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Keep, Sell, Loan: Cesc Fàbregas's 2015-16 season in review

Taking a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of each and every Chelsea player's season. Next up, the man with the magic hat, midfield maestro Cesc Fàbregas.

Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Appearances: 45 starts (+4 as substitute)
Minutes: 2899 in Premier League; 450 in domestic cups; 604 in Champions League.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 83.79 attempted passes (84% pass completion); 0.22 assists; 2.36 tackles won (37% success rate).

The Diego Costa-Cesc Fàbregas partnership was one of the key factors in Chelsea's Premier League league title win last season.  The arrival of Fàbregas, a player with strong links to rivals Arsenal and Barcelona, was greeted with a healthy dose of skepticism, but the Spaniard quickly endeared himself with a string of world-class performances, especially in the first half of the season, as he pushed for the Premier League assist record.  He became one of Mourinho's undroppables and the relationship between manager and player grew very strong (see his vehement denials and even threats of lawsuits against "journalists" claiming otherwise).

As had often been the case throughout his career previously, Fàbregas's performances faded in the second half of our title-winning season, but unlike previous years, that form carried over into the start of this season as well.  Perhaps as a result of our botched preseason preparations for 2015-16, Fàbregas reversed his personal trend by not having a great first half-season and then improving as we traversed the second half of it.

Outside of back-to-back games against Maccabi Tel Aviv and Arsenal (goal and two assists, combined) in early September, the pass-master recorded just one other assist before Jose Mourinho's sacking in December.  In addition to the lack of contributions on the scoresheet, Cesc was failing the eye-test, too, and coupled with Nemanja Matic's poor form, made our midfield as porous as ever (case in point: the game against Bournemouth at the Bridge).

In his attempts to solve the issue, interim manager Guus Hiddink made John Obi Mikel the centerpiece of the midfield, playing him alongside or instead of Matic in the pivot.  While Mikel wasn't spectacular in his task (is he ever?), he did help unlock Fàbregas to a certain extent.

Cesc started to show signs of life in Hiddink's second match in charge, our visit to Selhurst Park and the 3-0 demolition of Alan Pardew's Crystal Palace. From that point on, he contributed 5 goals and 6 assists, including a brace against West Ham at home and sweet revenge on Bournemouth in April with a hat-trick of assists.

Although not a "defensive midfielder" in the purest sense (or any sense, for that matter), Fàbregas deployed in a deeper role provides, at least theoretically, control through possession and a bit of defensive hustle and harassment.  He's not a great or clean tackler, but he does try.  More importantly, as one of the most experienced members of the squad, he's also grown into a more visible leadership role.  There seems to be no love lost between him and Arsenal fans, and that can only help his case with Chelsea fans.  Though after two years with the Blues, there should be no questions about his loyalties.

The Good: Fàbregas in one of his few good games from the first half of the season, as an attacking midfielder against Arsenal at the Emirates. A complete performance from Cesc at his old house.

The Bad: Our 2-2 draw against Watford in which Fàbregas was subbed off at half-time for Mikel. While not at fault for Matic's handball that levelled the match at 1-1, he didn't offer anything at all in attack, despite positioning himself far up the pitch and leaving the defence exposed.

The Ugly: Chelsea's 3-1 loss against Southampton at the Bridge, possibly the worst showing of our midfield in the season.  Not helped by questionable choices in the starting line-up (Fabregas-Ramires double pivot; Falcao up top) nor Mourinho's substitutions (Matic on at half, off 18 minutes later) that only made Sadio Mané's life easier.

Verdict: Fàbregas arrived at the club in 2014 looking for a fresh start after his disappointing spell at Barcelona.  In turn, he became one of the staples of this Chelsea iteration, a key cog both in terms of on-pitch contributions and veteran leadership.

Plenty of debate and discussion could be had over Fàbregas's role under the new manager next season.  Antonio Conte is closely associated with the regista position due to his time at Juventus and using Andrea Pirlo in such a role to great effect. Fàbregas certainly has the technical ability to play passes from deep and set the tempo of the  team - he's already used to doing so from the pivot.  Is that something Conte would look to establish when the supporting cast isn't as great as it was at Juventus?  Would Conte continue to even rely on Fabregas to the extent Mourinho and Hiddink had been or has he become too much of a luxury player?

Decisions, decisions as Fàbregas starts approaching the halfway point of his five-year contract at Chelsea.

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