Chelsea’s startling demise has been the most talked about subject since the new season set into motion. The Blues have made the worst start to the league by a reigning champion in the Premier League’s long, impressive history.
Coming as a great shock to most football followers and experts, Chelsea’s nightmare start to the season was not such a surprise to me. First signs of the Blues’ downfall came in the final few months of last season when they have scraped through to points, but gone was the team that started the season with such dynamism, creativity and positiveness. Then came an abysmal summer transfer window during which Chelsea failed to add anyone, with the exception of Pedro, who would seriously challenge for a starting spot in the lineup. The real warning sign was the first game of the pre-season tour against NY Red Bulls. The Blues lost 4-2 to a team that was mainly made up of homegrown players under the age of 24. The defeat in the Community Shield was just an insight into things to come in the new season.
Most of the players including John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, Nemanja Matic, Eden Hazard and the manager have come under scrutiny for the team’s poor performances, but one player who in my eyes has been the worst performer and still somehow retains his place in the starting 11 has somewhat escaped the witch hunt: Cesc Fabregas. The Spaniard arrived last summer as one of the two club’s biggest signings and made a significant contribution to Chelsea’s title and the League Cup with 3 goals and 19 assists coming just in the league. However of those 19, only 5 came in 2015. This season he stands on just 1 assist in 10 league games.
Without doubt, Fabregas is a great player to have when your team is in possession of the ball. Few players in the world possess his ability to pick out fellow teammates’ runs and to break down lines of defense. But without the ball, Fabregas has been a constant liability. He isn’t the most dynamic player and not the best tackler either. Without the right players around him, he can easily get dominated and overrun; that is when Chelsea lose control of midfield. Many have found that weakness in Chelsea’s armour and exploited it.
The Spaniard’s statistics from this and last season speak for themselves. The midfielder who should be entering the two best years of his career has experienced a significant and consistent drop in performances. He has won just under 2 tackles a game this season whereas last season this was almost 2.3 tackles. He was successful in just over 47% of his duels last season, but this season the number has dropped to 37%. Offensively his stats are lapsing as well. Just 2.08 chances created and 1.97 key passes played this season compared to 2.9 chances created and 2.34 key passes played last season.
In Chelsea’s formation which has two holding midfielders, Fabregas has often been paired with Matic. The Spaniard’s defensive incapability has left his Serbian teammate do a two man job on several occasions. Mourinho does have options available on the bench, Mikel and Ramires to say the least though neither are particularly impressive, but I have been really surprised that Fabregas’ poor displays haven’t opened the door for Ruben Loftus-Cheek to make the spot his. With the young Academy midfielder in the starting lineup, Chelsea won all three games against Maccabi Tel-Aviv, Walsall and Aston Villa.
If Jose Mourinho does manage to keep his position as Chelsea manager until next summer, it will be interesting to see how he will change the Blues’ squad, especially when he himself said that he does not need to add any big names before the summer. He has likely reconsidered that statement since and unless Cesc Fabregas finds the form of his first four months in Chelsea blue, he could be one of the many players to fall victim.