Tactical Musings: Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas | Version 2.0
Chelsea’s tremendous start to the 2014-15 Premier League season has seen them collect 19 points from a possible 21 in 7 games. Diego Costa’s goals have been the vital aspect of the Blues’ juggernaut while a parsimonious defense has added solidity to either end of the pitch.
Major pundits have already claimed that ‘Chelsea is the team to beat this season.’ A deeper introspection, however, reveals Cesc Fabregas as the ultimate lynchpin of the side. It was a smart business from Jose Mourinho getting the midfielder on board from Barcelona. At £27?million, Fabregas was cheaper than Alexis Sanchez, Diego Costa, Luke Shaw and Ander Herrera. In fact, Chelsea paid only £2?million more than what Liverpool did to get Adam Lallana.
Let’s take a look at Fabregas’ role for Chelsea so far this season
Fabregas’ time at Barcelona could be easily branded as a failure. However, it wasn’t. He was there to take over when Xavi would retire. Things, though, didn’t pan out. In the 2012-13 season at Barcelona, he mustered 13 assists and only had lesser goals than Lionel Messi.
His start in Chelsea blue though has been swift. Fabregas’ link-up with Diego Costa has been telepathic, notching up seven assists already. Unlike at Arsenal, Fabregas has played in a more deeper role. This has been the key to controlling the tempo of the game and having Nemanja Matic beside him, Fabregas is thriving.
In Home games:
At Stamford Bridge, Fabregas has clearly dominated the midfield compared to his peers. The Spaniard ruled almost the entire third of the pitch. Against teams who play on the counter, Fabregas has been advised to retain the possession. While other opponents overloaded the midfield, Fabregas has been swift in his movements, maneuvering space with tidy drifts, thus, bringing the attacking triumvirate in front of him on the ball.
However, as the game against Swansea showed, Fabregas was happy to drift wide to aid his team-mates to win back possession. This is clearly the mentality of Mourinho instilled into the team. A striking aspect, however, clearly remains. At Arsenal, Fabregas played in a more advanced role, making Lampard-esque late bursts in the penalty box. At Chelsea, he just averages a couple of touches in the penalty box.
Perhaps, Fabregas’ performance against Aston Villa would explain his role better. The Spaniard raised the bar with an architect like shift comparable to the roles of Pirlo and Xavi that we have seen in the past. His 144 passes were the most in a Premier League game since Paul Scholes’ 148 against Tottenham in 2012.
In Away Games:
Fabregas’ role in away games changes understandably. Chelsea, though a fluid side, aren’t expected to get the lion’s share of the possession. Against Everton at Goodison Park where Chelsea won an extraordinarily open game by 6-3, Fabregas only touched the ball 54 times. Not once did he venture in the opposition penalty box. It was the same pattern against Manchester City too. But what has been creditable is his positional awareness and defensive discipline. Fabregas refuses to push forward as Chelsea overload the midfield, moving to a more compact 4-5-1. Then they hit teams on the counter. Just what Mourinho needs.
“I’m expecting a good year in front of us.”, Fabregas recently told ChelseaFC.com. “My ambitions are to win absolutely everything.” With the extra imagination from Eden Hazard, especially, and this work horse-like Chelsea side, maybe Fabregas can achieve just that.
Edited By: Girish Bhangre