Cesc Fabregas exposes his coaching philosophy and the influence of Conte, Kovac, Wenger and Tuchel

Since joining Arsenal as a teenager, Cesc Fabregas has taken with him a maturity beyond his years. It should therefore come as no surprise that even if he seeks to help the Monegasque cause outside the field, his mind is already turned towards a future in a canoe.

Sidelined since mid-September with a hamstring injury, the 34-year-old hasn’t been able to be quite the force on the pitch he could wish to be while Monaco competes on several fronts in Ligue 1 and Europa League (on Paramount +). Still, the veteran of World Cup, Premier League and La Liga triumphs certainly finds a way to help a young Monegasque side, which includes such bright young prospects as Aurelien Tchouameni, Elliot Matazo and Sofiane Diop.

Their mentor certainly has the experience of breaking through as a youngster. Having handed Patrick Vieira’s No.4 jersey at the age of 19, Fabregas was Arsenal captain at 21, the engine that thrilled Arsène Wenger’s team. Over time, he would take on a similar role at Chelsea. In an interview for CBS Sports with his former Spain international teammate Luis Garcia, Fabregas explained how his career as a player in the heart of the midfielder meant he had felt like a coach on the pitch before he even thought of coaching since. the key.

“You see the game in a different way, you are at the center of it all,” says Fabregas. “It’s not like when you play on the wing, the full-back, the center-back or even the goalkeepers. You see the pitch from another angle. In the midfield you are surrounded by everyone. world, you have to see the full picture all the time.

“I always tried to analyze the game faster than others. I was not very strong, very fast or very physical. So I always had to be better in other aspects of the game. I always tried. to be smarter and faster on the brain. “

Fabregas was a footballing brain that many great coaches relied on. He has been exposed to some of the best footballing minds of this generation, from Wenger to Antonio Conte to Pep Guardiola and now former Bayern Munich boss Nico Kovac. The latter is determined to harness Fabregas’ knowledge and asked him to join the Monaco coaching team for a recent intra-team friendly.

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Fabregas recalls: “While the game was playing we were chatting and trying to analyze the game, what can you do better? [Kovac] was asking me questions, what would you do there? For me, it’s a fantastic education. “

This is not the only aspect of life in Monaco that Fabregas seems to enjoy. He has developed a fairly close bond with the young core of the team and appreciates that a key principle of the club’s philosophy is to take “players that hardly anyone knows and make them superstars”. His eyes light up when Garcia tells him that he plays a role similar to Tchouameni et al that Vieira, Gilberto Silva and Robert Pires played for him.

“I love playing with young players,” says Fabregas. “It reminds me of when I started at Arsenal at a very young age. It’s different when you have someone you can look up to and talk to you when you make mistakes so you can improve.

“I signed here for football, of course, 100%, but one of the goals was to try to be someone that young players can admire, who can set an example and motivation for them. to always be better. They are always asking questions: What happened there, what is going to happen there, how should I do that? Positioning my body, what would do you in this situation? To be honest, for me, it’s amazing, it gives me a lot of satisfaction. “

It can be taken for granted that a player with Fabregas’ brilliant history understands how to play football effectively. But what sets the best coaches apart is their ability to convey their vision of the game to their players. It is only when he is in the hot seat that it will be clear whether the 34-year-old has these skills; in the meantime, he can certainly explain in a clear and concise way why a move from 4-3-3 to 4-2-3-1 brought out the best of Monaco last season. It was about being “a little more direct, always with the concept that we want to keep the ball and we want to dominate the game, but faster transitions, playing more between the lines, but with the objective of running behind. the adversary. “

He certainly knows good coaching when he sees it. Fabregas praises his current boss, Kovac. When he looks further, he can’t help but be impressed with the work being done at Stamford Bridge. What Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel has achieved is all the more impressive for the former Spain international as Fabregas didn’t necessarily see similar qualities in his Paris Saint-Germain side.

Referring to a 3-2 victory against the Parisians at the Louis II stadium 12 months ago, Fabregas explains: “I was playing as number 10 and I felt like I was leading the game here. No one is pressuring me. that the team was very distant, no compactness, nothing, they were not a team.

“I was curious to see how he was going to do with Chelsea; after two, three games you could see the impact he had had. And then I realized that in the end the team made the difference. Because if you have a team full of qualities like Chelsea but on top of that they are humble, they work hard, they are disciplined, they know what to do when they listen to the coach, they give everything, they are together and they’re a whole team so those results are coming.

“At the end of the day, the message the manager gives, if the players want to do it, it can be very successful. At the same time, it shows us that if the players don’t believe it, or if they don’t.” I don’t listen to him, or they do whatever they want, so the coach can say whatever he wants. He can work 20 hours a day. It will never work. “

A keen observer of Premier League events, the ex-Arsenal and Chelsea midfielder did not hide his disappointment at seeing one of his former managers in the Premier League. Antonio Conte’s appointment to Tottenham was, he reluctantly admitted, an inspired move.

Antonio Conte and Cesc Fabregas won the Premier League in 2017 with Chelsea

Getty Images

“I think with Antonio it was the first time I saw someone know exactly [what they want] … It was like going to school. I promise you, he will tell you, from the goalie until you score a goal, what you have to do, exactly everything. Maybe it is in a different way from the way I saw football. At first it was difficult for me, don’t get me wrong. Lots of running, lots of intensity. Large sessions, double sessions, gym sessions.

“I always relied on my own quality, on my own vision, I pass the ball where I feel I will be dangerous and where I can hurt the opponents. I had coaches like Pep who had a lot of positioning play. but we had freedom in. With Conte, there was no freedom, he was telling me where I should pass the ball.

“I’m 29 at the time, I’ve already played for 13 years, I’ve played in all the finals, I’ve won a lot and this guy tells me where I have to pass the ball.”

Naturally, this was a tough adaptation for the player who had been brought up in the freewheeling style of Wenger’s Arsenal where improvisation was key. Under Conte, there was no room for straying when one demanded to march to the strict rhythm of one’s tactical plans.

“You were a bit like a perfect machine, without freedom but everyone knows what everyone has to do”, adds Fabregas. “It helped me a lot. For example, sometimes if I wanted to give an assist or a good pass, I depended on [on the other player].

“A player I loved playing with, Pedrito, [would make] short behind, loved playing with this guy. There were a lot of Pedritos on the team because Conte was teaching them exactly how to race and when to race. Willian started doing a lot of shopping. [Michy] Batshuayi, Diego Costa or even Hazard, who was always on foot to play and then be the playmaker, he was running behind. The machine was working perfectly. “

Will the Fabregas teams be guided by the expressive principles of its first manager? Would he be a severe site foreman at La Conte? Perhaps an unsuspected fusion of Guardiola and Mourinho? It may still be some time before we know that. All we know for sure is that he took a crash course in management that many young coaches would dream of. His first steps in the hands on coaching promise are sure to be intriguing.


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