Cesc Fabregas has just signed for Chelsea from Barcelona for a reported fee in the region of £30 million. Even after claiming all season long that he [Jose Mourinho] didn’t have a top quality striker, who is the first player he goes out and buys? Right, a midfielder. A luxury signing if there ever was one. Just like Chelsea did when they signed Willian last season, they signed the Spaniard just because they could. While the departure of Frank Lampard certainly does leave a huge void in the Chelsea midfield, Fabregas isn’t what you would call a like-for-like replacement.
Instead, he is a signing that might well force Mourinho to play a different system to the one he is playing right now, or play the Spaniard out of position, in a role he doesn’t want to play, something neither the fans nor the player would want to see. So, where does Fabregas fit into Mourinho’s master plan? Will he be playing as the side’s main attacking midfielder? Or will be playing a more defensive role? Or will Mourinho make him play on the wings, as an inside forward? Or is the Spaniard, Mourinho’s answer to a striker-less formation?
Alongside Matic in a 4-2-3-1
Although Fabregas is adept at keeping hold of the ball, he isn’t a physical player by any stretch of the imagination. If Mourinho wants to keep his side to maintain their current shape and play in a 4-2-3-1, the player Fabregas is likely to replace is Ramires. The Brazilian’s energy has been his sole saving grace, with neither his defensive nor his offensive game coming through for Chelsea. Should Mourinho decide to make more productive use of the situation, he might well employ Fabregas alongside Matic as a deep-lying midfielder.
Having played this role, early in his career at Arsenal, the Spaniard can very well do the job. One look at the comparison between the two central midfielders the Blues predominantly employed and Fabregas will tell why he is a better bet. Not only does Fabregas fare better at the offensive end with more key passes, through balls and dribbles, defensively as well, the Spaniard has a much better interception rate than Ramires and is a better tackler than people give him credit for.
Although, the more pertinent question would be, will Fabregas, a player with so much vision, opt to take a step back and play a more conservative role?
As the main attacking midfielder in 4-2-3-1
If there is one thing that Fabregas is renowned for, is his vision and ability to pick out his team-mate in the attacking third. Both at Arsenal and for a short while at Barcelona, the Spaniard played as the side’s main playmaker, centrally. But, given Mourinho’s preference for Oscar and the defensive contribution he expects, even from his attackers, the Spaniard is unlikely to dislodge Oscar from his role.
Aside from the fact that he was signed for big money, there are footballing reasons too, for giving Fabregas the role of the central playmaker? One look at the chart, will tell you that.
When considering the three main attacking qualities, apart from goals, key passes, through balls and dribbles, Fabregas comes out on top in two of those three. In terms of key passes, it is obvious to see that the Spaniard is well ahead of both Oscar and Hazard. If you look at the through balls, the 27-year-old has much better stats than both Oscar and Hazard, in fact, averages almost six times as many through balls as the duo combined. It is only in dribbling that Fabregas loses out and seeing as that has never been a part of his game, that isn’t at all surprising.
What is surprising is his defensive contribution is much better than Oscar, a player Mourinho praises continually. While there is no doubt that he thrives when given the freedom of the park, defensively too, the Spaniard is a much better bet, averages more than one more tackle/interception than Oscar. He was given that liberty at Arsenal, but not at Barcelona. At Chelsea, it is unlikely that Mourinho gives him that, Should Mourinho give him the opportunity in his preferred role. But, if he is, then the Blues will get a significant boost in the goals’ column as the 27-year-old midfielder is capable of not just creating goals, but scoring them as well.
Alongside Oscar in a 4-1-4-1
Nemanja Matic’s performances since signing in January have been nothing short of extraordinary. Defensively sound, disciplined, solid in the air and great at coming out of the defence with the ball, the Serbian has been everything that they have lacked. Unfortunately for Mourinho he has unable to find him a suitable partner.
The arrival of Fabregas might just mean that Mourinho won’t have to. Matic has the defensive discipline to play as a lone defensive midfielder and Oscar and Fabregas can play as the two more attacking midfielders with Willian and Hazard taking their place on the wing. This formation is highly attacking is one that Mourinho might well make use in the game against the lesser sides. When teams sit back and make the difficult to break down, a duo of Fabregas and Oscar, with their vision might just be what they need. Not only that, Fabregas can also supply the goals from this role that Chelsea will now lack with Lampard’s absence.
Another role can effectively play is as a false-nine. Since, Mourinho isn’t likely to adopt a striker-less formation anytime soon that is highly unlikely. If he does, he will have comfort in the knowledge that he has someone to play that role.
At the end of the day, although Fabregas might be a luxury signing, he is still one that will bring a lot to the table at Chelsea. If Mourinho uses him wisely and makes utmost of his skillset then Chelsea have quite a player on their hands.