Talking Tactics

Fabregas the fulcrum as Chelsea start defence

Adrian Clarke 10/08/2017
Cesc Fabregas

Adrian Clarke examines a key tactical battle when Burnley visit the champions on Saturday

Ahead of each matchweek, tactics expert Adrian Clarke will preview three key areas where matches may be won and lost, starting with a Chelsea player Burnley will be keen to keep off the ball.

Chelsea v Burnley

Opportunity knocks for Cesc Fabregas in the heart of the Chelsea midfield at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.

With new signing Tiemoue Bakayoko out injured, the Spaniard will be eager to lay down a marker in a contest the Blues will be looking to dictate.

During the second half of 2016/17, Antonio Conte often preferred Fabregas to Nemanja Matic for home matches against teams placed in the lower half of the table.

In matches that Fabregas started, against Swansea City, Crystal Palace, Middlesbrough and Sunderland, the eventual title-winners boasted an average of 66.5% possession.

This dominance of the ball allowed the Spaniard to pull the strings from the middle of the park with his fine passing range.

Fabregas at home to bottom-half teams 2017
Opponent SWA CRY MID SUN
Touches 125 107 130 121
Passes opp. half 69 73 86 76
Chances created 5 7 7 4
Assists 1 0 2 1
Goals 1 1 0 0

Burnley's greatest challenge this weekend will be trying to prevent Fabregas from running the match.

When Chelsea build from deep they will get him on the ball and ask him to release the likes of Willian, Pedro and Michy Batshuayi into space between the lines or in behind. It is something he did wonderfully well towards of end of last season.

The quandary facing Sean Dyche and his midfield - possibly a pairing of Jack Cork and Ashley Westwood - will be how they balance the way they close Fabregas down.

Fabregas delivered 18 through-balls last season from only 13 PL starts and can hurt the Clarets if given time to look up and pick a forward pass. They will try to get close enough to force him sideways with one and two-touch passes as often as possible.

But if they are a yard too slow in their press, or those behind them are not squeezed up with them in unison, Burnley’s midfield will be fearful that Fabregas and his Blues team-mates are good enough to bypass them.

Knowing when to sit and when to congest the space will be critical.

Cesc Fabregas v Swansea
Cesc Fabregas completed 18 through-balls in 13 starts last season and can hurt Burnley if given time in possession

At Turf Moor last term Dyche’s side did a fine job of unsettling opposition players with their coordinated pressing, but on their travels it was a different story.

Collecting only seven points from a possible 57 on the road, the Clarets often failed to inhibit influential opponents as effectively.

It is a big test for them on the opening day. Can Burnley come up with a way of stopping Fabregas from opening them up with his outstanding distribution?

Friday Clarke on Man City's potential Aguero-Jesus paratnership

See: Cahill on Morata settling in at Chelsea

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