[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lthough resurgent Arsenal and Manchester United will think differently, Chelsea are odds-on to win this year’s Premier League title.
The Blues have not been at their scintillating best over recent weeks, but their hot form in the first half of the season has fired the West London club into a position of power that their title rivals will struggle to overcome.
Key to Chelsea’s best period of the campaign last year was Cesc Fàbregas, with the mercurial midfielder seemingly the final puzzle piece in the Blues’ quest for consistent silverware.
The blend of José Mourinho’s midfield seemed near perfect; the brute force and positional discipline of highly impressive Serb enforcer Nemanja Matić alongside the guile and precision of Fàbregas.
In the early weeks of the season up until the Christmas period the pair dominated Premier League midfields, with the supremely gifted Spaniard central to Chelsea’s impressive play.
The former Arsenal and Barcelona schemer seemed to have an almost telepathic understanding with national compatriot Diego Costa and the rest of the Blues’ attack.
Costa gained many of the plaudits and captured the headlines due to his barbaric thirst for goals, with the rough and tumble striker giving the West London club a clinical focal point that was missing the season prior.
However, despite the Brazilian-born forward’s public shows of outmuscling centre-halves and ruthlessly burying chance after chance, Fàbregas was the man pulling the strings to supply him.
More importantly, Fàbregas had laid on an incredible 13 assists before the turn of the year.
However, in the second half of the season, the collective machine that was early season Chelsea has found the going slightly tougher, with the opposition getting wiser to their chief protagonist.
The crowding out of midfields has stifled the creative Spaniard this year, with Fàbregas and his team not looking anywhere near as slick or dangerous as a result.
Fàbregas has added three more assists to his personal tally, but has gone from looking like the best player in the English game to a tidy footballer that needs to be closed down.
As a result, Costa has only scored six goals in 2015 compared to the 13 he netted in the first half of the campaign.
The six-man PFA Player of the Year shortlist was unveiled yesterday with a number of Chelsea players understandably in the mix – but Fàbregas and his 16 assists were not amongst them.
Although Costa and scintillating winger Eden Hazard are up for the top personal award, Fàbregas is not in the reckoning, which gives an insight into just how far the mighty midfielder has fallen in recent months.
At the turn of the year his omission would have been unthinkable; now, the media have not kicked up too much of a fuss over his absence.
Although the Stamford Bridge club are more than likely set to be crowned English champions and have already won the Capital One Cup, Mourinho has fine-tuning to do ahead of next season if the Blues are to challenge Europe’s elite.
With Oscar more often than not deployed in the number ten role this term for Chelsea and not really living up to his billing, there is a real case for moving Fàbregas into a more advanced position.
Finding Matić a worthy central midfield partner and having the crafty Spaniard behind Costa would surely see the Blues as a more incisive team, while also making it more difficult for opponents to crowd Fàbregas out of the game.
The Spaniard remains an essential component of a mightily impressive Chelsea team, but getting the best from him will be one of Mourinho’s major challenges ahead of 2015-16.
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