Fabre­gas bids to re­verse post-xmas slump trend

Lesotho Times - - Sport -

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.

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