As he relaxes with his family in Catalonia this Christmas, Cesc Fàbregas can be very pleased with how the first half of the 2011-12 season has panned out. He’s slotted seamlessly into his new club, has scored 11 goals in 20 games, assisted 7 others and received plaudits from fans, pundits and peers alike for the quality of his football.
Interestingly, there had been murmurs when he signed that maybe he wouldn’t be able to acclimatise to the slower, more technical, pace of the Spanish top flight after cutting his teeth in the hurly burly of England. Yet if anything, exactly the opposite has been the case.
This is a player, remember, who captained his club side in England aged 21 and who developed from a willow-thin playmaker that could be bullied off the ball into an all-action box-to-box midfielder who was the fulcrum for everything his team did. His footballing talent might have originally flowered in Spain, but in England he was given the chance to forge it in the heat of competition. And it has shown on the pitch.
To the fore in three trophy wins already this season, the hallmarks of the PUMA stars’ play have been a bristling physicality, energy levels that see him eat up the ground when attacking or defending and an ability to run beyond the deep lying number 9 to steal into the box late and score from close range.
Captaining a big club in England at such a tender age has also seen him make a mockery of pressure. He scored on his European debut and his league debut and is not only playing with his head up, but with a huge smile on his face.
The quality of his teammates must of course be taken into consideration, but football is littered with stories of players who have been asked to elevate their game and been found wanting. Cesc Fàbregas has assessed the challenge, taken it on his ever-broadening shoulders and dealt with it admirably. Combining the force of a midfield general with the artistry of a number 10, he is among the most in-form midfielders in Europe and must be straining to get back out on the pitch after the winter break. For now though, he should enjoy the holiday season and focus on delivering more gifts to his global army of fans in the New Year.