“He’s a top player, a world-class player.” The praise filled sentence uttered by Oriol Romeu proved to be one that tempted fate. A matter of days after hailing the arrival of Cesc Fabregas at Chelsea this summer he found himself, inevitably, shipped out on loan to Stuttgart for the forthcoming season.
Of course, being deemed surplus to requirements in favour of his countryman bears no shame for the younger man. Although they do operate in different roles, but it is no surprise manager Joe Mourinho had had to re-jig his midfield ranks following the arrival of the 27-year-old from Barcelona.
The transfer itself, however, did come as a shock. A move to the Blues was not completely out of the blue, but plenty did not predict a move to west London for a player who had once bled red so vehemently.
But, despite his ties with Arsenal, which can often be ridiculed by a home support, Fabregas’ name continues to crop up again and again when his new team mates are asked for their views on Chelsea’s chances of silverware this season. The straight talking World Cup winner Andre Schurrle simply summed him up as “one of the best players in the world”.
However, despite such glowing recommendations, the former Gunners captain’s reputation is arguably at an all time low. Once regularly regarded as a member of the elite, questions have been asked of his ability and hunger following a drop in stature at the club that was supposed to provide a fairy tale ending to his career, while an absence from England’s top tier does not make the viewing public grow fonder.
He has been cast aside at the Camp Nou, under appreciated and unloved in the manner in which some of his countryman are. His stint away from the Catalan giants at Arsenal meant that he was not embraced like the others.
He has also sat on the fringes of the international set up, but has the chance to reaffirm his status at Stamford Bridge, where he could now become a fans’ favourite, given that the Frank Lampard is hardly in many fans’ best books after joining Manchester City.
Despite criticism in his homeland, Fabregas scored eight goals in Barcelona’s previous campaign, double the efforts of the club’s two favoured sons Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Although occasionally fielded in a more prominent midfield role, he carried a superior and more substantial goal threat. It may be unlikely now that Diego Costa is in town, but a false nine role is also a possibility in England’s top tier.
Yet the Spaniard’s real strength lies with his creativity. Only the mercurial Lionel Messi managed to carve out more opportunities in La Liga among Barcelona’s ranks last year. To achieve such numbers in a star studded team shows that Fabregas’s talent is far from on the wane, but the move to the Catalans did not provide the perfect fit that it was billed to be.
However, given his experience, Fabregas is bordering on the creation of a perfect midfielder for the Premier League. A blend of tiki-taka technique with added physicality is a unique skill set. Of course, he lacks pace, but the weak and timid displays that relied on protection from the referee that crept back into his game in Spain will be banished.
Instead, expect the ferocious player that used to dominate proceedings from the centre of the park and enthrall the Emirates crowd. Fabregas is likely to be fielded in a midfield two, with licence to push forward and link up with an attacking trio and the lone forward Costa. Mourinho recently admitted, after David Luiz’s exit, that the Spaniard would help his side move in a different direction and a 4-2-3-1 formation should bring the best out of him.
The partnership between coach and player is a curious one, considering that Fabregas seemed to have a genuine dislike for the Portuguese coach earlier in his career but could now become one of his most trusted charges. Mourinho instills confidence in his players like no other and Fabregas will take to the pitch with added belief that he is still definitely deserving of a world class tag.
Meanwhile, the opportunities to interchange with Diego Costa, dovetail with Eden Hazard and enforce with Nemanja Matic are an exciting prospect. While the Belgian winger bore the brunt of creativity last season, Fabregas can take charge. With an assists total of 13 last season, he will surely find passes to split the division’s tightest defences on a regular basis. The stage is set at Stamford Bridge, with a place reserved for Fabregas in the middle.
Expect him to build on his feeble average of one defensive action per game from the previous campaign and embrace the aspects of his game that he neglected in Spain. He is now entering his peak, back in the league where he made his name as a teenager.
Having severed ties with his original roots in Barcelona, if he can tap into the ones he left behind in England there is no reason why Fabregas cannot grow in stature to ensure that the opinion that he is a world class talent is unanimous once more.