Since recovering from the knee injury that kept him out for the better part of two months at the start of the season, Cesc Fàbregas has become a regular part of the squad rotation at Chelsea, starting just about every other game as the backup to Jorginho at the regista position in midfield.
But Fàbregas is far too competitive, even at his advancing 31 years and expiring 8 months under contract, to be satisfied with that. He wants more. More minutes and perhaps a bit more responsibility than “just” running the show from a deep-lying midfield position.
“When you just play once a week, you try to be safe. You don’t have the confidence you should have. You want to look good for the coach, but you don’t want to make mistakes. But every player is playing at least once a week now, which is good in a way. It is good to give the coach a little doubt in his mind.”
“The only thing I have to try to change in this manager’s way is that he only sees me as a player in front of the defence. I think in his mind I can only play there, but I have been playing further forward all my life.”
“In the League, I feel like I can play sometimes. For example, in the Liverpool game, when their goal was coming (a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw), the team needed someone like me to keep the ball. I feel if we are losing, I can add a lot in this kind of situation. [Sarri] maybe doesn’t see that yet and that is the next challenge for me.”
Certainly some bold words of intent from Fàbregas, who brings up changing Antonio Conte’s mind two years ago as an example of what he can do when he puts his mind to it. But while we certainly should not rule that out, Cesc himself realizes that the clock is ticking and he’s not quite the same player he once was.
“I know exactly what position I’m in. I’m not saying I can play every three days for 90 minutes for 60 games a season now. I probably can’t do that in a sharp way any more. That’s why I try to just enjoy it and be up for it.
“But I didn’t play in the League for the first three or four months under Antonio Conte (in 2016). Then I played a game against Manchester City which changed my way in Antonio’s head. After that I played in every game.”
-Cesc Fàbregas; source: Evening Standard
As in 2016, Fàbregas’s early season injury hasn’t helped. Before the knee injury, he started all but one match in preseason — the preferred midfield trio was Barkley-Jorginho-Fàbregas — but even the transfer-market-allergic Sarri was talking about bringing in another midfielder at that point (who turned out to be Kovačić) in addition to getting Kanté back from post-World Cup vacation to take up the box-to-box role on the right side. It’s unlikely that Cesc would be given a role anymore in any part of midfield other than the Jorginho role (for which he seems well-suited), especially given all the other options available and the subsequent development of Barkley and Loftus-Cheek as well. Fàbregas may have done what Jorginho’s unlikely to do — make a late run into the penalty area and score the winning goal — but perhaps that in itself is an indication of what went wrong for Chelsea’s midfield on Wednesday.
All that said, Fàbregas seems happy enough to stay until the end of the year — not pushing for a January exit unlike a few other older players who aren’t playing much. What happens after that is anyone’s guess at this point.
“I still believe in myself a lot and think I can add so much to this team. Let’s see what happens but I am happy here.
“In life, not just football, timing is the most important thing. You don’t have to rush decisions, you don’t have to talk before things happen. At the moment I am playing once a week. But we will see when the time comes that the Europa League ends for two months and there is a break in the EFL Cup [before the semi-finals should Chelsea get there]. Then there will only be games in the Premier League [for a few weeks].”
-Cesc Fàbregas; source: Independent
UPDATE: In an exclusive clip obtained by WAGNH, we can see Fàbregas trying to convince Sarri to let him play further forward.