Has Antonio Conte found the perfect role for Cesc Fabregas?
Fabregas played in a deeper position against Atletico
Cesc Fabregas is an exceptionally creative midfielder. He’s able to see passes where others would only see obstacles. However, there’s a trade-off when he starts in central midfield as he can be exposed defensively.
Fabregas only started 13 games for Chelsea in the league last season. Antonio Conte preferred to start with a solid duo of N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic. Despite his limited playing time, Fabregas still made a huge contribution to the Blues’ title win.
He registered 11 assists in the top flight, more than any of his teammates and the fourth-highest total in the division. The former Arsenal captain averaged an incredible 0.73 assists per 90 minutes of league action.
Conte clearly admires his talent but the arrival of Tiemoue Bakayoko this summer suggested Fabregas would have to settle for a role on the bench again.
But it’s not quite turned out that way. Fabregas has started four of the six league games this season. And he was selected in the huge Champions League win against Atletico Madrid on Wednesday night.
Cesc the Quarterback
Atletico took the lead shortly before half-time with an Antoine Griezmann penalty.
Chelsea had been doing well up to that point but Conte decided to change things around to get back in the game.
Fabregas had started as the most advanced central midfielder. Now he went to a deeper role, with Kante and Bakayoko screening in front.
Conte had used similar tactics with Andrea Pirlo at Juventus. Like Fabregas, Pirlo was an astonishing passer but vulnerable defensively. Conte and Pirlo won three successive Serie A titles together at Juve.
In the Spanish capital, Fabregas was almost like an NFL quarterback. He sprayed the ball around the pitch and dictated play from his withdrawn position.
When Chelsea got back in the game, Conte moved the 30-year-old forward back into an advanced position.
The Way Forward?
This could be a blueprint for future European games for Chelsea.
The concern with including Fabregas in a midfield duo is that it leaves space for the opposition to exploit.
But Conte has now found a way to include the World Cup winner’s creativity without compromising on defensive protection.
The Atletico win demonstrated that Conte can adapt t position depending on the circumstances, which will be very useful in tight games.
Chelsea are 14/1 to win the Champions League but if Wednesday’s display is any indication, they’ll be a real test for any team.
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