The PFA awards were by any account a remarkably successful night for Chelsea football club. Six players were voted into the team of the year, and their Belgian magician Eden Hazard walked away with the top individual award.
Yet despite all this, Jose Mourinho was left to bemoan the omission of Cesc Fabregas from the best XI. If the side had been selected three months ago then there is little doubt the diminutive Spaniard would have made in the final selection.
However, as the season draws to a close, a familiar problem has presented itself for Fabregas.
It was not so very long ago that he was being hailed across the land. His incisive passing and superb management of the ball was powering Chelsea to the top of the table, while his partnership with Diego Costa was enough to bring even the most seasoned Premier League defender out in a cold sweat.
Yet as the season has progressed the headlines have stopped coming. It highlights a worrying trend for Fabregas to experience a pronounced dip in form in the second half of a campaign.
Same old story
Up to the end of January the midfielder had amassed a staggering 15 assists, comfortably more than any other Premier League player. Yet since then he has recorded only two. This is not an isolated statistic.
In his last season at Barcelona he recorded a combined total of 16 assists and goals up to the end of January, and only five during the rest of the season. The season before that the numbers were 14 assists and goals up to January, and eight after that.
And prior to that in 2011-12, the numbers were 13 and four. The statistics make for grim reading, and go some way to explaining why the Catalan giants were willing to let their prodigal son leave last summer.
In his time at Barcelona, Fabregas tended to experience a successful state to the campaign and seem to have finally cemented his place in the team. But as the season wore on, the level of his performances noticeably dropped, and other players such as Xavi and Iniesta stepped up to the plate.
When it came to the crucial games in last couple of months of season, Fabregas invariably found himself on the bench or shunted around the pitch in order to accommodate other players.
When his transfer to Chelsea was confirmed, the article on the official Barcelona website was illuminating. ‘Despite glowing starts to each campaign, Cesc’s contribution to the course gradually decreased as each season came to a close.’
It went on to reinforce this point, stating how ‘For some reason, he was never as good in the second half of a season as in the first.’
Of course there are mitigating circumstances in this tale. Injuries have affected the Chelsea team. Firstly, Fabregas has been deprived of Costa, his partner in crime, who he seemed to be developing an almost telepathic understanding with in the early months of the season.
Secondly, these injuries have meant Mourinho has adapted the style of play from the free-flowing attacking football of last autumn to the more pragmatic and defensively orientated style much maligned in recent weeks.
A degree of perspective is needed here. Fabregas has been far from poor in the last couple of months. He has still been a studious controller of possession and a crucial cog in the Chelsea side.
It is just that the illuminating play that lit up the autumn has disappeared. His total of 17 assists is still comfortably ahead of any other Premier League player (interestingly his nearest challenger is Manchester United’s Angel di Maria with 10, another player who has found himself unable to replicate his glittering early season form).
The Chelsea midfielder is only three assists away from his old team-mate Thierry Henry’s all-time Premier League record of 20 in a season. Fabregas has undoubtedly been a shrewd investment by Jose Mourinho, but his consistent drop-off of form in the second half of seasons will provide food for thought for Chelsea fans.
Chelsea fans: are you worried by this Cesc Fabregas trend? Let us know below!
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