Chelsea FC: If Not Cesc Fabregas, Then Who?


Chelsea FC midfielder Cesc Fabregas has been struggling, but who could replace him?

By now it isn’t much of an astute observation to point out Cesc Fabregas’ subpar performances. Indeed by now a parrot would be a hard-to-argue-against pundit on Fabregas’ deficiencies match by match. That’s as funny a mental visualization as it is a saddening reality. And surely by now you’ve seen the much-viewed clip of his low-lights against Tottenham.

(My favourite part starts at the 0:14 mark: he foxtrotted around the ball, contemplating all physically and naturally possible angles and ideas, only to do that…)

It’s clear that the game is simply moving too fast for him now. He needs time, opponents know it, so he’s given none, and he isn’t doing anything useful at all. With that as the link from midfield to attack, it’s quite the testament to our defence that we escaped with a goalless draw at an in-form, though also jet-lagged, Spurs who had nearly sixty-percent possession.

The only questions left worth examining with regards to Fabregas are:

  1. Who on the team can serve as a viable replacement?
  2. In the face of such horrid performances, is he Benzema’ing Mourinho to keep his role as a starter?

Answering the first question requires a disclaimer: Chelsea’s board and/or Mourinho did themselves and/or the other no favours by failing to secure a transfer for someone who naturally fits Fabregas’ role.

Until we have that, any replacement is going to come with certain sacrifices, but at this point they are worth exploring. The team can’t turn the proverbial corner with this Cesc driving, mainly because he keeps scraping the push button starter with his house key.

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1) Ramires

His versatility and good-soldiering recently earned him a new contract at Chelsea; maybe we should capitalize on the high-spirits of a man who just had the Roman Abramovich vault cracked for his signature.

Ramires possesses an iron lung so certainly he’ll be up for the running required. The problem is his propensity to foul. He runs hard and he wants the ball, but in midfield that can be a recipe for arriving too late and seeing yellow early.

Also, there is the infrequently talked about notion that for a Brazilian he’s, well, not very Brazilian. Creativity and vision aren’t highly rated aspects of his skillset. Still, Fabregas hasn’t been capable of executing those skills anyway so maybe just having someone do the bare minimum will be an upgrade.

The next two require some shuffling:

2) Oscar

Oscar would be an intriguing replacement. Though his slight stature concerns me, he’s learning to squeeze his body into spaces to create fouls, or at least the illusion of. Shifting the squad this much might upset the balance, as it would require Willian or Eden Hazard to replace Oscar as the number 10, and Pedro/Kenedy to take whichever flank is left.

Oscar has been scolded by Mourinho enough that his running is no longer a concern and he is certainly creative enough. The benefit would come from Oscar always being one nutmeg away from creating a counter. Still, it isn’t his preferred position and he may suffer a lack of confidence from being so far away from the final third.

There’s always the concern for injury, too.

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3) If He Even Really Exists, Ruben Loftus-Cheek

Lastly, we come to the forgotten next great Chelsea youngster and stepchild Mourinho isn’t sure he wants nor knows what to do with—Ruben Loftus-Cheek. He was tried in this role once before this season and it became evident he’s not much of a creative or technical passer.

However, he has the size (6’4) and athleticism to not lose many headers. Plus, combining his length with that of Nemanja Matic basically gives us what’s tantamount to a Giant Squid patrolling midfield.

Having said that, the only scenario in which that could prove beneficial is if Mourinho were to allow Loftus-Cheek or Matic to spring forward interchangeably. Basically, whoever has the ball and some space gets to use it. Matic is an underrated striker of the ball and oddly instinctual finisher. Here’s a thing he did this year in international play:

Though he certainly can’t be relied upon to produce the incredible match in, match out, he should find himself occasionally storming onto laid off passes rolled into the defense’s no-man’s land à la Michael Essien.

Furthermore, if Loftus-Cheek is the one looking upward to attack, I trust him enough to make the easy pass and or possibly take some chances. Who knows, maybe the Myth of Loftus-Cheek will leave the ranks of Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster.

Still, despite Fabregas’ flailing, Chelsea used angles, runs away from defenders and an interchanging of skilled attackers to play energetic fast-paced football. They also used it to frustrate the Tottenham defence, evidenced by both fullbacks picking up yellow-cards before the half. (Note: see, Costa? You can wind up defenders just as easily by playing your position well.)

Next: Chelsea FC: Top 10 Oscar Goals

As for the second question, well, given Mourinho’s overall egoistic nature and concentrated defiance that has been revealed this season, he’d likely just get it over with and project the tape on the outer walls of Parliament.