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Lack of form and lack of pace has given Fabregas lack of playing time, what's in store for the talented midfielder next?

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By Kishen Patel

Cesc Fabregas joined Barcelona from Arsenal in the summer of 2011 in what many people believed was a fantastic signing. The La Masia product was expected to have a streamlined transformation from the English game to Barcelona’s intricate tiki-taka style of football but Fabregas has struggled at his new club due to lack of form and lack of pace towards the second half of last season after an impressive start to his career at Camp Nou.

Pep Guardiola used the 3-4-3 formation last season to accomodate Fabregas but while it did reap rewards in his 15 goals and 20 assists in 49 matches, he suffered a dip in form which has made him play second fiddle to Andres Iniesta. With the technical ability of Fabregas, he’d have no trouble in fitting into the Catalan’s plans but what is undoing the ‘perfect blend?’

Cesc Fabregas can consider himself unlucky because the three positions he can play in, he has to compete against the three best players of those positions. Barcelona have the two best central midfielders in Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta and the mercurial Lionel Messi as a false striker. Fabregas can take up the roles of either Xavi or Iniesta and feature in midfield for the Catalans but when the latter two are in top form, there is a lesser chance of Fabregas starting unless one of the talented duo being afforded some rest. No doubt that Fabregas is a worthy deputy for Xavi and Iniesta but sometimes he hasn’t been able to do things that the former two can do.

At Euro 2012, he excelled in the false nine position for Spain as he scored two goals and provided a crucial assist to David Silva's opening goal in the final against Italy. However it is unlikely he will be used in that slot as his direct competitor in the false nine position is arguably the best player in the world in Messi.

Cesc Fabregas | Where do I fit in the new system?

The former Gunner started the match against Sociedad in place of Iniesta and played well in first half but faded as the second half came. He came on as a late substitute in the Supercopa clash against Real Madrid at Camp Nou as Barcelona were trying to hold onto their lead in the dying minutes. He was given a starting berth in Xavi’s place against Osasuna and he struggled to play in a deeper role than usual. Thereafter he was benched against Madrid in the second leg of the Supercopa.

Fabregas was culpable of missing a golden opportunity to score against Valencia and his lack of pace showed once the more mobile Iniesta was brought on in his place. Iniesta’s introduction immediately injected some pace and urgency in the Catalans’ attacks.

The Barcelona number four had admitted that he found it difficult to adjust to Pep Guardiola’s demands because the former trainer asked more mobility in midfield and little more speed in the first few steps, something the former Arsenal man struggled to provide.

Tito Vilanova’s ideas are similar to those of his predecessor as he also prefers pacey wingers complimenting a more mobile midfield. Fabregas needs to improve his speed if he is to improve his suitability to the Barcelona style. Vilanova can also use Fabregas in the front three of a 4-3-3 like Vicente Del Bosque used him for Spain but with the emergence of Pedro and Cristian Tello, Fabregas’ technical ability has been sacrificed for speed.

Xavi showed support for his teammate and said that Fabregas remains an important figure for the Catalans as they prepare for a long and grueling season. Its true that Vilanova will need to count on all his players but are his players (read Fabregas) are to respond to his call? A frustrated Fabregas rues are lack of first team opportunities but he has already started in three matches this season! He was always substituted for his mediocre performance and unconvincing displays. Is he on his way to becoming an outcast or will he be able to overcome his “mental block” and find his form?

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