A feverish press pack scrambles round Cesc Fabregas, shoving their dictaphones under his nose, as blinding spotlights shine in the Spanish midfielder’s face.
Everyone wants a piece of the Arsenal man after he played a major role in his country's Euro 2008 triumph. And video-game publisher, Gameloft, have secured 21-year-old as the face of Real Football 2009.
On his day off Fabregas has agreed to attend the game’s launch at the Paper Club on Regent Street. There’s not much talk about the game, everyone wants to talk football.
Fielding questions from all corners the Spain international finds time to chat to one of his favourite football magazines... FourFourTwo.
How do you feel the season has gone so far?
It’s been going well. The Fulham game is the only one we can regret at the moment, because the football has been good, the results have been good, so we are happy.
Arsenal have previously struggled against physical sides like Blackburn and Bolton, but you seemed to have overcome that?
It’s important to know that the team can cope against these sides especially after 10 days with the national team – straight away we went to Blackburn and then a long trip to Kiev, then came back and went straight to Bolton and won that game. It’s really good to see the team fighting to beat these teams at places where we are normally losing points.
Were you previously muscled out at those places? Were they too physical for you?
Maybe. When they are looking for throw-ins and free-kicks sometimes we panic a bit too much. But now I think we’ve got a bit more experience – it’s still difficult – they play their game and they do it very well, but we dealt with it really well in the past two league games and hopefully we can continue like that.
How impressed were you with the younger players beating Sheffield United 6-0 in the League Cup?
I was really looking forward to the game. I was talking with the reserves coach about the game and saying they had the opportunity and they took it so well – they were sensational from Lukasz (Fabianski) to the substitutes that came on. They were amazing – they entertained the 56,000 people who were watching the game – they made us proud.
Do lads like Jack Wilshere train with the first team regularly?
Jack is a first team player now. Even for someone so young he is training with us everyday and is in the squad most of the time. Mark Randall and Fran Merida train with us as well – their potential is massive.
Jack Wilshere has been compared to Wayne Rooney. Is it a worry to put that kind of pressure on him?
They are completely different players. I think Jack is serious guy, he doesn’t talk a lot, he really knows what he wants and he is not scared of anything and I really like that.
How does this crop of young players compare to your previous years at the club?
They are probably the best young generation Arsenal have had since I have been here. When I arrived they were a bit older – some of the players were 21, 22, 23 – these ones are 15, 16, 17. They are superb.
They can play against Sheffield United and score six goals without conceding. I think they will be top players, of course not all of them will make it at Arsenal, because there are so many quality players and there are only 11 places in the team, but I am sure all of them will play in the Premier League.
What are the differences between Barcelona’s and Arsenal’s academies?
I only spent one year at the Arsenal academy and I was training with the first team almost all of the time. I didn’t really work as an academy guy for Arsenal, but I see the reserves team play and I trained with them for a while when I was 16 and now sometimes when you are injured you’ll train with them on a Saturday.
The coach is fantastic and doing a really good job. You can see the players really enjoying playing together and they work really hard. The good thing about them is they get on really well with each other, they are the same age, they go out together, they are really good friends and that helps a lot.
Is this current Arsenal side stronger than last year?
It ‘s difficult to say right now, we have only played eight games in all competitions, but it’s good to see the team able to win at Bolton and Blackburn straight away. In those two games were scored seven goals and conceded one – I think this is the most positive thing we can compare against last season.
Have you seen a difference in Theo Walcott since he scored a hat-trick for England against Croatia?
Confidence is so important in football it’s unbelievable. He is the same player, but with maybe 300 times more confidence and that makes a really big change. Football is nearly 80 per cent in your mind. You can have the talent but if you don’t have the head you will go nowhere, but Theo has got both.
With the confidence he has now got he could be nearly unstoppable. He makes his runs really well and as soon as he starts making the right decisions – when he can pass, when he can dribble – I think he will probably be one of the best players in the world in three years.
Do you talk to the young lads now like Vieira used to talk to you?
No, no, no. Me? I don’t do these things. I’m 21 – cannot do it! I would feel so bad to do it. I said to Jack, to Fran Merida, to Mark and all the young players, good luck and just be yourself. I can’t say anything else – I feel embarrassed.
Fran played fantastic – it’s not his position on the left, but he still coped with that really well. You can see the technique. You can see straight away when a player touches the ball you can see if he has the quality or not and Fran is a tremendous player. Hopefully he will make it at Arsenal.
How confident are you Arsenal have all the ingredients to challenge for honours this year?
Hopefully we have. It’s difficult to say at this stage of the season. Last year we were fighting for everything until the end and finally we got nothing. It’s hard to say now – we will see how the season goes and we can talk about it more specifically. But right now the team needs to concentrate game by game and try to do whatever we need to do to win on the pitch.
Interview September 2008