Cesc Fabregas Shows His Importance as Barcelona Stroll to Opening Win
It was barely even a contest in the end, with Barcelona heading in at half-time with a 6-0 lead over Levante at the Camp Nou. While the visitors at least limited the damage to just one further goal, it was not a great advert for the La Liga season ahead.
Barcelona, in their first competitive outing under Tata Martino, were sublime in the early stages, cutting through the Levante defence at will while hassling Levante off the ball whenever in possession.
Fabregas was exceptional throughout, and while Levante made life incredibly easy for the Catalan giants, his runs from deep were a constant thorn in the side of the defence.
At times, the midfield interplay of Cesc, Xavi and Messi, in particular, was sublime. However, it was the high pressing in defence and the runs from deep of Cesc, Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and Dani Alves that Levante never managed to deal with.
While Barcelona won the league with some ease last campaign, it was noticeable that the intensity of their defensive work was, at times, lacking. In attack, also, they were occasionally too willing to play in front of the defence.
The signs in pre-season and this opening fixture are that Martino has placed renewed emphasis in those respects.
Directness in attack was a large part of the thinking behind the signing of Neymar—who featured for the final 26 minutes on Sunday evening. However, it is also a quality that Cesc, when at his best, can bring to the side.
On another night, Fabregas could have had two goals of his own. He will, though, have to be content with a hat-trick of assists on the night, having passed up clear goalscoring opportunities to supply Alexis Sanchez, Pedro and Xavi for their finishes.
In total, Cesc created six goalscoring opportunities on the night, per Squawka—four more than any other Barcelona player on the evening. While Xavi and Sergio Busquets may have passed the ball more, and more accurately, than Fabregas, it was the former Arsenal man who provided much greater impetus.
There has been debate as to whether Cesc himself is considering a move this summer, having missed out on a place in the side for several important fixtures last campaign. The alternative is an integral role at Manchester United.
Eventually, after a telling silence, Fabregas has declared his intention to remain at the Camp Nou for the time being, according to Yahoo! Sport. Given United's initial confidence of securing his services, though, there is no doubt he had been at least a little unhappy about his role at the club.
Martino, though, would be loathed to lose his services. Quite how he will ensure that Busquets, Iniesta, Xavi and Fabregas all remain content with their roles in important fixtures is another question, but to lose Cesc would be a mistake.
Fabregas is the future of Barcelona's midfield and, as such, should be seen as key to the club's current plans. His directness from the centre of the pitch adds an extra dimension to the Catalan side and, rather than limit his qualities as a makeshift "false nine," he must be used deeper.
It is a nice problem for Martino to have moving forward, but Fabregas has now staked his compelling case for a role in the first XI. Whether Martino will be bold enough to omit either Iniesta or Xavi from a big match, however, remains to be seen.
We will soon find out when Barcelona take on Atletico Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup on Wednesday.
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