After 22 minutes of last night’s Champions League match against Bayer Leverkusen, Cesc Fàbregas had completed as many passes as the entire opposition. With Bayer unable to get hold of the ball, Barcelona’s number four had made 34 successful passes to Bayer’s 33 to again prove why he is considered one of the very best midfielders in Europe.
His range of passing was magnificent. It didn’t matter if the pass required was sideways, forwards or backwards, he did it perfectly. The best of the lot came on 54 minutes. With Bayer having equalised in the 52 minute, the ball broke to Cesc on the right hand side of midfield in the opposition half. Looking up and seeing Alexis Sanchez making a run, he hit a 40 yard pass with the inside of his boot that took out two defenders. 10 seconds later the ball was in the net and the game was won. The Barcelona players might have jumped on Sanchez, but the Chilean winger pointed to Cesc in admiration.
The statistics show that by the end of the game Cesc had completed 97 out of 107 passes. Impressive as those statistics are, his performance was much more than just a passing display. It was a masterclass that coaches from across the world should show to all young midfielders and tell the ‘that is how you do it.’
When he was still at Arsenal his positional play was sometimes a weakness. Too committed in attack, he could leave gaps behind him that the opposition would exploit. Not any more. Rotating his position from deep central midfield to the number 10 position and even as a winger and centre forward, he was always in the right place at the right time.
An incredible athlete, the only time he stopped moving was to take a corner or celebrate a goal, and he was always in the correct position to receive a pass or help a teammate out of trouble. His appreciation of space was perfect, and by constantly looking over his shoulder he was aware of his opponent’s position and rarely gave the ball away.
Since returning to the club he grew up at, Cesc has played 31 games, scored 15 goals and recorded 14 assists. Of all Barcelona’s world-class players, only Lionel Messi is ahead of him in all of those categories, which shows you exactly why Pep Guardiola fought so hard to bring him home last summer.