It was always assumed that if Cesc Fabregas was ever to return to England, then it would be to North London and Arsenal - so needless to say, that he’s ended up in South-West London and Chelsea is quite the controversy.
Beyond the hostility that the transfer will obviously provoke, how Fabregas actually re-adjusts to Premier League life again will be fascinating.
When he initially joined Barcelona in 2011, the expectation in England was that he would occupy the same role at Camp Nou as he had done at The Emirates: a two-way, central midfield position. That didn’t happen, and the Spaniard spent his three years back in Catalonia operating as a more advanced player and with far fewer defensive responsibilities.
At Chelsea, that isn’t likely to be the case. The problem position in Jose Mourinho’s side is alongside Nemanja Matic, in the transitional, ball-playing role between the defensive and attacking halves of the team - and that’s presumably where Fabregas will start the season. Part of his appeal is of course his adaptability and the range of positions he’s capable of playing, but Chelsea’s squad-depth in attacking-midfield means that his positional diversity isn’t really relevant at Stamford Bridge.
With that tweak in position will come a new set of responsibilities, and it will be fascinating to see whether Fabregas can revert back to the Arsenal version of himself and become ‘that’ sort of player again. We know he’s creative, we know he’s very gifted with the ball at his feet, but having spent three years away how quickly will he be able to re-adapt to the pace of an English midfield and, more specifically, the speed of the game around him when he’s not in possession?
It’s sounds like a silly question, but don’t just assume that he’ll slot back in seamlessly. Three years is a long time in football terms, and there might well be some teething problems as he transitions back into that environment.
Bear in mind, also, that Fabregas did have frequent physical issues before he left Arsenal and that he did appear to struggle with the physical side of the game here. Maybe those durability problems have been solved, but until he proves otherwise that to be the case it remains an unanswered question.
In time, sure, he’ll almost certainly be a success, but the usual rules about foreign players and adjustment periods still apply here - even if just to lesser degree.