This time last year Cesc Fabregas was riding the crest of a wave. His first-half strike against Juventus had put Arsenal FC on course for a place in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals, and a towering performance against former team-mate Patrick Vieira had ended the debate over whether Arsène Wenger had been right to put so much faith in the precocious teenager.
"It was a really important moment in my life, in my career, because I showed everybody I could play against a player like Patrick Vieira and try to win the battle," Fabregas told uefa.com. Twelve months on and the 19-year-old Spanish international faces another battle, of no less significance, as the 2006 UEFA Champions League finalists fight just to return to the competition.
Having come so close to glory in Paris last May, Arsenal's early elimination from the UEFA Champions League this season has been hard to take. So failing to qualify does not bear thinking about. "Everything has gone really quickly for me in the last three or four years, and I just want to think about the present and what is going on right now," said Fabregas, whose stirring displays last term led to him being voted into the uefa.com readers' Team of Year. "What is gone is gone. I just want to play another Champions League final, and my dream is that some time soon we will play in it again. In life you have to learn to win and to lose. You have to wake up, get strong and go for the next one."
To do that, Arsenal will have to get the better of their main rivals for the fourth UEFA Champions League qualifying place, Bolton Wanderers FC, on Saturday. The Gunners' run of four Premiership games without a win has opened the door for Bolton, and a return of just two goals in five matches since injury ruled out Thierry Henry suggests why. Since kicking off the campaign with two goals in the UEFA Champions League qualifying defeat of NK Dinamo Zagreb, Fabregas himself has failed to score, yet he is convinced his luck will turn. "If you look at the chances I've had this season, it's unbelievable I haven't scored yet. I have to be patient and be relaxed in front of goal. I think the goals will come."
For a young squad who have come so far so fast, Arsenal have been learning a bit about patience this year. Fabregas, though, believes supporters should not have too long to wait for success. "We have the quality, we have been playing well, we create chances but we haven't had the results we had last season or two years ago. Hopefully it will come back and we can talk about Arsenal winning things again. Let's hope next season we can change in that respect. All our young players, including me, will be stronger, so I'm sure next year will be different."
This story is based on a feature in this week's edition of the uefa.com Magazine. To read it in full, click here.
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