Yellow cards mounting up for Fabregas

The midfielder booking was his fifth in his past eight Premier League matches and could be a manifestation of his frustration at Arsenal's inconsistency.

Cesc Fabregas complains against Chelsea as he is booked for a foul that caused him to earn a one-match ban.
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When Arsenal play such intoxicating football as they did to sweep Chelsea aside on Monday then, with the possible exception of Barcelona in full flow, there can surely be no finer sight in world football.

The victory, which was worth much more in terms of confidence than simply three points, was achieved at a cost.

The needless booking Cesc Fabregas, the team's captain, picked up for a cynical foul on Michael Essien means the Spanish playmaker missed yesterday's trip to struggling Wigan Athletic.

Arsenal have plenty of artful diminutive midfielders to sustain the loss of the World Cup-winner - Andrey Arshavin, Denilson or Tomas Rosicky are hardly shabby potential stand-ins - and Arsene Wenger may be grateful for the opportunity to rest his injury-prone but influential leader.

Yet Fabregas's booking was his fifth in his past eight Premier League matches and could be a manifestation of his frustration at Arsenal's inconsistency - they have lost at home to Newcastle and West Brom yet beaten Manchester City and Chelsea - or even the fact that his dream move to Barcelona did not materialise in the summer.

Fabregas's flurry of yellow cards has been a major factor behind Arsenal sporting the second-worst disciplinary record in the league at the halfway point in the season.

The statistics of 37 yellow cards and four reds make a mockery of Wenger's claim that it his elegant side who are often on the receiving end of rough-house treatment from opposing teams.

In fairness, the vast majority of Arsenal's bookings have been for dissent or petulance and they are hardly about to be compared to the side that contained enforcers such as Patrick Vieira, Martin Keown, Emmanuel Petit and Tony Adams when Wenger took over in 1996.

Only Manchester City possess a worst disciplinary record, which represents something of a big change as City and Arsenal were two of the three cleanest sides in the league last season in terms of discipline.

Perhaps Roberto Mancini, the City manager, and Wenger have told their players they need to toughen up physically on the field if they are to challenge the duopoly on the title enjoyed by Chelsea and Manchester United for the last five seasons.