How Cesc Fabregas proved he can rival Tiemoue Bakayoko in Chelsea’s routine victory over Everton
After being given an early bath during the Premier League opening day defeat against Burnley at Stamford Bridge a fortnight ago, it is fair to say Cesc Fabregas had a point to prove against Everton.
Returning to the starting eleven and slotting back into his midfield role he impressed from the first whistle, allowing the usually dominant Idrissa Gueye little time or space to influence the game.
Before the match there would have been a few Chelsea supporters unimpressed by boss Antonio Conte’s decision to replace new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko – who impressed against Tottenham despite not being fully fit – with Fabregas, but it took just 26 minutes for them to change their mind.
The 30-year-old had been dictating the play in the middle of the park up until that point and, initiating an intricate one-two on the edge of the area, he latched on to Alvaro Morata’s headed knock-down and stabbed it exquisitely past Jordan Pickford into the corner of the Everton goal with the outside of his foot.
His anticipation of Morata’s knock-down was intelligent enough but the finish itself was simply wonderful – reminiscent of Fabregas at his prime – and it compounded a good start for the hosts.
Not only did the goal signal a redemption of some sorts after his opening day dismissal but it also meant the Spaniard has now been involved in 14 goals in his last 13 appearances at Stamford Bridge, an impressive tally for somebody who was only considered a bench player at various points of last season.
His impact on proceedings on Sunday afternoon went much further than opening the scoring, however, with his tenacity in the middle not allowing Everton to get out or string any passes together.
He was particularly impressive in stopping Gylfi Sigurdsson getting any time on the ball, and his success at stopping Everton getting forward was shown in how deep Wayne Rooney kept dropping.
The Spaniard’s retention of the ball in the midfield was exemplary too, turning defence into attack seamlessly. On the basis of this showing it will be hard to see how Conte can justify bringing in Bakayoko to when Fabregas has shown that – even after all these years – he is still at the top of his game.
Yet, even deeper than that, he showed the potential for a budding partnership with fellow Spaniard Morata, and if Conte can bring that to fruition then Chelsea could be hunting for the title once again.