Cesc retains Premier League influence
Barcelona and Spain star Cesc Fabregas says his style of play was affected by playing in England, where direct play, rather than tactical discipline, is prized.
Fabregas, who joined Arsenal from Barcelona's youth ranks aged just 16 and spent eight years in London before returning to the Camp Nou in the summer of 2011, said in an interview with El Pais on Monday that his style is now a mix of both footballing cultures.
"A lot of my style is based on that of the Premier League but with a base of La Masia," Fabregas said in reference to the famous Barcelona academy. "I have the touch, the peripheral vision, but maybe I also have a certain tendency to arrive into the penalty area more quickly, which is very British."
The former Arsenal captain said that he had spoken recently to new Gunners midfielder Santi Cazorla about the tactical differences between the Premier League and La Liga.
"Cazorla finds himself in the opposite situation," he said. "At Villarreal, he was a right-sided 'interior', but with more tactical responsibility than he has now. At Malaga, he was further back and held his position more. Now, he plays free behind the forward. Here there is more order. You have to live through it to understand the difference."
Cesc's arrival at Barcelona last season was seen as an attempt by then coach Pep Guardiola to add a more direct element ('verticalidad') to his side's play. That trend has increased this season under new boss Tito Vilanova, and Fabregas says there are pros and cons to the team's evolution.
"It could be that we have less control because we get into the area more, but that is not just because of me," he said. "I do what the coach asks. I like to come and receive the ball, as I do with Spain, but at Barca the boss does not want me to come deep because it attracts a lot of players towards Xavi (Hernandez) and (Sergio) Busquets. If I go there is less space.
"Returning to Barcelona took some work, because I had spent a long time doing other things. I do what the coach asks me - to stretch the pitch, to hold my position, to combine with Leo (Messi) and the winger, to get into the box."
Fabregas acknowledged that it is difficult for him to get into Barca's starting XI when Messi, Xavi and Andres Iniesta are all available but said he had come to terms with the situation.
"Coming back to Barcelona had a price," he said. "To play for the best team in the world is not easy. I was Arsenal captain, I felt super-important and here you need to take on board that three of the five best players in the world play your position. (But) it is fantastic. All I can do is fight, learn and when one (of Xavi, Iniesta and Messi) is not there, play, work hard, and enjoy myself."