Cesc Fabregas could be the man to inspire Chelsea to the treble this season after fitting into the side seamlessly since his £27million switch from Barcelona in the summer.
A lot of Arsenal fans were unhappy with Arsene Wenger’s decision to pass up the first option to resign the Gunners’ former captain when it was decided he would be leaving Camp Nou this summer.
This decision looked a little more dubious during Chelsea’s opening Premier League fixture, as Fabregas inspired Jose Mourinho’s side to a comprehensive 3-1 victory over new boys Burnley at Turf Moor.
Sean Dyche’s side were given a lesson in the first half hour of how to play the attacking midfielder role to perfection. Fabregas continually found space around the edge of the area and tore massive holes in the Lancashire side’s defence.
His most notable contribution was the sensational through ball to André Schürrle for the German to slot home the second goal and complete the comeback from falling behind to an early goal. Fabregas’ had the ball played back to him and looked as if to shoot, which most players would, only to slip a perfectly weighted pass through the disjointed Burnley back line into the path of his teammate.
Experience playing for both Arsenal and Barcelona was evident in how calm he was on the ball finding space in an advanced position. He did not try to force through a perfect pass and calmly kept the ball, keeping possession ticking over, when there was nothing on.
Chelsea have numerous talents to call upon in the form of Schürrle, Oscar and Eden Hazard but, while all are very talented, the Blues’ inability to go all the way in any competition last season could be put down to profligacy and a lack of maturity in the final third.
Fabregas brings clarity to an attacking force that was scattergun in Mourinho’s first season back at Stamford Bridge, missing plenty of chances and squandering good attacking positions on far too many occasions.
More than just attack
It is not just his prowess in the attacking side of the game that makes him already so key to his new club. Fabregas and Oscar rotated to accompany Nemanja Matic in the semi-holding role, assisting the Serbian in transitioning play after he had fulfilled his role as the destroyer in front of the defence.
Fabregas showed his Premier League experience by not being shy of getting stuck in and his feisty nature came through, not backing down from any physical battle. A number of Arsenal fans questioned why Wenger could not complete a similar transformation with his former charge as he did with Mikel Arteta and turn him into a playmaking defensive midfielder – there were signs on Monday night that it could be done.
A steady hand on the tiller
Another area that Mourinho’s decision to snap up the Spain international was vindicated was in the way his side controlled the game, pretty much, from start to finish. Countless times players moving to the Premier League from La Liga have commented on how the English game is far more open and erratic, while Spanish teams are more inclined to try and control games as they move into the latter stages.
Game management was one of the things Barcelona, at their best, did as well as anything else. They kept the ball as well as any team has ever done and, once in winning positions, attempted to slow the game down more and more as the final whistle approached.
Fabregas has picked up an instinct for this since he left Arsenal in 2011, where his brilliance as a playmaker was enveloped in a more all-action, all out attack mode more suited to these shores.
Mourinho’s teams are always going to be solid and disciplined in defence, but the blips from last season came from not being able to control the match further up the pitch and having the defence exposed one too many times in a game. Fabregas brings them that control and provides a very effective link between the defence and attack.
Glory on the cards?
While the brushing aside of a newly promoted club with vastly inferior resources isn’t something one should be getting too carried away with, his performances in pre-season suggested he is ready to do it against all opposition.
Chelsea under Mourinho are always going to be devilishly hard to beat, now with Fabregas they are going to be incredibly hard to subdue.
The ‘Special One’ is a serial winner and now he has the perfect tool to do just that in every competition the Blues approach; a treble is not out of the question.