Antonio Conte's persistence with leaving Cesc Fabregas out of the starting line-up has been one of the more unexpected decisions of the Italian's early reign at Chelsea.
The midfielder has managed just two substitute appearances in the Premier League this season and, although he provided the assist for Chelsea's last-gasp winner against Watford in one of them, his future at Stamford Bridge has inevitably come into question.
Even with the transfer window now closed, Conte has had to face questions about his plans for the Spaniard moving forward. After weeks of rumours and speculation, he offered journalists a definitive answer during his scheduled press conference on Thursday.
Asked if he was planning on offloading Fabregas when the transfer window re-opens in January, the former Juventus manager explained:
"No. Cesc is in my plans and in Chelsea's plans. We all know Cesc is a fantastic player."
A pretty definitive answer from Conte, although, of course, there is still plenty of time for things to change before the turn of the year.
Making an impression
However, it actually looks like Fabregas' chances of regular football at Chelsea are trending upwards just now after Conte admitted the former Barcelona star's efforts in training were leaving a lasting impression.
"I see him in every training session with great work rate," Conte said. "If he continues in this way, it'll be very difficult for me to choose my midfield.
“But I want this from a player, putting many doubts in my mind over choosing someone else.
“Cesc is a great player. We all know Cesc, a great technical player. Now I'm starting to get to know him as a man. A great personality.”
N'Golo Kante and Nemanja Matić have made up Conte's preferred midfield partnership so far this campaign and, with Chelsea having taken 10 points from their opening four games, it has certainly provided results.
Nevertheless, there are still plenty of fans in west London who are eager to see Fabregas given a more prominent role in the coming weeks.
Role to play
At 29, he may not be quite at his footballing peak but, as his pass for Diego Costa against Watford proved, he is still capable of providing the creativity that Chelsea have lacked at times this season.
With his future at the club seemingly secured until next summer at least, the ex-Arsenal man could well be in line for a bigger role moving forward.
Whether that will begin tomorrow night in Chelsea's crunch game against Liverpool, only time will tell.
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