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Fabregas is one of those rare breeds of footballers, who contribute endlessly but are elite-class midfielders who effectively cannot run. Pace is valuable in the world of football, but it has not always meant everything. The faster players may well be praised as such, but the pace-less are not necessarily condemned. One cannot be blamed for valuing speed so much, but there are some players who manage to break the mould and contribute something more valuable than just speed.
In Fabregas’ case, it is more about his lack of pace compared to those around him in the Premier League. He is very slow, but he can continue to take that luxury because of how frequently he gets away with it. Often times, a more nimble, athletic and urgent opponent tries to impose themselves on him, only to somehow finish as runners-up as he slips away.
Even his passes seem overly-calculated but they always end up doing the work. It was his crossfield pass to Cesar Azpilicueta which helped in the build-up to the decisive goal at Stamford Bridge when they played Manchester United.
Going forward, when Fabregas opts to keep hold of possession for himself, he seems to edge the ball along instead of dribbling, while he carefully considers what to do with it next. He is quite a fascinating player to watch. Fabregas’ passes are often released right at the last possible moment before a tackle flies in, giving the impression of a man living life dangerously on the pitch.
The £31.5m rated Spaniard can often look truly ancient when forced to cover some emergency defensive ground. His running is slow even under pressure. Having said that, there’s no denying the player’s tireless work-rate. Fabregas does not shy away from covering every inch of the field but in doing so, he often exposes his vulnerability which shows that he is not the best at being fast.
That lack of mobility can often be cruelly exposed. Watford exploited Fabregas during the game at Stamford Bridge recently and often seemed threatening as they sliced straight through Chelsea’s middle until a late comeback turned it around. Then, at Roma in the Champions League, Chelsea were 2-0 down and Fabregas gave the ball away to Aleksandar Kolarov and had to drag himself back, but he couldn’t. Ultimately, he had to watch the third goal go in for Roma, and that was quite a sorry situation.
However, Fabregas is still in a class of his own. While his midfield peers chase, hurry, wrestle and recover in a matter of seconds, the Spaniard remains governed by the eternal rule of letting the ball do the work. Even against United, there was nothing explosive about what he did and yet he received a standing ovation from the crowd when he was taken off.
Perhaps his insistence on doing everything at his own pace explains his top-level longevity, an admirable survival of the fittest. With that being said, Fabregas has truly carved a spot for himself as a modern-day Chelsea legend.