Knowing his future at Chelsea would be filled with uncertainty and his opportunities limited due to Maurizio Sarri’s preference to utilise Jorginho in his preferred midfield role, Cesc Fabregas decided to join AS Monaco in January.
So after a hugely successful four-and-a-half seasons, that saw him win two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and a League Cup over 198 appearances, the Spaniard was off for pastures new.
Excited by the prospect of reuniting with former Arsenal teammate and Monaco’s manager at the time, Thierry Henry, his comments on the move depicted his delight at the transfer. “It is a great pleasure to join AS Monaco, a new project for me,” Fabregas insisted.
“The group is quality with young players and a young coach. I’m here to help the team. I’m looking forward to starting.”
Despite Henry being relieved of his duties and Leonardo Jardim returning to takeover the managerial reigns, the World Cup winner has had a positive impact for the Monégasques, playing a key role in helping them climb out of the dreaded relegation zone.
Although he’s currently sidelined with a calf injury, Fabregas has started 11 matches for Les Rouges et Blancs and managed to demonstrate his tremendous quality throughout his time afield. With Monaco only losing two of the matches he’s featured in, his presence, in combination with Jardim’s stabilising influence and the importance of the other January signings, has been vital towards their recovery.
While he’s contributed admirably on the defensive end by remaining compact, positioning himself ideally to block passing lanes, shifting laterally in unison with his team and pressing efficiently when required, his impact has been most keenly felt on the attacking end.
Blessed with a glorious range of passing, plus the vision, awareness and skills to accompany it, his distribution has been a massive weapon for Monaco. Unquestionably one of the premier passers in world football, the former Barcelona man’s aptitude in this regard has allowed him to orchestrate his team’s offensive moves and give them essential control in midfield.
Knowing precisely when to pick up the tempo or slow things down, his ability to manage the game has been a joy to watch, as he’s almost been like a second coach on the field. Indeed, this has been crucial in helping guide the many youngsters Monaco have, as his experience has been a tremendous asset in terms of reassuring and calming them down in tough situations.
Exceptional at finding his targets over long, short and intermediate distances, no matter what scenario he’s confronted with, he has a pass to match. To start with, his intricate combination play in close quarters has been key, for he’s so good at playing one and two touch passes to overcome pressure. In doing so, this vitally manipulates defensive shapes, creates a free man or opens up viable forward passing lanes.
Moreover, his work in building out play from the back has been equally impressive, for he’s shown how effectively he can bypass opposition lines of pressure with vertical passes, switch the angle of attack and coolly recirculate possession while waiting for a weakness to open up in the shape of the opposition.
Precise line breaking pass to Martins
Fantastic pass to Lopes between lines
Cutting open his adversaries by way of his wicked through balls has been another notable aspect, with him capable of unleashing pinpoint aerial balls in behind the opposition backline, clever dinks over the top and surgical deliveries through the heart of the defence.
Fabregas’ lovely chipped pass to set up Falcao
Clearly alert to his passing mastery, as soon as Fabregas receives the ball and gets his head up, his attackers immediately begin their runs, knowing full well that he’ll oblige their movement.
Fabregas’ sublime aerial through ball
Superb pass to oblige Falcao’s depth run
Balanced, poised and full of class, the two footed maestro’s ability to set his team free on the counter attack, use his eyes to disguise the destination of his passes and strike wonderful set pieces have all offered extra reason for positivity.
Also instrumental to his success has been how he persistently undertakes head scans of his surroundings, which gives him an a frequently updated imagery of his environment. This consequently means he knows where his colleagues, the opposition and the vacant spaces are in relation to the ball, so he can adjust his body shape to protect the ball, play a quick pass or even turn and dribble upfield. Processing situations so quickly and so awake to what’s going on around him, it’s hardly surprising that he rarely gives away possession.
Fabregas head scan
Factor in his tidy evasive dribbling and sharp ball control to weave out of trouble in confined zones, and this only amplifies what a press resistant operator he is.
Fabregas’ intelligent movement then ties everything together brilliantly. So quick to recognise where unoccupied or strategically beneficial spaces are present, he astutely exploits them to help his team progress upfield and unbalance his adversaries. Whether picking up spaces either side of the other team’s midfield lines, dropping deep between or alongside his central defenders or pushing out wide, he’s constantly probing for ways to create numerical and positional superiorities for his team.
It’s important to note that when he checks deep, this allows him to inherit possession under minimal pressure, which increases his time on the ball while giving him a fantastic field of view over the whole pitch to pick out teammates.
Furthermore, if he’s not available to be a passing outlet, he’ll cunningly draw his man away from usable to space to allow a colleague to become open to continue the attack.
Fabregas draws press which creates room for his nearby defender to dribble forward
Although this season hasn’t been one to remember for Les Rouges et Blancs, it still has given Fabregas a chance to settle into life in Monaco, which should place him in good stead to be ready to hit the ground running next term. When speaking about his team’s prospects for the 2019/2020 crusade, the 31-year-old’s expecting big things from this team. “Next year our aim is to finish on the podium and to get back into the Champions League,” Fabregas said.
“The club has already been very clear about the future, we are not here to enjoy the quality of life and take it slow. Now, we must stay in Ligue 1 then next year qualify for the next Champions League. This year is an exception. We know that it is difficult to fight against PSG but we want to be the best team after them, that is our principal objective for next season.”
Bringing vital experience and creativity from his deep lying midfield station, the future certainly looks bright with Fabregas steering the ship, as he’ll not only be instrumental towards the development of many of Monaco’s talented youngsters, but also in propelling the team back to where they belong in the upper echelons of Ligue 1.
All graphics created using analysis platform InStat