Cesc Fabregas has taken the Premier League by storm once again with a stunning first half performance in his official Chelsea debut on Monday night. The case of Fabregas is curious, as many had written him off as someone who peaked early in his career and had lost his way. But perhaps the reason Fabregas tailed off in his final Arsenal season and in his three years at Barcelona was that he was not being given the luxury to play as deep as he would like in midfield.
Playing as a deep-lying playmaker Fabregas can dictate tempo and the pace of a game. Towards the end of his Arsenal career and throughout his most recent stay in Catalonia, Fabregas was used as almost a supporting attacker — a role he might have been suited for but was far from his most natural position. At Stamford Bridge, with the likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard, André Schürrle and Willian capable of playing in an advanced central role, Fabregas has been placed in position where he can truly command the match. Having stamped his influence on this Chelsea side so quickly, he will no doubt leave many doubters in North London questioning the transfer policies of Arsene Wenger.
One of Chelsea’s faults in recent years is that they have not had a clear policy or plan to develop some of the best young talent at the club. Romelu Lukaku comes to mind as a player that the Blues had no plan for in his first season with the club as he rotted away on the Chelsea bench. More recently, it seems Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Nathan Ake and Tomáš Kalas stalled in their long-term development thanks to the Blues mismanagement. Perhaps having a manager with an enduring vision for the future will help. Jose Mourinho has never been wild about youth promotion and development but if he does in fact plan to stay around Stamford Bridge for many years as he has claimed he might want to revisit the policy.
Much has been made of Aston Villa’s ownership and off the pitch woes this summer. Many in the English press derided the signing of Joe Cole as a clear sign that the club had lost its way and that relegation beckoned. While many consider Manchester United losing at home to Swansea the biggest surprise of the opening weekend, for me Paul Lambert’s side pulled the shock of the weekend with a triumph at the Britannia against a Stoke team that some, myself included have tipped to compete for a European place this season. We often forget that despite the rocky road of the past two seasons, Villa still has a young side that is developing and that Lambert’s work at Norwich put him among the best managers in the country for honing talent. It is very possible that Villa will be a surprise package this season.