is Fabregas the final piece of the Chelsea puzzle?
In rainy mill town Lancashire came a moment of clarity for 4,000. As Cesc Fabregas lofted a ball over the top to Andre Schurrle - after a supporting cast delivered passing, flowing, altogether quite saucy football - the Chelsea end at Turf Moor could see one man's vision in 3D.
August 21st, 2014
Jose Mourinho’s signing of Fabregas this summer, certainly not forgotten at the Camp Nou but a distance off the promise his career offered at Arsenal, left some scratching heads.
He’s past it, over-priced, lacking pace. But Mourinho could see it.
And, as of Monday night in Burnley, I think most others can see it too.
After just one game, Fabregas looks to be the one who can bridge the previously insurmountable gap between midfield brilliance and striking efficiency.
He brings what the manager has been saying Chelsea needed for the last year. We all sort of missed him saying it, of course, concentrating mainly on the ‘striking efficiency’ bit.
Diego Costa is clearly the bullet in the chamber of Chelsea’s pistol, but it is Fabregas who is the trigger.
The signing now looks akin to that of Claude Makelele 11 years ago.
Different player, different position, but with the same sort of effect.
Many wondered what dead-man-walking Claudio Ranieri was doing when he bought the Real Madrid reject but, mark his words, he said he would be the ‘battery’ of the team.
Those who questioned that were left looking very silly.
And that is how Fabregas looks now.
His arrival has changed the way Mourinho’s Chelsea play.
Many watching on Monday night pointed to the latest curbing of Oscar’s effectiveness on midfield.
But with Fabregas there, the Brazilian seems to have a more withdrawn, supervisory role.
Nemanja Matic sits back, and it is Oscar and Fabregas who ‘pivot’ – as the tacticians like to have it.
It is how Chelsea, in a 20-minute show of superiority, flattened the opposition – remember Mourinho teams of old doing that?
There followed a rash of pundits proclaiming, after a win over the team favourite to come bottom of the league, that Chelsea will be champions.
It is a no brainer, really – not the prediction, but the voicing of it.
Because if Mourinho’s squad doesn’t deliver the league trophy, it gives the same pundits the opportunity to lambast the not-so-special one for his failure.
I prefer to take a more balanced view on these things.
Mourinho – with Fabregas, Costa and all – now has the squad he wants. He has said as much.
It isn’t quite the squad I want. I still have concerns that there isn’t enough cover in central defence, and I wonder what the Plan B is should Costa be sidelined for a prolonged stretch.
But, with discipline and luck, anything can be achieved with these players.
It is a long way from Burnley to, well, anywhere really.
But should Chelsea be where those pundits claim they’ll be come May, people will be pointing to that ball on Monday as the moment we all realised it was possible.