When Cesc Fabregas arrived at the Nou Camp in 2011, he was known as one of the best midfielders on the continent. His performances as Arsenal’s captain and key playmaker demonstrated his incredible gift for passing football.
But the midfielder scored only 57 goals in his 303 appearances for the Gunners – a tally that is respectable for a midfielder. However, his 18 goals in just 57 appearances at Barcelona is astonishing, especially given the number of games he’s started on the bench.
The player made his return to the Nou Camp last year after making his name at Arsenal – he had begun his career in Barcelona working his way through the ranks of their youth academy.
Whilst his eight years at Arsenal proved fruitful for the Spaniard, his ‘Barcelona DNA’ lured his back to his boyhood club where he was hailed as one of the best players of his generation – as a midfielder.
But his path to the Barcelona team was blocked by the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta who, even at 32 and 28, respectively, show no signs of stepping down. They are the best passers of the ball in the world – having led Spain and Barcelona to glory. Cesc Fabregas would have to wait for his chance to shine.
However, a long-term injury to striker David Villa saw the Catalans experiment with tactics and formation under former boss Pep Guardiola, Fabregas’s idol. They opted instead to play with no traditional striker, no outright No.9 which, for a team boasting Lionel Messi, Pedro, and Alexis Sanchez as their attackers, is not as risqué as it might sound.
The Spaniard took to his new role like a duck to water, proving himself more than capable as a finisher – he netted 15 goals for the Catalans last season, second only to Lionel Messi.
Subsequently, the Spanish national team also adopted this formation for a number of their Euro 2012 games – Fabregas was the preferred choice initially to both Fernando Torres, and Fernando Llorente, and attacking midfielder Juan Mata, playing in what has been described as the 'false nine' position.
But, after a loss of confidence in the group stages, Spain reverted back to a more traditional formation, which saw Chelsea’s Torres and Mata provide the winner in the Euro 2012 final against Italy, which they won 4-0.
Tuesday nights’ away victory at Benfica saw Fabregas score the second in their 2-0 win. He has now scored 3 goals in his last 2 appearances for the club, despite being out of favour with new boss Tito Vilanova.
Could we see Fabregas converted into a striker? I think we already have.
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