When Arsenal host Chelsea on Saturday evening, Cesc Fabregas could well be benched for the Blues. His absence would be a huge benefit for the Gunners.
As the build-up towards Saturday evening’s match between Arsenal and Chelsea progresses, much of the focus in centred on the respective selection issues of both sides. Arsene Wenger and Antonio Conte both have a whole host of options to choose from, and their starting eleven’s will provide some intriguing answers.
For the Gunners, the central midfield and attacking areas provide plenty of selection issues. In particular, the continued absence of Granit Xhaka, a £35 million signing in the summer, has been tough to decipher, while the prolonged injury concerns regarding Olivier Giroud and the uncertainty over whether new signing Lucas Perez can handle the physical demands of the Premier League has seen Alexis Sanchez deputise as a central striker to mixed success.
For Chelsea, the issues have surrounded the benching of Cesc Fabregas. With Antonio Conte coming into Stamford Bridge having not managed in England before, there was much speculation with little accuracy regarding his regular lineup. The addition of N’Golo Kante and Conte’s penchant for a defensive minded side has seen their star Spaniard sit on the bench for much of the season thus far.
The decision to omit Fabregas has brought inconclusive performances from the Chelsea side. While they have lacked the tempo-setting midfielder, the orchestrator and creator, the boundless of energy of Oscar and Kante complimented by the physical power of Matic has proven successful for much of the season bar the first half against a dynamic Liverpool side.
Nonetheless, goals have been hard to come by for the Blues. Other than a moment of magic from Diego Costa or Eden Hazard, Conte’s Chelsea have relied on unrelenting pressure, a continual, endless onslaught of attacks, rather than precise, incisive attacking moves. Fabregas, though, in his limited time this season has displayed an ability to provide an accuracy and a ruthlessness to an otherwise misfiring Chelsea attack.
His pass for Diego Costa’s late goal against Watford early in the season was sensational, his performance midweek in Chelsea’s comeback win over Leicester City in the EFL Cup dispelled any doubts of a lack of quality and a career blessed with experience, especially in possession, dictating play with a blend of technique and intelligence that few can match, would perhaps give many, reason to start Fabregas against his former club on Saturday.
Conte, though, is seemingly set to continue with his usual central trio without the Spaniard. His potential absence would be a huge beneficial for Arsenal. Without the ball, Arsene Wenger’s side struggle greatly. But without Fabregas, they may well not have to. Press high, hound the opposition and harass their first touch, and Chelsea will struggle to maintain possession without the calming influence of Fabregas. Let’s hope, then, that Conte continues to bench his star midfielder.