Cesc Fabregas has been loving life under Antonio Conte this season after firmly cementing his place in the starting line-up.
Last season, the Spain international was reduced to playing the role of impact-sub after falling behind N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic in the midfield pecking order.
While Fabregas wasn’t exactly left out in the cold, he featured 37 times over the course of the campaign, it soon became clear that Conte preferred a more sturdy, energetic midfield duo, leaving little room for Fabregas’ flair and creativity, unless the Blues were in need of a goal.
That however, no longer seems to be the case, with the 30 year-old clawing his way back into the Italian manager’s first team plans. The former Arsenal man made just 13 starts during Chelsea’s title winning campaign last season, and has come close to matching it this season with 12 starts to his name already.
He was linked with a move away from Stamford Bridge over the summer but Fabregas believes that his “hard work” has managed to prove Conte wrong and that he’s now enjoying the “freedom” of playing under the Italian.
“We know the boss likes to have discipline in our system and game. In this way, we cover the pitch well. It’s working well.” He said.
When asked about last season, Fabregas admitted that he was concerned for his future:
“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried – maybe worried is not the right word.
“I wasn’t part of his initial plans. You can give up or put your head down, be humble and work hard and show him he is wrong.
“You must adapt and be always ready in training.”
One of Fabregas’ most common criticisms has been for his overall defensive ability, and while he maintains that defending will never be his strong suit, he insists that he’s improved that part of his game under his Italian boss.
“Physically… I wouldn’t say better than ever, but in the last few years I feel the fitness. I had to adapt myself, especially defensively. It’s not my biggest strength.
“Last season the boss might not have trusted me to play in a 3-4-3 but he does now.”
Conte himself has gone on record to praise Fabregas’ work ethic, stating that it in the end, it was what swayed him to start the Spanish midfielder.
“He didn’t play a lot, but through his work he changed my mind. It happened,” the Chelsea manager said.
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