If we compare English and Spanish football, there is no question: The Premiership is more direct, physical and pacey than La Liga.
This factor was key in the development of Cesc Fabregas, who had quickly adapt his game to be able to compete within his new environment while also applying all the basic concepts learnt at our La Masia youth academy. The mixture of Blaugrana flair and British toughness worked wonders, with young Cesc becoming a leader at Arsenal, breaking many precocity records in the process.
Cesc Fabregas enjoyed a fair degree of freedom within Arsene Wenger's formation at Arsenal, especially after Patrick Viera's departure to Juventus in 2005. Many doubted young Fabregas would be able to fill in the huge gap left by the legendary Frenchman but Cesc stepped up with a remarkable 50 appearances. His partnership with a more defensive-minded Gilberto Silva allowed the Catalan prospect to move freely across the midfield, allowing him enough space to construct plays which would eventually create opportunities for direct through passes.
After many years of negotiations, Pep Guardiola famously managed to re-sign Fabregas for €29+5 million in the summer of 2011. His highly anticipated return to Barcelona was received positively by the Camp Nou fans but many wondered where he would fit in our formation, especially considering we had won the Champions League the previous season with a clear 3-men midfield with Sergio Busquets, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.
Instead of simply playing Busquets as a more defensive-minded midfielder and choose two out of the Xavi-Iniesta-Cesc trio depending on their match fitness, Guardiola opted for a 3-4-3 formation.
Personally, I wasn't convinced with the experiment at the time and, judging by last season's failure to retain La Liga or Champions League, we can safely say Pep's decision backfired and ended up confusing and unsettling our squad. Players never really knew which formation would be used in the next match, as it depended on our rival’s defensive attitude rather than our own strengths. Why change our system when the previous one took us to European glory? Not a good move at all.
Cesc Fabregas explained: "I never really got to grips with the system under Pep Guardiola. I had been playing another style of football and to take on board so much so quickly was difficult. Some people commented that I lacked something last season, including Guardiola. It was my fault really because I tried to be what I am not; I'm not Xavi, Iniesta, or Thiago".
Cesc Fabregas scored 15 goals and gave 20 assists in 49 appearances for Barcelona last season. While that is a decent return, I am sure the Fab4 would be capable of improving if he focused on quick passing, creating spaces and making himself available when in goalscoring positions - which is exactly why Pep Guardiola insisted on signing him for so long.
Tito Vilanova must ensure he allows Cesc enough freedom to develop his anarchic game within his Barcelona formation but, at the same time, it is up to The Fab4 himself to prove that the years of negotiations and heavy price-tag paid to Arsenal last summer were a good long-term investment.
Have your say
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I welcome and appreciate all respectful feedback.
Posted by: Francesc Tomàs.
Founder and columnist at www.barcablog.com
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