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Fabregas on Chelsea’s struggles this season and the fickle nature of football

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The Man with the Magic Hat sat down with Goal for an exclusive interview

Cesc Fabregas, the Man with the Magic Hat, has joined Antonio Conte, Gary Cahill and a few others in speaking out against the plethora of criticisms and insinuations of CRISIS leveled at Chelsea this season.

In an exclusive interview with Goal, the Chelsea midfielder responded to several questions regarding the struggles, the media frenzy surrounding our struggles and the general feeling in and around the club despite said struggles.

“I don’t think so to be honest, I think we are all professional players. We are players that are used to the speculation and used to what is around us because we play for a big football club and there will always be rumours and things to be said.

“We just focus on football and our game. We are training very hard to achieve our targets, that’s the objective. I don’t really look or care or mind what is said about me anymore. Or what is said about the rest. When you look in football after scoring two goals you are the best and, if you lose, you become the worst.”

Indeed, ‘tis a fickle world, Cesc, ‘tis a fickle, fickle world.

Considering the amount of articles, videos, headlines and the tweets (oh no, the tweets! #ITK) speaking about the supposed CRISIS at CHELSEA that were being circulated, you’d assume that Chelsea had been relegated from Premier League and banned from ever playing football. Whereas in reality, Chelsea finds themselves only three points off second place in Premier League, still in FA Cup and still in Champions League.

The polarity of the coverage is not lost on a wily old veteran like Cesc, who’s seen and done and won just about everything.

“There’s no middle point in football anymore - either you are the best or you are bad. We just really have to focus in our job, which is to try to be good every three days, compete well and then let the results talk.”

Some of those results have not been great, in fairness, even if we can come up with reasonable excuses and explanations for them.

”The new signings had to adapt to what the coach asks to us and it was not easy. For example, some players had to play many games, like N’Golo [Kante], myself or [Cesar] Azpilicueta maybe. We didn’t have a lot of available players and we had to play more than what we should have.

”In that case, maybe we struggled a little bit this year but I think we played OK, maybe not at our maximum level, or the level we used to show last year but it is still a good season. We are in the FA Cup, we are in the last 16 in the Champions League, we are three points off Manchester United who are second in the Premier League.

Fabregas does have a point in that Chelsea signed 9 new players this season, all of whom needed to be integrated into the first team. That’s excluding the returning defender supreme and savior of the new world, Andreas Christensen. Considering that thus almost half the squad are playing for Conte for the first time, dropping a level from last season is understandable.

“We got to the semi-final of the Carabao Cup. When you look at it you can’t say it is an average or bad season, it is a good season. But, of course, when you call it a good or bad season, it is in May when there are trophies to be won and see what you can achieve.

”We come from two difficult defeats against Watford and Bournemouth where we did struggle and we were not ourselves. We didn’t play at the level required or the level we should have but apart from that we recovered well. We played well on Monday (3-0 home win over West Brom). We played a good game, we won.

“The most important thing is the team plays well and grows again. That we get the confidence back because the next month and a half, two months, if you look at our calendar it is very tough and we will need every single player available.”

But football is a harsh business, and at the end of the day, only results count. Talk of a CRISIS may be unwarranted, but if Chelsea flounder through the next set of games uncompetitively, it’s not hard to imagine some serious repercussions.

Indeed, the upcoming fixture list is tough, to say the least but it’s not impossible. Provided Chelsea can stay injury free, we can definitely make a solid attempt at retaking the second position from “Chequebook Pulis” (copyright @CFCgwlb) and make a deep run in the two remaining cup competitions. The league itself is gone of course, with Manchester City’s near-faultless season making everyone else look bad — a bit like Chelsea did last season.

“Let’s not lie to ourselves, the title is gone, I don’t know how many games are left but they are too many points on top. There’s no way they [City] will lose six games and the rest of the teams win everything.

“I cannot see this happening, obviously you can’t say never in football, and I hate to say that, but they are playing a fantastic season and it would be a miracle to catch them. For us the most important thing now is to reach the Champions League positions and we will go again in the Premier League.

“Then we still have two trophies that are very, very important to play for. That must be our aim for the season, to qualify for the Champions League and go for the two trophies we have left.”

Fabregas has laid down the target. Now it’s up to him and the rest of the squad to rise up to the occasion and win the two “very important” trophies we have left (and the pseudo-trophy of the top four, most importantly).

But it’s easy to talk the talk. Time to walk the walk.

“We all want to live it from inside. These games require less talking and to focus on playing and giving all we have. Of course [it means a lot to play Barcelona]. To me, and to all players in the world, including the ones who were born there.

“But, whether you like Barcelona or not, the ‘special’ word can be understood in many ways and, as a footballer who likes to live great moments, you know Barcelona offers it, both playing for them or against them. It is going to be a fascinating round and I am sure we are all going to enjoy the games.

“We were training. I think it was [Thibaut] Courtois who found out through the kitman or the goalkeeping coach, he started shouting that we got Barca, then, we just got busy with the training again, that’s how we found out. It is an exciting tie.

“They are one of the best teams in the world but we are the last champions of the Premier League, we deserve respect. We deserve to give it a go. To try and play two good games against them. It has happened in the past. In football, never say never. Anything can happen and we have to take our chances. We have to create them and take them. That will be very important for us.

-Cesc Fabregas; Source: Goal

Chelsea vs. Barcelona is a modern rivalry in all its essence and indeed it will be an exciting tie. Or a very scary and exciting tie. Or just scary. But while Chelsea have yet to touch the heights of last season, anything can happen in a knockout round tie. We know that from experience in 2012, and the odds are not nearly as stacked against us now. There’s no reason to believe we can’t do it again.

Believe.