The reports and rumours about Cesc Fabregas’s imminent arrival at Stamford Bridge have continued unabated today. The Spanish sports paper Marca (which acts as the Real Madrid rumour sheet and is therefore not too reliable when talking about Barcelona players) claims that the midfielder has already had a medical at Chelsea and that the deal is done.
Don’t be so sure yet. The more considered Spanish sports journalists are saying that talks are in an advanced stage but no agreement is yet in place to bring Fabregas to West London – even though the comments of his Spanish teammates Pique yesterday, and Torres today, hint at it.
Torres’ remarks are interesting mainly because they point to the sort of role that Fabregas may occupy at Chelsea. Some have already questioned whether his acquisition would limit the scope for Oscar in the “number 10” role behind the strikers. But Torres, when asked about a possible Fabregas move at a press conference, said: “Fabregas is a leader – the sort of player Chelsea don’t have”.
Let’s assume Torres doesn’t mean a team leader – after all it would be hard to describe John Terry as anything else – and read into this that he means a midfield leader, one who dictates the pace and flow of the game. Fabregas certainly used to do that at Arsenal, though with Xavi and Iniesta as team-mates, it’s not a role he’s been playing at Barcelona.
If this is the case, then Fabregas could see himself in one of two roles – in the number 10 role, between Hazard and, say, Willian or Oscar. Or further back, linking Matic and the attacking four. The former role would see Oscar pushed to one side and possibly seeing even more of the bench than last season, though it might well suit him not to have to bear the burden of being the team’s fulcrum.
The latter role, however, allows Fabregas to integrate relatively seamlessly into the Chelsea line-up, taking the place vacated by Frank Lampard and occasionally David Luiz. It may not be where Chelsea fans initially expect to see Fabregas play – but in fact his game is quite suited to the position.
One of Fabregas’s main strengths is his perceptive passing ability, and his use of both short and long balls. Chelsea could use that to very good effect, with Fabregas being able to play Costa and any of our attacking midfielders into dangerous positions.
Although he couldn’t really be used as a second defensive midfielder (his defensive play, tackling and interceptions are average at best), the role of protecting the back four could largely be left to Matic. The advantage of Fabregas in this role is that it would still allow the team to operate any three from Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Schurrle and Salah in front of him – and that might mean that those who are currently suggesting that Fabregas’s arrival means Oscar’s departure could be confounded.
The other alternative is that Fabregas sits in the middle of a 4-3-3 – once Mourinho’s favoured tactical formation. But at present, Chelsea do not have the calibre of strikers to make that work.
We still await news of a Fabregas deal being signed, sealed and delivered. But it certainly seems closer today than it did when the rumours first surfaced earlier in the week.