What is going on with Cesc Fabregas?

Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona, Midfield

Cesc Fabregas’ dream move back home to Barcelona has not shaped out entirely as he planned. Sure, there were the early celebrations of last year’s Spanish Super Cup win over Real Madrid—a tie which saw his debut for Barcelona—but it’s thus far been very difficult to paint his move to Spain as a glowing success.

Let’s not get away from the fact that Barcelona really wanted Fabregas for their squad and their need to remain at the top in Spanish and European football; but it’s very easy to assume that the Catalans were simply trying to exert their power over Arsenal. Fabregas was seen as the natural heir to Xavi in Barcelona’s midfield, bridging the gap between the 32-year old creative engine and the young talents of Thiago Alcantara. But there’s certainly weight in the argument that Thiago has had a more consistent past 12-months.

Cesc’s first few months at Barcelona were probably everything he hoped they’d be: He won trophies, struck up a wonderful partnership with Lionel Messi and was among the goals—finishing the season on 15 in all competitions. But what now? Where does Fabregas go from here?

I’m sure it would have been a massive blow to the former Arsenal captain to see his idol Pep Guardiola leave the club so soon after his arrival from the Premier League. It really plays into his argument prior to the move that he needed the switch to Barcelona now because tomorrow may never come. But Fabregas struggled even under Guardiola. The midfielder highlighted the change in training sessions from what he was used to in north London as well as the difficulty in adapting to his new role on the pitch.

Playing in Barcelona’s system has noticeably been a shock to Fabregas, where he was once the focal point of Arsenal’s attack and the player given license to express his talents freely. Barcelona’s game plan, however, is to have a much higher level of discipline and concentration for your position on the pitch. It didn’t take too long for the demands of his new club to hammer home.

The latest story that Fabregas is unhappy certainly makes sense. And while I don’t think there is any need for Arsenal fans to roll out the red carpet just yet, there is some reason to believe that the rest of Fabregas’ career doesn’t lie in Catalonia.

With Xavi’s chronic Achilles problem, there has been a need to use Fabregas in that midfield role. The issue is, despite what many may think, Fabregas is simply not accustomed to fill Xavi’s position long term. He needs to move freely up the pitch and attack with the rest of the team, rather than hanging back as Xavi is likely to do. Their passing range and creativity are certainly in the same ballpark of quality, but their individual game is noticeably different.

It’s also been a struggle for Fabregas not to play in every game, as a player of his calibre should. Drifting in and out of the team in the way he does is certainly not going to allow for any good form to build up, but you struggle to see how Fabregas fits into the first XI of a fully fit Barcelona team.

He won’t displace Andres Iniesta or Xavi, and Lionel Messi is the player who operates in the position that Cesc took up for Spain during the Euros. But the key has been Fabregas’ lack of involvement in big games, coupled with a run of poor form. There’s also the worry now from La Masia where Sergi Roberto could arrive in the first team to take over Xavi’s role in the side. Again, where does that leave Fabregas? He doesn’t have pace or trickery to be a wide player, and Tito Vilanova appears to stand in a corner that suggests his long term isn’t really in one of the midfield roles—at least while he’s manager.

There’s no doubt that Fabregas is catching headlines and attention from Barcelona, but all for disappointing reasons.