Cesc Fabregas may have been praised to the hilt for his performance in Chelsea’s weekend victory over Swansea, but Gary Neville believes the Spaniard’s lack of defensive discipline should be a real concern for Jose Mourinho.
Fabregas provided two assists for Diego Costa as Chelsea registered a 4-2 victory at Stamford Bridge, with the midfielder now having laid on six Premier League goals since completing his summer transfer from Barcelona.
His supreme displays in the attacking third and his connection with Costa have seen Chelsea record triumphs in each of their four league outings to-date, and they remain overwhelming favourites to clinch the title.
Former Manchester United captain Neville, however, claims Fabregas needs to offer more to Chelsea in terms of defensive contribution, with his poor positioning alongside Nemanja Matic leaving gaping holes that will be exploited by teams of greater repute.
“You look at Fabregas playing in the midfield with Matic two weeks ago against Burnley and everyone said ‘he controls the game’, and all the reports after the game on Saturday were about the link between Fabregas and Costa,” the Old Trafford legend said on Monday Night Football.
“But watching the first half against Swansea it was a real poor performance from Cesc Fabregas in terms of the position he was asked to play.
“When playing as a two in midfield…he does some things you would never, ever do. He hasn’t got the discipline, he follows the ball, he hunts the ball.
“Because his willingness all of the time is to hunt the ball, he gets ahead of the ball which for [Matic] is a no-no.
“Against Manchester City…in Champions League games, you’re done if you allow that space to develop. It’s something they got away with time and time again [against Swansea].
“It was a really bad central midfield performance from a defensive point of view.”
Neville highlighted a number of examples from Chelsea’s encounter with Swansea to reinforce his point, with Fabregas caught out of position on several of occasions in a bid to regain possession of the ball.
This hunger for the ball is a hallmark of the Barcelona and Spain way of playing but, as Neville explains, Fabregas should be made to rein in his instincts when he is one of only two players operating in central midfield.
It will be interesting to see how Jose Mourinho now chooses to set up his team for the visit to Manchester City on Sunday. Last season’s win at the Etihad Stadium was built around an imperious display of midfield discipline from Matic and David Luiz, who expertly extinguished City’s attacking threat.
Mourinho may opt to start with Ramires as one of a three along with Matic and Fabregas, which is the tactical he made for the second-half against Swansea, during which Chelsea scored three times and conceded only a late consolation.