Chelsea are reportedly eyeing Barcelona's out-of-favour midfielder Cesc Fabregas as a replacement for the departing Frank Lampard, and the former Arsenal man could be the perfect fit for Jose Mourinho's new-look midfield.
The Telegraph's Matt Law has learned Chelsea's interest in Fabregas is very real, as Lampard is set to leave the club, and Arsenal are making it clear they are not interested in re-signing their former captain:
Chelsea are ready to offer Cesc Fabregas the chance to become Frank Lampard’s long-term successor after Barcelona stepped up their interest in Koke.
Lampard has released a statement officially confirming his departure from Stamford Bridge.
With Arsenal indicating they will not take up their option to re-sign Fabregas, Chelsea will try to convince £30 million Fabregas to return to London.
Fabregas is disappointed Arsenal have not shown any firm interest in him, but is willing to look at other options in the Premier League.
Fabregas may be looked at as the potential heir to Lampard's spot in midfield, but he won't be his replacement. The Spanish international lacks the physical ability of the Chelsea legend, instead building his game around excellent vision, passing ability and a knack for making runs at just the right time.
He's not a great athlete, but Fabregas just understands the game. It's why he was successful when asked to play as a false nine for Spain, and it's why he can play seemingly every position on the attacking three.
Mourinho started molding his Chelsea team the moment he returned as manager last season, and it's far from a finished product.
He brought back Nemanja Matic to play as an enforcer in midfield, and the trio of Eden Hazard, Willian and Oscar took time to jell into a cohesive, attacking unit supporting a lone striker.
The odd man out was Brazilian international Ramires, who often failed to assert himself in the centre of the pitch. This statistic shared by Chelsea Stats isn't pretty:
Chelsea conceded just 0.467 goals per game when Matic started compared to .828 when Ramires started.— Chelsea Stats (@ChelseaStats) May 21, 2014
Ramires didn't offer much of a creative threat moving forward, providing just three assists all season, per WhoScored.com. Defensively, he was plagued by bad judgement and lapses in concentration, racking up 11 yellow cards.
Chelsea relied on the trio of Hazard, Willian and Oscar to create most of their chances, and when defences keyed in on those three, the Blues often struggled breaking down disciplined back lines.
This is where Fabregas comes in.
Matic showed everyone he is more than capable of shouldering the load in front of Chelsea's defence during the second half of last season, combining his excellent size with solid ability on the ball and the vision to always find the open man.
In many ways, Matic's abilities will remind fans of Manchester City's Yaya Toure, who does his best work when he has David Silva playing around him.
Silva technically is City's left midfielder, but he doesn't operate within a defined role. He drifts all over the pitch, finds space in the attacking third, sets up teammates and makes clever runs into the box.
Should Chelsea pursue Cesc Fabregas?
Fabregas is at his best when he plays the game in the same way, conducting play from the centre when the ball is in his own half and drifting all over the opposing team's half when play is moved further up the pitch.
By adding Fabregas to the starting XI, it would free up Hazard and company to focus more on attacking goal instead of having to orchestrate play for themselves. With Fabregas often drifting wide, Hazard, Oscar and Willian could frequently cut inside without the ball as the Blues attempt to play in the back of the defence.
Fabregas may not be a physically imposing player, but he's capable of holding his own defensively when the other team has the ball. His skills with the long ball would make him the perfect starting point for counter-attacks, something Chelsea's speedy wingers would love to take advantage of.
As an added bonus, bringing in Fabregas would not count against Financial Fair Play regulations, according to The Telegraph via Chelsea_Talk:
Chelsea would not face any FFP issues over signing Fabregas, as he first moved to Arsenal as a 16-year-old. [and homegrown] (Telegraph)— ChelseaTalk (@CFC__Talk) June 2, 2014
Fans might have their reservations about adding a former Gunner who is no longer seen as a vital component of his current club, but Fabregas' ability on the ball would open up the Blues' attack in ways we haven't seen before.
Matic's development means Chelsea can afford to give up a little muscle in favour of a more creative option in the centre of the pitch, and Fabregas' availability makes him the perfect candidate for the job.