Cesc Fabregas continues to dominate the headlines. Conflicting reports project a confusing image with regards to his Chelsea future. The Hard Tackle attempts to assess the implications of a possible move for both the sides.
Antonio Conte’s Chelsea are looking on the up right now after a highly successful month of October. This period saw them win all their four games, scoring 11 goals without conceding even once, soaring closer to the top of the table. The upturn in fortunes has been attributed primarily to a change in the system to the 3-4-3 formation post the 3-0 drubbing at the hands of Arsenal at the Emirates stadium.
The revamp in style by Chelsea’s Italian manager has been embraced with open arms, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois all praise for the tactical shift. Despite all the positivity surrounding the West London club, one man still seems to be dominating the headlines for his continued absence from the starting XI. Cesc Fabregas has endured arguably the toughest phase of his career so far. Yet to play a full 90 minutes in the league and starting only once since the start of the season, his current position in the team is far from ideal.
His Chelsea future is up in the air right now and contradicting reports from different outlets don’t seem to be clearing things up one bit. Earlier this week, The Times reported that the Londoners are set to send the Spaniard out on loan in January. On the other hand, The Sun claimed that Fabregas is staying put at least till the end of the season to fight for his place in the side. Let’s have a look at what’s keeping the midfielder out of Antonio Conte’s side and whether a temporary move away from the club will suit both parties.
The fact that Fabregas, on his day, is one of the most creative players in the world, let alone the Premier League, is undeniable. His ability to thread a perfect through ball for his centre forward from anywhere in the midfield was the prime reason for Chelsea’s dominating title run in the 2014/15 season as he formed a formidable partnership with Diego Costa. Despite all the qualities he possesses, though, he lacks in the ones that would make him one of the first names on Antonio Conte’s team sheet.
The 29-year-old is not an all-action footballer that the Italian demands his midfielders to be. He does not provide the required intensity or mobility off the ball to reclaim possession quickly, which is one of the prime reasons why Conte has overlooked the Spanish midfielder so far. On top of that, he really can’t stake a claim to any of the positions in the 3-4-3 formation that Conte is currently playing with. He clearly doesn’t possess the work rate to play as either a wing back or a winger, nor the defensive solidity that Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante provide through the middle, meaning he can’t displace the two powerhouse midfielders either.
It is clear that a role as a super-sub is the best he can do under Conte in the current circumstances. With that in mind, a move away from Stamford Bridge, more specifically Serie A, might just be the shot in the arm that his career needs right now, with the relatively slow pace helping him work around his obvious limitations and the more technical style offering him the chance to display his playmaking abilities. On top of that, regular playing time with a new club might just get him back into the national setup, with the view to making Julen Lopetegui’s side for the 2018 World Cup.
Chelsea, and particularly manager Antonio Conte, might also prefer a permanent move for the midfielder, with the Italian willing to stamp his own mark on the former champions. Selling Fabregas will certainly help with Conte’s remodeling of the team, as he will seek a replacement that fits his favoured profile. Having said that, the absence of Fabregas from the squad could possibly prove detrimental to Chelsea’s long-term fortunes as the season progresses.
As iterated time and again, the shift to the 3-4-3 formation is definitely a reason why Chelsea have looked so menacing off late, but a closer look would also reveal the potential pitfalls that could trigger a downturn if things don’t go their way. The positive momentum that has been created through October has coincided with a rise in form of talismanic winger Eden Hazard and an unlikely resurgence of the erstwhile forgotten Victor Moses. They, along with Costa, have been the big contributors for Chelsea this season and there’s no hiding the fact that the majority of the threat that Chelsea pose comes through the wings.
This over reliance of creativity from the flanks could work against them against teams that are happy to sit back and get behind the ball in order to get a point, as Watford so clearly were in the hard fought 2-1 win for the Blues. It is in these situations, when the need of the hour is to unlock stubborn defences, that Conte would need the playmaking abilities and vision to cut through a crowd of players with one penetrative pass of someone like Fabregas. The lack of creativity through the centre, which the current starting XI lacks, could hence be compensated with this unique ability of Fabregas providing an additional attacking outlet.
Cesc Fabregas’s Chelsea career might well be coming to an end with Antonio Conte unwilling to include the playmaker in his starting XI. A move away from the club, whether it’s on a loan or something more permanent, can certainly give the Spaniard’s currently fledgling club and international career a new lease of life. But while the West London club are making do perfectly well without his services, his presence might well be of need when they need a definitive creative spark. While a move away from London, and England, might be hard to take for Fabregas and his family on a personal level, in pure footballing terms leaving Chelsea might just be what his career needs right now.