Has an unlikely hero emerged for the Spanish national team?


Despite topping their group following a dramatic 2-2 draw with Morocco last night, even the most ardent of Spanish football fans will feel that their World Cup campaign has yet to reach the high expectations that are set for the national team.

With the slow erosion of the national team’s tiki-taka prime since the retirement of the iconic duo of Xabi and Puyol, coupled with Iniesta’s waning influence on proceedings and the omission of Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, Spanish football is facing an identity crisis shaped by an uncertainty as to the sort of team that they now are.

This loss of a strategic approach to their last two international tournaments, Continue reading

Fabregas making Wenger regret lack of Summer interest

Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas has picked up where he left off in the Premier League, scoring twice and making 12 assists in 16 games in his first season back since leaving Arsenal back in 2011. The Spanish international, 27, signed for the Blues for around £30M this summer, but the biggest surprise is that no other side made a genuine approach.

The likes of Arsenal and Manchester United were two of the many European sides linked with Fabregas that never made a bid, and it seems odd that no club deemed him worth signing. Chelsea are currently top of the Premier League, and Fabregas has been a chief contributor to their bright start.

Fabregas has been trumping the rest of the competition, and has certainly paid off his transfer fee. Manager Jose Mourinho had been looking for a creative midfielder to replace Frank Lampard, and has found a perfect fit in the Spaniard, who is already being tipped by bookies to be named PFA Player of the Year.

A player perfectly of the Spanish mould, with some English industry rubbed off on him too from his many years at Arsenal, the talented 27-year-old possesses great vision, and eye for goal, while being level-headed and a model professional. He’s a popular figure in the dressing room, and boasts an incredible CV. He could walk into any side in the world, but wasn’t as heavily coveted in the summer as many would have imagined.

With Arsenal’s ageing midfielders Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini having just one year left on their respective deals, Manchester United eyeing up a long-term replacement for Michael Carrick, while long-serving Liverpool player Steven Gerrard was in need of a successor at Anfield, Fabregas was destined for a Premier League return. He spent eight years with Arsenal, turning into one of the best midfielders in the league in his time with the Londoners, but the Gunners surprisingly overlooked him this summer.

Manager Arsene Wenger suggested the likes of Mesut Ozil would provide the creativity, and that Fabregas was not needed in the side. Liverpool couldn’t compete with Chelsea for his signature, while Manchester United were looking at then-Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos.

With Mourinho’s side flying high and in contention of winning all four major trophies as things stand with Fabregas playing a focal point, the decision made to overlook him is something many clubs could live to regret, but it’s not as if the Spaniard hasn’t been outstanding all through his career.

Focus on Fabregas as Chelsea take on Arsenal

The build-up for Arsenal’s visit to Premier League leaders Chelsea has been dominated by two players – former Gunner Cesc Fabregas facing his old club and the fitness of Diego Costa. But it’s a game that will be decided as much by the performances of John Terry and Per Mertesacker, the respective rocks in each defence.

Terry is a long-standing lynchpin at Stamford Bridge. The 33-year-old has spent almost his entire career with Chelsea – a brief loan at Nottingham Forest aside – and across his 600 games, has rarely been anything less than a fan’s favourite. Last season was one of Terry’s best, Chelsea conceding only 27 league goals, with the captain picking up 340 EuroFantasyLeague.com points, making him one of Europe’s 10 best defenders.

Mertesacker hasn’t always enjoyed hero status among the Gunners’ faithful. He was more of a figure of fun when he first arrived in 2011, a distinct lack of pace and discomfort on the ball leading to some shaky performances. But the Germany international has grown into the club to the point he is arguably Arsene Wenger’s first choice centre-back, as well as the subject of a memorable – if foul-mouthed – song from the Emirates Stadium stands.

Last season’s trip to Stamford Bridge was a harrowing one for Arsenal, going down to 10 men and losing 6-0. That in part explains why Mertesacker claimed only 245 EFL points despite keeping as many clean sheets – 16 – as Terry. Which side keeps a clean sheet on Sunday will determine where the points go as the Premier League table takes shape and with defences built around the commanding Terry and Mertesacker, the chances of either side routing the other are slim indeed.