Friday 23 February 2018

Patient Fabregas the class act as Blues stay out of sight at top

Fabregas dismissed any suggestion he might pursue lucrative avenues elsewhere in the summer. Photo: Getty Images
Fabregas dismissed any suggestion he might pursue lucrative avenues elsewhere in the summer. Photo: Getty Images

Jim White

Life looked rather good for Cesc Fabregas on Saturday as he marked his 300th Premier League appearance by covering every blade of Stamford Bridge grass, in the process scoring Chelsea's opening goal in a 3-1 victory over Swansea that leaves them so far ahead of the chasing pack, the rest of the Premier League is in need of binoculars to keep them in sight.

But here was the odd thing about his magnificent contribution: this was only his sixth start of the season.

While other players of his status might have agitated for a January move in search of more regular first-team selection, Fabregas has preferred to patiently wait his chance.

"Experience and maturity gives you this," he explained. "In the beginning (of my career) when I didn't play, I told people not even to speak to me because I was really upset. Experience helps you understand that the most important thing is always the team.

"Don't get me wrong - I want to play. Every football player wants to play every single minute, but sometimes you have to fight for it.

"The easy way is to escape, to run away, to sulk and to want to leave, to create a drama."

It is statements like this as much as Chelsea's 12th home win on the bounce (a feat which equalled the club record) that must depress their increasingly nominal title rivals.

Propel

Fabregas was brought in to the line-up because Chelsea manager Antonio Conte anticipated that Swansea would sit back and he needed someone to propel the attack forward.

The Catalan carried out his instructions to the letter, ghosting into the box to score the opening goal, rattling the crossbar and constantly prompting his team-mates.

In the week when Claudio Ranieri was sacked for apparently losing the dressing room, Fabregas gave a telling insight into the ability of another Italian manager to keep all his playing resources onside - even when they spend most of their match days on the bench.

Conte, he said, has given him a new lease of footballing life.

"I'm learning new things, new situations, new manners, new football, new philosophy," he revealed.

"I'm in a good moment, a good situation. Hopefully I can keep playing like that to keep my place."

Fabregas dismissed any suggestion he might pursue lucrative avenues elsewhere in the summer. He wants to hang around the Bridge for some time to come, savouring the competitive spirit Conte has generated in the dressing room.

"I want to challenge myself," he said. "Not everything comes easy in life; sometimes you have to fight. But hopefully I have shown the manager he can trust me."

There is no doubt about that. Fabregas spent the afternoon doing a fine impression of Frank Lampard, the club's record goalscorer, who was paraded around the pitch at half-time in a suit so sharp he was in danger of severing a limb with every stride.

As hearty as the reception for the old hero was, the allure of the past is less pressing when the present looks this good.

Fabregas was the first of four Spain internationals to score in this match - Pedro and Diego Costa were also on the mark for Chelsea, while Fernando Llorente gave Swansea unlikely parity with a fine equalising header just before half-time. © Daily Telegraph, London.

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