Appearances: 18 starts (19 as substitute).
Minutes: 1,328 in Premier League; 534 in domestic cups.
Statistics (per 90 minutes, Premier League): 84.36 passes attempted (85% completed); 1.72 tackles won (36.1% success rate); 0.93 interceptions; 0.33 goals; 0.37 assists; 4.05 chances created.
It was hard to envision former Barcelona and Arsenal hero Cesc Fàbregas ever becoming an integral part of Chelsea Football Club, but that’s just what José Mourinho set in motion back in 2014 with the surprising transfer coup from right underneath Arsene Wenger’s nose. Many questioned the wisdom of the transfer beyond just the shared antagonistic history between the club and our newest signing, and it wasn’t immediately obvious if Cesc would be the missing piece that Mourinho so desperately needed for his master plan. As it turned out, he very much was as Chelsea waltzed to the 2014-15 Premier League title, Fàbregas’s first ever.
After the season that shall not be mentioned, Fàbregas was not expected to play a major part in new boss Antonio Conte’s plans. Not his type of midfielder, the narrative went, and unlike with Andrea Pirlo at Juventus, Conte was not building the Chelsea midfield around a deep-lying playmaker. And sure enough, Conte overwhelmingly preferred the pairing of N’Golo Kanté and Nemanja Matić, whether in a 3-4-3 or a 4-2-4 or a 4-3-3 (with Oscar as the third). An early season injury limited Fàbregas even more, and he only featured in 6 of Chelsea’s first 16 games (3 starts), the last of which came in the season-changing debacle of the 3-0 loss at the Emirates against Arsenal.
But much to everyone’s surprise and delight, once Fàbregas was back from his injury, he became Chelsea’s 12th man, rotating in for regular starts in favor of Matić and making game-changing appearances off the bench when not. Cesc played in each of Chelsea’s final 31 games of the season, putting firmly to rest any random transfer rumors that may have been swirling around him before. Almost always the first option off the bench when not starting, Fàbregas finished with more assists than anyone else in the team while also chipping in with a handful of goals.
Few worked as hard and were praised as often for their dedication in training as Cesc, who never complained about his predicament as a non-starter after being assured of his spot the previous two seasons and instead put his nose down and convinced the coach that he was wrong to not play him.
Adding 12 more assists to his Premier League career now makes him the second most prolific in that category in the history of the competition, passing old foes Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney along the way.
The less said about the 3-0 defeat to Arsenal at the Emirates, the better, though the moment when Marcos Alonso replaced Fàbregas in the 55th minute was the moment it all changed for Chelsea and Conte in 2016-17.
Pick any of the number of amazing, pinpoint-accurate passes from the season, or any one of those game-changing performances where he helped Chelsea see out the game by exerting a bit of much-needed midfield control, or any one of those moments where his passion and determination for winning shone brightly through.
Here’s a funny story, as told to Sky Sports’ Chelsea season review:
With Chelsea getting younger and less experienced, and Cesc more than happy to stay and continue fighting for his place, he might actually see an uptick in minutes next season. He remains the best passer in the squad, if not the entire Premier League and whether as a starter, or more appropriately, the impact substitute off the bench, Fàbregas should continue playing a crucial role.
He is an obvious keep, even if we look beyond the fact that as one of the highest paid (if not the highest paid) players on the team at age 30, few other teams could even afford him. His age does mean that while his contract is expiring in two years, he’s only eligible for one-year extensions as per club policy. But if he’s okay with that, he should be able to be an effective contributor for several more years to come.
What would you do with Cesc Fàbregas next season?
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Give him a new child
this is a dirty, dirty assist from Cesc in Chelsea training. pic.twitter.com/aGJXeLOzHH— amadí (@amadoit__) July 18, 2017