Another week, another lineup without Cesc Fabregas on the field for Chelsea. In the four Premier League matches Chelsea has had this season so far, Fabregas has played a total of 26 minutes. Now, rumors have surfaced that he will likely be sold during the January transfer window.
Both AC Milan and Juventus are said to be interested in the 29-year-old and he would definitely boost the two clubs, although he will have to fight for a place if he goes to the Italian Champion’s side. The news of the potential move should not be surprising to anyone since the amount of playing time Fabregas has received is hardly worthy of someone as talented as him.
There were questions that popped up immediately when Antonio Conte was hired as the Blues’ new manager. The biggest one was who he would put in his midfield. He was known for using a 3-5-2 formation as both the manager for Italy and Juventus. The system was one that utilized the strengths of every player but it also gave them very specific roles to fulfill. The three central midfielders were split into two different roles.
There was a deep-lying playmaker, probably Andrea Pirlo, who focused on pinging balls to the strikers, maintaining possession and controlling the tempo of the match. The other two, usually Arturo Vidal and Paul Pogba, were tasked with running all around the pitch and covering for Pirlo’s lack of speed and defensive skills. The midfield formed the base of three consecutive Scudetto trophies as well as back-to-back Supercoppa wins while Conte was leading the club.
Since Pirlo was so successful in his playmaking role, the first thought when Conte was brought in is that Fabregas could become a younger, potentially even better version of the Italian legend. That has not happened yet and it looks like it will never happen since Conte has used a 4-1-4-1 formation instead during his four matches in charge. It is a more traditional formation that gives balance to both the Chelsea attack and defense.
Instead of using a playmaker to play through the middle, Conte is using his excellent wingers, Eden Hazard on the left and Willian on the right, to bring the attack to the opposition. In central midfield, Conte has used the trio of Oscar, Nemanja Matic and newcomer N’Golo Kante to dominate possession while also allowing Matic and Kante to press opponents when Chelsea lose the ball.
While Matic and Kante look like certain starters when healthy, Oscar is the player who has more or less replaced Fabregas this season. The tables have turned between the two, Fabregas was a clear starter under Jose Mourinho while Oscar was used much more as a substitute. It is believed by those outside the club, that Conte sees Fabregas as more of a liability than an asset under this new system. The Spaniard specializes in opening up defenses and is a player who has to have the ball to have a tangible impact on the match. Oscar on the other hand, is someone who is more willing to run and burst into the box in order to score.
The next few months will be interesting for Chelsea. Conte clearly has a system he wants to implement and will stick by it no matter the cost. If he so chooses, Fabregas could stir the pot and cause problems in the locker room. Chelsea don’t have any European fixtures this season so Conte should be able to select his best eleven just about every week, barring injury of course.
At this rate Fabregas will only become a League Cup player until the end of his time in London finally comes to an end in January. If Milan or Juventus are willing to pay the price for the 29-year-old midfielder, Fabregas could still save this season by performing well for a few months. Who knows what the future holds for Fabregas but it certainly doesn’t look like it will be in a blue uniform anymore.