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Nerveless Fàbregas on landmark goal, keeping pressure on Spurs, mentoring Chelsea youth

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Chelsea’s maestro, on and off the pitch.

Chelsea v Crystal Palace - Premier League

Saturday was a great day for Cesc Fàbregas. The veteran midfielder was named Man of the Match, primarily for the tidily taken lone goal in Chelsea’s 1-0 victory over Swansea at the Liberty Stadium.

This however was more than just a goal to beat a league minnow. It was Chelsea’s 100th goal of the season in all competitions, and more notably, it was Fàbregas’s 50th Premier League goal in his career (35 for Arsenal, 15 for Chelsea), bearing testament to his skills and longevity in such a tough competition. At a week shy of 31, he’s logged over 630 professional appearances already, starting very young at just age 17 in 2004-05 when he first became a regular at Arsenal.

With Chelsea’s injury and depth problems, Antonio Conte has been forced to lean heavily on Cesc this season. He’s earned well over 3000 minutes once again when last season, in his super-sub role, coupled with injuries and competition for his place, he didn’t even reach 2000.

Mostly he’s been used alongside N’Golo Kanté in central midfield. But on Saturday, Conte once again deployed a three-man midfield with Tiémoué Bakayoko in the mix, and Fàbregas was able to roam forward again. We’ve seen this experiment a few times before this season, with mixed results, but on Saturday, it certainly paid off for Cesc not just with the goal, but having the freedom to pass and create (even if he was a bit inaccurate at times for whatever reason).

“It’s been a long time since I’ve scored — I was waiting for it to happen.”

“It took longer than I expected but playing in this [central midfield] position it’s a little bit more difficult for me to get forward and to get into positions to score, but in this position with three midfielders I have a little bit more freedom to go forward, to play a bit more in my position I’ve played throughout my career and that’s it.”

“I think this is the only change that I can see.”

-Cesc Fàbregas; Source: Goal

Sometimes, clubs are content to let older players move on, and at times even give them a nudge. Other times, even though the player’s on-pitch contributions drop, his behind-the-scenes work is still valued and he’s encouraged to stick around. John Terry was an example of both of those, always mentoring the Academy youth but eventually allowed to move on to Aston Villa where he’s been finding plenty of success still at age 37.

Fàbregas does not have quite the history at Chelsea as JT had, has, and will forever have, but the former Barcelona and Arsenal prodigy knows the value of a good mentor and wants to help out as well.

“Definitely [I try to help the younger players]. It’s good always to be surrounded by players who give you confidence and I think that’s important — when you are young, even me now after 15 years, I make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes, but when you know that you are young and that everyone is looking at you, maybe you have to see what you can do, show me what you can do.”

“You always wonder sometimes ‘did I do well, did I do enough to prove myself’, so it can cause a little bit of mental doubt.”

“We need to be there for them, that’s 100 per cent sure. I was lucky enough to be, when I started, surrounded by fantastic players full of experience and that helped me a lot, I always said that I was very lucky to start with that winning Invincibles [Arsenal] team. That helped me a lot, I have to do that for them as well.”

-Cesc Fàbregas; Source: Goal

No nerves for Fàbregas these days. He is however hoping that Spurs (or Liverpool, surely) have plenty in the final few games, allowing Chelsea to sneak back into the Champions League spots.

“We won, so they (Tottenham) will probably feel that they need to do well and not drop points anymore.

”But the advantage is for them because it’s not up to us. Even if we win every game and they do well, we will not be in the Champions League next year, so that’s why I would prefer to be in their position.

”We just have to keep on winning, but they obviously have the advantage because they are on top.”

-Cesc Fàbregas; source: Sky

For all his good work on and off the pitch, Fàbregas’s Chelsea future is not at all assured. His contract is expiring after next season, and while he’s expressed his desire to stay, there have been no rumors of a possible contract extension coming. With Conte’s future up in the air and the club supposedly intent on rebuilding and refreshing the squad once again, Cesc will have his work out for him, even if we could always use his veteran leadership and influence. He’s seen, done, and accomplished just about everything there is so see, do, and accomplish in football, after all.