Fabregas: Blues have gone back to being effective

Jeremy Wilson

BARCELONA got many things when they invested £30m in Cesc Fabregas and, for this Champions League semi-final, another unexpected bonus was an expert opposition scout.

Fabregas has always been a fanatical student of football and, on his return to London yesterday, his assessment of Chelsea was both perceptive and cutting.

Perceptive in acknowledging that Chelsea have rediscovered the direct and physical approach that enabled them to match Barcelona in their eight matches between 2005 and 2009, but also cutting in noting the abandonment of the more possession-based style under Andre Villas-Boas.

"I follow the Premier League every weekend," said Fabregas.

"They have changed radically. With Andre Villas-Boas they tried to have the ball a lot more, not play so many balls long and not seek out the second ball quite so much.

"They've gone back to the type of Chelsea that was more successful.

"Playing on the counter, trying to hit the target man, sitting back and using that No9 as a reference point.

"They're a very, very dangerous team. They are like motorbikes now. Faster, quicker to get the ball forward, get after it and cause problems. They are playing incredibly well; I think this is their best moment of the season."


In short, it was a compliment but, in noting their failure to adopt the sort of style Barcelona have perfected, also somewhat backhanded. Yet the wider message to his team-mates was also clear: expect the same old Chelsea.

And, with only one win in eight seasons of visiting Stamford Bridge with Arsenal, Fabregas is more aware than most that this same old Chelsea represents a very formidable obstacle.

Indeed, in specifically referencing the similarities between the passing style of Arsenal and Barcelona, Fabregas was clearly warning against complacency.

"In recent games, when we've played Chelsea when I was at Arsenal and now with Barcelona, even though we kept possession it's hard," he said.

"We would dominate the ball, create chances and then a counter-attack from Didier Drogba and goal. It will be very hard against a great team."