Fabregas bids to reverse post-xmas slump trend
LONDON — When Cesc Fabregas left Barcelona for Chelsea in the summer of 2014, the Spanish giants sent him a parting shot, brutally detailing the exact reasons for which they had finally given up on a player whose development they had invested in heavily.
“Despite glowing starts to each campaign, Cesc’s contributions to the cause gradually decreased as each season drew to a close,” a statement on the Barcelona website read.
“From being someone who joined in with the attack, supplying and scoring goals, the magic tended to fade later on in each season. He scored one, six and one goal(s) in the last 24 games of each season. For some reason, he was never as good in the second half of a season as in the first.”
It was no surprise to see the statement deleted soon after, but the damage was done. It was extremely harsh - and wholly unnecessary if we’re honest - but it was accurate nonetheless.
It is an unwelcome theme of Fabregas’s career: in 10 of his 13 seasons as a professional his goals and assists numbers have decreased after the halfway point. In two of the three campaigns in which his tallies went up, they were only minor improvements, while in many of those in which he tailed off the fall was stark.
Not so long ago, when Arsenal leaned heavily on Fabregas’s input, his falling away would occur alongside the Premier League title drifting out of reach. Arsene Wenger wanted to improve the team around Fabregas but could not convince him to stay at a club that too often were battling for fourth place.
At Barcelona, meanwhile, frustration with this side of his game became too great for both the club’s hierarchy and fans. Fabregas was often booed and jeered during his time at the Nou Camp, where this tendency was to worrying enough to reject him after three seasons.
At Chelsea, Fabregas’s astonishing first half-season under Jose Mourinho blew the league away. He had 13 assists by the turn of the year and Chelsea won the title in spite of his failings (he added just two more assists from January to May) and rather more as a result of Eden Hazard’s brilliance and their defensive resilience.
2015/16 saw Fabregas improve markedly in the second half of a season for the first time in his career, but after the first few months of that campaign it would have been difficult for him not to have kicked on in a resurgent side under Guus Hiddink.
Could it be that Antonio Conte has recognised all of this and addressed it in the first half of the new season? Fabregas has been used sparingly by the Italian but has been effective regardless.
In Sunday’s win over Hull, Marco Silva’s improving side were pushing for an equaliserser and even began to assert some ome dominance in midfield as the game moved towards thehe 70-minute mark. Conte responded esponded by introducing Fabregas,regas, who took control of the game and Chelsea ended up strolling to an ultimately routineine 2-0 victory. Fabregas had 32 2 touches in 20 minutes on the pitch, was successf ful with every one of his passes and set up two chances, including an assist for Gary Cahill’s goal. While Chelsea were utterly unstoppable during their 13-match winning streak, during which Conte barely changed his starting lineup (Fabregas only started a handful of them), there is a long way to go this season and plenty for the rest of his squad to contribute. Fabregas has already provided a goal and six assists in limited Premier League game time this season and Chelsea fans can rightfully hope that a fresh Fabregas will avoid the fate he has suffered in many past seasons.
Nemanja Matic has had an exceptional campaign alongside the indefatigable N’golo Kante, but there is something to be said for Fabregas to be given more starting opportunities, particularly against lesser opposition, even if there are doubts over whether he can play in a midfielder two in Conte’s 3-4-3.
Chelsea were already ahead when Fabregas came on against Hull but he took the sting out of the game and dispelled any threat and growing confidence the visitors seemed to be gathering.
It would be wrong to suggest that Conte’s management at Chelsea has been in any way flawed - he has dealt with the Diego Costa situation impeccably - and his team look nailed on to win the six-way race for the title convincingly.
But while the first half of the season has been about a core group, he may need more of the squad to contribute in the second part of a long campaign and Fabregas could prove vital.
Fabregas has already shown he adds something distinct to this team and he is well set to make a telling contribution to Chelsea’s march towards the title. — Telegraph
Cesc Fabregas has admitted to being 'sad' when he doesn't get a game for Chelsea.