When results start slipping away from a side, it is inevitable that fans and pundits begin to dissect the reasons behind it. The aftermath of Chelsea’s 2-2 draw at Swansea called many to ask Cesc Fabregas to return to the first team. When Conte didn’t start the player against Liverpool, the team’s 1-2 loss to the Reds also meant many fans thought Fabregas’ reinstatement to the first team could change things for the side. Rumours suggest that the Spanish midfielder himself isn’t too stoked to be sitting on the bench, knowing he can make a difference to the first team. He has only started the League Cup win over Bristol Rovers. Serie A clubs AC Milan, Juventus and Inter Milan, have been reported to have expressed an interest in the player.
In the wins against West Ham, Burnley, and Watford, the midfield demonstrated that it was a well functioning unit. Despite the draw, Chelsea looked far superior even during the game against Swansea. However, in the loss against Liverpool, Conte’s men did seem to miss Fabregas’ creativity in the side. The manager inexplicably decided to make his substitutions very late in the game. After the former Arsenal and Barcelona man had come in, Chelsea looked more threatening.
Conte is favouring a midfield trident of summer signing N’Golo Kante, Oscar and Nemanja Matic at the moment with Kante the deepest of the midfielders and the other two pushed slightly ahead. This is proving to be a little problematic. Kante is pressed deeper than he would like, which forces him to remain rooted and just protect the back four. Perhaps that’s because he doesn’t fully trust his back line, but this is a waste of the man that did magnificently in chasing down opposition midfielders last season, and dominate the heart of the pitch. He didn’t play as a lone holding midfielder at Leicester, which means Matic is pushed further forward. The Serbian can provide some decent attacking threat, sometimes, but doesn’t look comfortable for large parts. Crucially, Oscar also operates as a central midfielder and looks pretty lacklustre in this deeper role. If Conte wants Oscar to be the man to provide creativity to his attackers, this isn’t working.
On paper, it makes sense to switch Kante and Matic’s position, but it would probably make more sense to use Fabregas instead of Matic or Oscar. This still leaves the problem of Kante being forced to remain static in the defensive midfielder role. For that reason, a pivot of Kante and Matic, or a younger player from the academy, would mean the remaining third midfielder can do well in his attacking role. Fabregas (and Oscar) could play the number 10 role.
The fact remains that the midfield trio of Oscar, Matic and Kante will work against most teams in the Premier League that are lower in quality, but it won’t work against a team like Liverpool, which has an equally energetic and more creative midfield.
The midfield requires a player like Fabregas, even if he isn’t as good as he once was because the midfield lacks creativity. Even in last season’s disastrous season, Fabregas managed to set up seven goals for his teammates. He has featured for 32 minutes in 3 Premier League appearances this season and has averaged 14.1 key passes every 90 minutes, and also assisted a goal against Watford. This is a ridiculously low sample size, but one that gives some indication that the Spanish midfielder might ensure Chelsea’s small slip in form doesn’t become a prolonged issue.
At the same time, Fabregas must stay patient. He possesses the ability to see passes which others don’t, and unlock stubborn defences. The 29-year-old is directly competing for a spot in the midfield with Oscar, and the Brazilian is doing well under Conte. The coach is one of brilliant pedigree and obviously knows he has an excellent midfielder within his ranks. He will use him when he feels the necessity. Instead of moving away from the club, Fabregas must stay patient and make the most of the opportunities that come his way.