For all his experience and bulging trophy cabinet, the Spaniard’s future has been questioned this season after being forced to operate largely on the fringes of Conte’s starting line-up. Handed only his sixth Premier League start of the season on Saturday, however, Fabregas showed his continuing value as an attacking midfielder with his side’s opening goal and all-round display that revived memories of his better days when he helped the club to the title two seasons ago.
Fabregas’ performance was a testimony to the way Conte has successfully managed his squad. The Chelsea head coach has stuck with a small tight-knit group of players, making changes infrequently yet keeping all the group happy. It helps when one of those players has reached a point in his career where he has the maturity to accept whatever role is placed upon him and who is adamant he will not simply seek a way out in a bid to find a nailed-on starting spot elsewhere.
“Don’t get me wrong, I want to play,” said Fabregas. “Every football player wants to play every single minute but sometimes you have to fight for it. Sometimes the easy way is to escape, to run away, to sulk and to want to leave, to create a drama.
“But in my mind, I decided I wanted to challenge myself, not everything comes easy in life, sometimes you have to fight certain situations you are not used to, or are against you in a way. But hopefully I have shown the manager can trust me in a way.”
Conte’s influence is clear. “I’m learning new things, new situations, new manners, new football, new philosophy which makes a difference, it makes it entertaining,” he added. “I know sometimes I didn’t play as much but even in training I’m learning and sometimes you think if you’ve been playing for a long time, won a lot, you’ve done everything and then you realise in football you can never know everything.
“I’m in a good moment, a good situation and hopefully I’ve reversed the situation from the beginning of the season to now and hopefully I can keep playing like that to keep my place.
“I made a statement and made it clear I want to stay. I can understand there are doubts, the philosophy of the manager, I think he came in, wanted to see if I could adapt and I can understand that. I know and I think as a player I’m someone who wants to play with the ball, maybe not so much the defensive side. But it shows I adapted to the way he wants to play and hopefully I can play more.
“Until the day Chelsea tell me they don’t want me, I can leave, and it happens to everyone, you have to move on. So far I’m thinking day by day. When my brain says you can’t do it anymore then I will move, probably away from Europe. I don’t want to plan things. But when I feel I’m not at the top, top level anymore then it will be the right time to go. But for now, it’s all about Chelsea and performing here. Remember I’m only 29, I’ve played a long time.”
Fabregas ran the show on Saturday but it took two goals in the final 18 minutes from Pedro and Diego Costa to secure the win after Fernando Llorente had headed an unexpected equaliser on the stroke of half-time.
Swansea manager Paul Clement, returning to the club he served as assistant manager, was understandably aggrieved his side were not awarded a penalty for handball shortly before Pedro added Chelsea’s second, but Chelsea remained dominant throughout. To the frustration of their rivals, there are no signs of Conte’s side imploding.
Courtois 6; Azpilicueta 6, Luiz 7, Cahill 7; Moses 7 (Zouma 85, 6), Kante 8, Fabregas 9, Alonso 7; Pedro 8 (Matic 76, 6), Costa 8, Hazard 8 (Willian 85, 6).
Begovic, Loftus-Cheek, Batshuayi, Terry.
Fabianski 7; Naughton 6, Fernandez 7, Mawson 6, Olsson 5; Routledge 6 (Narsingh 81, 6), Fer 7, Cork 6, Sigurdsson 7, Carroll 5 (Ayew 76, 6); Llorente 7.
Nordfeldt, Amat, Britton, Baston, Rangel.
Neil Swarbrick, 5.