The biggest surprise of the new Premier League season has been the reigning Champions atrocious start. After eight fixtures Chelsea find themselves 16th with only eight points. Two wins, two draws and four losses is not what we expect of a Jose Mourinho side. There can be lots of arguments for what has gone wrong at Stamford Bridge. Jose Mourinho has already gone into defensive mode with the club offering assurances his spot is safe. When Mourinho goes for self-preservation rather than defending his players to the end, there has to be internal issues. Injuries, suspensions and rotation in defence is very unlike any Mourinho side we’ve seen in the past.
His back four rarely changes throughout the season and is usually where the team’s strength emanates from. Nemanja Matic hasn’t looked the impenetrable screen in front of the back four that he did last season. Stalwart Branislav Ivanovic has a looked a shadow of the warrior he has been for Chelsea over the years. Player of the Year Eden Hazard is yet to put in any notable performance for his side. Star Striker Diego Costa hasn’t found the blistering goal scoring form that set the tone for the side’s season last campaign. There is one very key element of the side that has gone missing from round about the midway point last season, a key weapon in Chelsea’s arsenal as they marched to the title last season: Cesc Fabregas.
Chelsea started the season in electric form last year. Within weeks they were crowned Champions elect as it appeared Mourinho had found his squad for the next era of Chelsea dominance in England. Diego Costa lit up the league as he proved a nightmare for defenders and goalkeepers alike. But, the man supplying him with the assists for those goals was just as, if not more, important than Costa himself. Cesc Fabregas returned to the Premier League after his spell with childhood club Barcelona. The seethe from Arsenal supporters as their once golden boy signed for cross city rivals was palpable. Fabregas answered those fans with master class, after master class in the centre of the park for his new club. There seemed to be an almost telepathic connection between him and Diego Costa. The pair linked up with supreme quality as Chelsea laid waste to all who stood before them. However, his start to this season is less than inspiring. With only one assist and no goals scored, Fabregas’ current form pales in comparison to the start he made last year. His 18 assists saw him top the list of providers for the season, a regular occurrence in former Arsenal man’s career.
Now Fabregas seems to be having little to no influence on the Chelsea attack. It is no surprise that with his defence splitting passes drying up, so has Costa’s goal scoring rate. If this were America Fabregas would be on the side of milk cartons advertised as a missing person. This isn’t the first time though that Fabregas has been accused of disappearing on the pitch. A common issue Barce fans had with Fabregas was that he seemed to start the season red hot, but was unable to carry his form over the full season. It is easy to believe this is the case as it seemed to be what happened last year. Although his form was still good enough to help secure Chelsea the league title, his form after Christmas was not as impressive as what we had been privy to in the opening few months. This season though he hasn’t even got off to the bright start he is used to. Perhaps what is saving Fabregas is the fact that the whole Chelsea side has been that poor he has blended in with the rest of them.
Chelsea’s worry is that none of their big names are currently performing. The team seems stale, uninspired and lacklustre. Perhaps a lack of summer recruits, or at least top summer recruits, have left the side exposed. The ageing John Terry was dropped after returning to his best last campaign. A changing of the guard seemed to have occurred at Chelsea with the departure of Frank Lampard, and then Drogba this summer after his return last season. However this start to the season shows that perhaps the new Chelsea stars don’t have the consistency that Mourinho’s original recruits had. Cesc Fabregas should be the heartbeat of this Chelsea side as he was last season. Hazard may have taken the plaudits as player of the year, but Chelsea have always been built around a rock solid defence and a midfield that can dictate the game. Fabregas is that man who was bought to dictate the midfield. With the attacking players flying around in front of him, he is the man expected to provide them with link needed to put teams to the sword. So far this season Fabregas isn’t performing his duties with the quality that is expected of him, nowhere near it. We have seen what he is capable of, we know what we should be able to expect of him. This is why his performances as of late beg the question; “Can the real Cesc Fabregas please stand up?”