unlikely replay as Arsenal – who saw Alexis Sanchez clip the crossbar with a late free-kick - marched on to round five.

Brighton-Arsenal Preview: Wenger wary of hosts' attacking threat

The Gunners boss is well aware of the attacking power at Chris Hughton’s disposal, the Championship side having won four out of five coming into this FA Cup fourth-round tie


Arsenal will have to quell the attacking threat of Brighton and Hove Albion if they are to prevail in Sunday’s FA Cup fourth-round tie, according to manager Arsene Wenger.

The Frenchman watched on as his side eased past Hull City 2-0 in the previous round, the side they beat in the final to win the trophy last season.

Despite Brighton struggling in the lower reaches of the Championship this season, Wenger knows that his team are in for a tough test at the Amex Stadium, having squeezed through 3-2 against the same opposition at the same stage two years ago.

“We have to keep their strikers quiet,” he told the club’s official website. “In the cup, you have to be ready from the start on and people like that can always surprise you if you’re not ready.

“It’s always difficult in the Championship away from home. I remember it was a very difficult game two years ago against a team who were on the way up with Gus Poyet. We needed to dig deep to get out with a positive result.

“Chris Hughton will give them his experience and his competence, of course. He knows how to prepare a team for a challenge like this.

“For us the challenge is to turn up with the same spirit and show that we can be consistent with our attitude game by game. We know that it will be another big challenge for us to go there and come home with a positive result.”

Arsenal have lost just once in their last nine matches in all competitions, while their hosts have won four of their last five, including a 2-0 victory at fellow Championship outfit Brentford in the previous round.

A 3-2 home win over high-flying Ipswich Town in midweek further lifted spirits around the club and striker Sam Baldock – who scored the opening goal in that win – hopes the players can take that feel-good factor into Sunday’s match.

“There’s a bit of buzz around now and we can firmly look forward to that game as an occasion and as a test for ourselves,” he told Brighton’s official website. “We’ve all got ambitions to play at the highest level and what better way to test ourselves?

“It could be a welcome break from the league. Obviously, when you go flat out with so many games in quick succession and you’re not picking up the points you feel you should be, then it can drag on a little bit. It’s going to be a good occasion and a good test for us.”

Wenger revealed that Mesut Ozil is “likely” to make his first start since October after a knee injury but doubts remain over the fitness of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain (groin) and Hector Bellerin (ankle).

Danny Welbeck (thigh) is out and Serge Gnabry is still unavailable after only just returning to full training following a knee problem.

Brighton boss Hughton, meanwhile, is hopeful the trio of Jake Forster-Caskey, Craig Mackail-Smith and Greg Halford will all return after missing the victory over Ipswich.

Wenger: Work permits stopped me signing Di Maria at 17

The Arsenal manager is frustrated by the limits on bringing foreign youngsters to the Premier League as it cost him the chance to sign the now-Manchester United midfielder


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger says he would have signed Angel Di Maria at 17-years-old if not for work permit issues.

The Argentina international midfielder joined Manchester United from Real Madrid for a British-record €75 million but came close to a move to north London in 2007 before leaving Rosario Central for Benfica instead.

And as Wenger faces a battle to ensure that Villarreal defender Gabriel Paulista can move to England if a deal is completed, he feels that the “politically correct” work permit system should be left behind.

“Ideally it would be to open it completely: anyone can come in,” he told reporters. “At the moment, we are in a position where they force you to spend money on a player who sometimes you have identified.

“We had identified Di Maria when he was 17. We wanted him to come here but he goes to Portugal and from Portugal he goes to Spain. Why? Because he could not get a work permit. That means that he can only come to England once he’s worth a huge amount of money.

“What does it mean if, at the end of the day, he comes into the country anyway, with the only difference being it’s for a huge amount of money? And who do you pay that to? A club like Real Madrid, who don’t need the money.”

Wenger’s hopes of securing a deal for Gabriel are “50-50″ as he seeks cover for a stretched back line, with Arsenal fifth in the Premier League.

Wenger expects Coquelin to sign new Arsenal deal

The France midfielder has impressed in recent weeks since being recalled from his loan spell at Charlton and his manager is confident he will sign a new long-term contract


Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed Francis Coquelin has been offered a new contract and is confident the France midfielder will commit his long-term future to the club.

The 23-year-old, who spent last season on loan at Freiburg, appeared to be heading for the Emirates Stadium exit door when he was sent to Championship side Charlton in November.

Injuries to Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta meant Wenger had little option but to recall the combative midfielder, who has since excelled in the defensive midfield role his manager has struggled to fill in recent times.

Coquelin’s current deal is set to expire in the summer but he is set to be rewarded with a new offer following a series of excellent displays, most recently in Arsenal’s 2-0 win at Premier League champions Manchester City last Sunday.

“I saw that [Coquelin] made huge improvements in training so I sent him on loan for match practice,” said Wenger.

“He took that challenge and he’s done very well. We will offer him a new deal We are confident it will be done soon.”

Coquelin’s defensive diligence has allowed the more creative members of Wenger’s team to thrive in recent weeks, with Santi Cazorla the chief beneficiary.

The Spain international has been in spellbinding form and was singled out for special praise by his manager ahead of Sunday’s FA Cup fourth round tie at Brighton.

Wenger said: “He’s very talented. He’s added another dimension to his game since he’s played centrally.

“In the recent games he’s been in the best form of his career. He’s a perfect example.”

Cazorla may well be granted a rest this weekend with Wenger confirming Mesut Ozil will start his first game since October following a long-term knee injury, while there are also fitness doubts over Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Hector Bellerin.