Used sparingly by Chelsea during its long run of victories, Cesc Fabregas is providing significant reminders of his enduring value to the English Premier League leaders.
Two weeks ago, it was Fabregas’ raking pass to set up Diego Costa’s goal that sparked Chelsea’s come-from-behind win at Manchester City.
On Wednesday, it was the Spain midfielder’s classy goal – a one-two with Willian before a composed finish from the edge of the area – that earned Chelsea a 1-0 win at Sunderland, a 10th straight victory in the league and six-point lead over Liverpool and Arsenal in the Premier League.
“In football today, people forget very, very, very quickly who you are, and what you can do,” Fabregas said. “Hopefully now I can get a run of games in the team.”
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte has been mostly selecting Nemanja Matic alongside the tireless N’Golo Kante in central midfield, an axis in a 3-4-3 formation that has driven the team to maximum points since Oct. 1.
The 29-year-old Fabregas covers less ground than Matic but offers something different: More vision, more creativity and a stronger goal threat. It’s not a bad selection headache for Conte to have.
“Some games you need players more physical and some games with more technical,” Conte said. “It is important that Cesc had a good game.”
In the early stages of Chelsea’s winning run, the team was scoring freely – five goals against Everton, four goals against Manchester United – but it has been eking out victories in recent weeks.
This was Chelsea’s third 1-0 win in its last five matches. In its 10 straight wins, Chelsea has only conceded two goals and this latest clean sheet was preserved by a stunning save by Thibaut Courtois off Patrick van Aanholt late in the game.
“You have seen many times that teams win titles with 1-0 wins,” Fabregas said. “Hopefully we can keep it up.”
It was a night when all of Chelsea’s potential title rivals – Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Manchester United – won.