There are many trends when it comes to Cesc Fabregas. The vision, the passing, the control are some to name a few. Yet amongst all these positive trends, there seems to be a growing pattern that is not something the Spaniard would want to shout about - his continuous slumps in the second half of seasons.
It is a trend that has happened for several years as Fabregas has become a more prominent figure for Arsenal, Barcelona and now Chelsea in the past. After starting the season on fire, which he rarely fails to do, Fabregas does not show the same form that makes him have his usual impact on games.
Indeed, it is a fair assessment that most players do not perform to their regular capabilities during the second half of the campaign, mainly due to fatigue. But the difference between Fabregas part one and Fabregas part two is even more startling than the rest.
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Dip in form
The animosity shown by Chelsea fans towards Fabregas after the Spaniard's lacklustre display in the 1-1 draw at home to Southampton proved that, despite all the scintillating performances earlier on in the season, the pressure is on him to rediscover his prime form.
Jamie Carragher has noticed how Fabregas's slump may be having a negative effect on the rest of the Chelsea team. “Chelsea seemed to lack energy & power tonight not something you associate with a Jose Mourinho team, is it from the fact that the same players play continually?” the former Liverpool defender said after the Blues' Champions League exit to PSG.
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“Fabregas especially in the last couple of months has looked a shadow of the player we saw early in the season and looks like he could do with a rest."
And the stats show that it Fabregas's annual dips in form have been an all too regular occurrence.
Since the start 2009/10 campaign, Fabregas has scored or assisted 86 goals in total during the first half of a season, which is a stark contrast to a mere 33 during the second half. Not only that, but Fabregas's games per assist average and key passes per game drop from 2.2 to 5.1 and 2.1 to 1.7 respectively.
In addition, the 27-year-old's decline has coincided with the recent wobble of Jose Mourinho's men, whose season was threatening to break records after a blistering start, which included a 21 game unbeaten streak in all competitions.
Since the turn of the year, Chelsea have been knocked out of the FA Cup by Bradford and out of Europe by PSG, as well as their slightly stuttering letting Manchester City and Arsenal in with a sniff, even if it is just a sniff, of taking the league title, which has been destined to head back to Stamford Bridge ever since the first minute of the season.
Even Fabregas's average passes per game, which tends not to drop, is now in decline. Since 2010, the former Arsenal man's passes have gone from 60.3 between August to January to 54.9 during February to May. It is a worrying sign for Chelsea fans that this problem in his game seems to occur every season.
Yet Mourinho believes that a combination of injuries to key members of his team, none more so than his midfield enforcer Nemanja Matic, has not helped the Spaniard.
“Fabregas was injured and, for me, it’s not [the fault of] Fabregas," claimed the Chelsea boss after the defeat to PSG.
"We lost Matic suspended with five yellow cards, so he didn’t play Newcastle. Then we lost Fabregas one match suspension with five yellow cards. Then we lost Diego Costa with a suspension against Liverpool. Then we lost Fabregas again, for three matches, injured against Liverpool. Then we lost Matic suspended against Burnley.
“It’s not Fabregas. This is a [typical] season. I wouldn’t expect the same team to play Burnley in the first game and to play the last game without being interrupted. An injury is normal. A suspension is normal. An accumulation of yellow cards is normal. Form going up and down is normal."
Hazard steps up
Whether it is fatigue or just a clear weakness in his game, Fabregas losing his touch means extra pressure on the other big players in the Chelsea line up. Luckily for the Blues, the likes of John Terry at the back and Eden Hazard further up the pitch have produced consistently excellent performances to keep them ahead of the chasing pack for the title.
Hazard's form in particular, has been exemplary. "On his day, nobody can stop him", Thierry Henry told Sky Sports. "He has such great quality on the ball; he can create something from nothing and that is a sign of a special player."
It seems that where Fabregas has declined, Hazard has taken off. Nevertheless Mourinho will want Fabregas to rediscover his excellent link-up with the Belgian which blew so many teams away at the start of the season.
It is perhaps a testament to Mourinho for building a squad of such depth and talent that he can cover for a misfiring Fabregas and with that maintain Chelsea's grip on the title, which is growing stronger by the game.
It is also potentially fortunate for Fabregas that this negative trend in his game, which has badly affected the late season form of his previous two clubs, Arsenal and Barcelona, is likely not to prove as costly this time round. For once, Cesc Fabregas may be able to get away with his regular dip during the second half of a season.
Chelsea fans: are you worried about the form of Cesc Fabregas?
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