Freedom for Fabregas? What is his best role?

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has asserted his belief that teammate and former Arsenal star Cesc Fabregas is ‘frustrated’ by his lack of freedom in his role with the Catalans.

"I can see how going back to a positional game can be difficult if you have had the freedom to play according to your intuition instead of a collective order," Pique explained.

"I can see how Cesc would like to have more freedom as he used to have at Arsenal, but you have to play according to where you are, of course,” he added.

These are excepts from a much longer conversation where the World Cup winner went into great detail about the discipline required to play Barca’s brand of football – the space and time afforded to players in possession in the Premier League compared with La Liga.

Fabregas himself said last year that, at Arsenal he did have more freedom – many sections of the press took his comments out of their original context to create a non-existent impression that Fabregas had slighted his former club but what he actually said was very considered and was merely an observation about his own tactical awareness.

At Arsenal, Fabregas developed into a ‘playmaker’ in central midfield. His passing, vision, creativity and immense technical quality leant perfectly to the role of nucleus in the team, which was set up by manager Arsene Wenger to serve him and play to his strengths.

He was protected by a defensive midfielder tasked with holding position behind Fabregas to facilitate his ability to move into advanced attacking areas. The freedom to roam was not a by-product, it was deliberately deployed to serve Arsenal’s best player.

That holding midfielder whether it be Alex Song, Jack Wilshere or Mathieu Flamini served as a safety net – if an attacking move broke down and the Gunners lost possession, the player behind the playmaker was responsible for clearing up and doing Fabregas’ dirty work effectively.

That player had responsibility of which Fabregas was relieved. At Barcelona, the 25-year-old former Arsenal captain is not the primary playmaker – Xavi and Andres Iniesta serve that function individually or in unison.

When Fabregas plays with either one or both of them, he’s expected to serve them. His functionality for both club and country has been adapted but wherever he is positioned, he is expected to operate at their behest.

As a false number 9, he is capable of scoring goals and finishing off attacking phases of play. That is what is expected of him. As a central midfielder, he contributes to the build-up and creation of attacking play but has defensive responsibilities of which he must remain aware. That is what is expected of him.

At Arsenal, he was expected to create attacking phases of play, control the pace and tempo of the game when in possession, organize and instruct forward runs and movement, and he still managed to make tackles and prevent counter attacks from the opposition and nick the ball back where possible.

That doesn’t sound like ‘freedom’ to me, that sounds like a lot of responsibility. That sounds like a player being expected to do everything! The fact that Cesc Fabregas ‘enjoyed’ doing everything is more a mark of his talent and attitude than anything else.

He is now expected to do a specific job at Barca – it has a more specific job description, with concrete responsibilities. A player that is capable of and enjoys doing everything all at once, such is his appetite and application, will perhaps find himself a little ‘frustrated’ by the lack of a challenge.

Cesc Fabregas is like the smartest kid in the class – he’s bored by mundane and rudimentary work – he sits there staring out the window or fidgeting with his pen, doodling, or even disrupting the lesson. I don’t think Cesc Fabregas is frustrated, I think he’s bored.

It’s not freedom he craves, but rather a challenge; a project to throw everything into, to express himself, and demonstrate his capability. He wants to learn and improve but the teacher knows best – he must learn discipline and basic craft. He must study hard and learn from his elders.

Unfortunately for him that’s beneath him – he’s a thinker, a dreamer, a poet with great ambition and profundity to express. He doesn’t want to do times tables by rote.

image: © ins11thiago

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