With a view to possibly replace Frank Lampard in the long term, 27-year-old Cesc Fabregas was confirmed as a Chelsea player earlier this summer. The Spanish midfielder had become a non-starter at his boyhood club, FC Barcelona, and this is probably what triggered his move back to London. His former club Arsenal had the option to buy him back, but did not choose to do so. Fabregas then chose his “next best option” and signed a five-year deal at Stamford Bridge.
Along with Cesc, his Spanish teammate Diego Costa has also joined the Blues. Chelsea and Atletico have recently confirmed that an agreement has already been reached for the transfer after Chelsea triggered his buy-out clause. Both players had a disastrous world cup (like much of the Spanish team) with Fabregas only coming on as a substitute in two of the three games Spain played. Costa, however, started both games he was a part of, but failed to make the cut in the team against Australia – failing to score in any game.
In this piece, we look at how these two might fit into the Chelsea system. While there is no doubt about their star qualities, both will be expected to take some time to settle in – especially Costa since he has never played in the Premier League before.
Why were these signings needed?
Chelsea’s striker problem has been well documented in the recent past. While they made the mistake of letting Romelu Lukaku go on loan to Everton last season (and the year before that to West Brom), the other strikers also did not hit form. Demba Ba managed to do it in patches; likewise for Samuel Eto’o. The troubles of Fernando Torres as a striker do not need any further prodding, hence we leave it there. Diego Costa’s signing will be a welcome change for the crowd at Stamford Bridge, given that their source of most goals in the recent seasons have been the midfielders instead of strikers.
Fabregas is being seen as a direct replacement for Lampard. The London-born midfielder had recently assumed the role of a deep-sitting midfielder who had the option of joining up in attack when needed. It is assumed that Fabregas will also don the same role. Although questions can be raised about the need for this purchase given the Blues already have an abundance of midfielders at their disposal given that either of Ramires or Oscar could have performed the same role. Although with Fabregas in the team, Chelsea will not only have a top-drawer midfielder, they will also have someone who has excellent leadership abilities to boot.
The windfall that came through David Luiz’s sale to Paris-Saint Germain could have been the reason for the purchase. The reported 50 million pounds that came through Luiz’s sale have been invested in bringing two world-class players. Overall, getting Costa and Fabregas at a net price of around 12 million pounds (35 million for Costa +27 million for Fabregas minus 50 million for Luiz) is a bargain any manager would jump at.
What roles will they play?
When Diego Costa got injured smashing his foot against the post in a Spanish league game, his manager Diego Simeone likened it to a “scratch on a tiger”. In that way, he is very similar to Chelsea hero Didier Drogba. Like Drogba, he will get into small squabbles with defenders, win fouls while also having the ability to bulldoze through them when required. During his last appearance at Stamford Bridge (as an Atletico Madrid player), he took on John Terry and came out on top, even scoring a goal in the process. Not that goal scoring was anything new to him.
He scored 27 goals in the Spanish league last season, just one behind perennial toppers Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Overall, he got 35 goals in 42 games and was one of the most talked about strikers on the planet. After all, only an extraordinary player takes on the might of Barcelona at Nou Camp, scores a goal and wins the league title to boot.
If there is any weakness in his game – something he does not share with Drogba – is his aerial ability and a noticeable lack of pace as compared to the Ivorian. More than anything though, it is the fighter in him that probably attracted Mourinho. He will play in the Mourinho system, get stuck in and most importantly for a striker – score goals. He has the pedigree, strength and acumen to lead the line for Chelsea – something they have been lacking for the past few seasons. It also makes him, in many fans’ opinion, a perfect fit already at Stamford Bridge.
Unlike Costa’s playing position, there is much debate as to where Fabregas will play. Also unlike Costa, Fabregas has played in the Premier League before in Arsenal’s 4-3-3 as the most forward midfielder – a position he enjoyed playing in.
Last season, that role was performed at Chelsea by Oscar. Although Oscar can play on the wings –like he did for Brazil in the World Cup – to accommodate Fabregas, the latter will most likely play a deeper role in midfield. The emergence of Nemanja Matic as a solid, reliable defensive midfielder will also help Fabregas attack more and play in a more central position just behind Oscar.
There is always the option of using him in his preferred role in big matches in the Champions League or tough away matches. Knowing Mourinho’s penchant for rotation, Fabregas will have to adapt to a position where the manager wants him to play.
If there are any weaknesses in Fabregas’ game, it is at the defensive end. He has been described in the past as a not-so-willing runner while questions have also been raised about his work-rate. Mourinho, however, expects all of his players to help out in defence – a task which will be earmarked for Fabregas at the club’s Cobham training ground.
With left-back Filipe Luis also on the verge of signing, the void left by the likes of Lampard and Ashley Cole is slowly but surely being filled. While there is no doubt about the talent and ability of the Spanish duo, only time will tell if they have what it takes to help Chelsea avoid another trophy less season. With such exciting times ahead, the season cannot start early enough for the Blues faithful.