Connect in the back of the net

The corridors of power at Stamford Bridge must in many ways appreciate the unexpected rise of their former boss Claudio Ranieri to the top of the Premier League.

Leicester City have rightfully taken plenty of column inches over the last few weeks, and have in many ways taken the sting out of the glaring fact that the defending Premier League champions are closer to relegation than the league summit.

Last Sunday’s draw with Manchester United arguably summed up the Blues’ season, a side that has shown definite glimpses of genius, but has more often than not found itself under the cosh.

The enigmatic Diego Costa aside, the man that has embodied such inconsistency more than any other has arguably been Cesc Fabregas.

 

Liability

The Spaniard, who still evokes plenty of fond memories during his last stint in the Premier League with Arsenal, was seen by many as something of a liability earlier in the season, and there were even suggestions he may have played a key part in the departure of Stamford Bridge’s beloved Jose Mourinho.

Under Hiddink there has been a noticeable improvement, with Fabregas even going so far as to say he was in the best form of the last 12 months on the back of a standout performance in the win over former employers Arsenal.

However, such flashes of brilliance have arguably lead to more questions than answers.

BBC pundit Alan Shearer has been particularly vocal in criticising the defensive part of his game, which is easy to do when things are not going well.

English fans often value blood and guts ahead of everything else, but in the case of a player that has hardly earned a reputation for being tough-tackling midfield enforcer, he may well have been unfairly singled out in that regard.

 

Where did the creativity go?

But the fact remains that the 28-year old earns his money for his creativity and, bar several exceptions, that simply hasn’t happened this season.

At this stage of Chelsea’s title-winning campaign last year, he had already notched up 15 assists, contributing to what was a deadly front line that blew away almost every other side in the country. Fast forward 12 months, and that number stands at a measly 3.

Chelsea would have had few complaints had they sunk to defeat at the hands of an impressive and largely dominant Manchester United last weekend.

But Fabregas showed he still has the ability to turn games in the blink of an eye, producing the sort of defence-splitting pass for Diego Costa that has been in precious short supply over the last few months.

 

Worrying decline

That’s not to say Fabregas is the only one at fault for his team’s shortcomings, but his clear and worrying decline is unlikely to go unnoticed come the end of the season.

Whatever the reasons for his below-par performances, he will need to show a dramatic improvement over the next few weeks as it’s no exaggeration to say he, along with several others, is playing for his Chelsea (and Premier League) future.

 

Written by Tom Coleman

Follow Tom on Twitter @tomEcoleman

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