Cesc Fabregas: What Has Gone Wrong for Him at Barcelona?
Remember when an injured Lionel Messi dusted himself off, brought himself on and helped Barcelona squeeze past Paris Saint Germain in the Champions League?
Of course you do, it's only been a couple of weeks.
Well, not so long ago, Christmas 2009 in fact, Francesc Fabregas was pulling similar stunts in London.
Arsenal—whom he'd joined as a 16-year-old school kid with an uncompromising mullet—were being held 0-0 by Aston Villa. Fabregas, club captain, sat on the bench nursing a hamstring problem.
But for his importance to the side, he wouldn't have been there at all—Fran Merida certainly wouldn't have been risked.
In the search of three points, though, Cesc was risked. He was introduced in the 57th minute and, inside 10 minutes, had given the Gunners the lead—whipping home a free kick which he had won himself.
A first-time finish from the Catalan then made it 2-0, and with that, he made his excuses, said his goodbyes and departed the pitch.
27 minutes was all he needed.
It's hard to imagine a small part of Fabregas, who turned 26 last week, doesn't clamor for those days to return—particularly given the criticism he is having to take at the moment.
As Bayern Munich completed their 7-0 humiliation of Barca in their own front room, sections of Camp Nou decided to whistle Fabregas, who was deployed in the "Messi role," sans Messi.
"But it was nowhere near the whole stadium [who were whistling him], not even close," insisted his manager Tito Vilanova after the game.
Will that matter to Cesc? It's got to hurt being the subject of vilification from football supporters, period, but from your own fans?
It all seems a bit over the top when you look at his Barcelona career on paper. Solely looking at his La Liga, Champions League and Copa del Rey stats for the club makes flattering reading.
In 88 appearances, he has scored 26 goals and assisted 34. That's a contribution of 60 goals in, what is still, less than two seasons (via Transfermarkt)—13 goals and 14 assists have come this season.
Bury your face a little deeper, though, and his lack of vital moments in big games becomes apparent.
This season in eight Champions League matches and three Clasico games, he has managed just two goals.
On top of that, in his last 14 matches, only a hat trick and two assists against Mallorca prevent him from offering just one goal since January.
One of his problems remains that it has not been worked out where he fits into this Barcelona side.
Andres Iniesta played wide for a large part of the season to accommodate him, but, now back in the middle, Fabregas has become fourth-choice midfielder and second-choice central forward to Messi.
The second problem is he's not at Arsenal anymore—winning cameos against the Aston Villa's of La Liga aren't appreciated; they're expected.
Producing the good when it matters—in Europe, against Real Madrid—is where Barcelona players are judged these days.
And all too often, Fabregas either doesn't turn up or isn't selected.
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