Cesc Fabregas is less than one year into his Barcelona homecoming, but the former Arsenal captain already sees three major differences between soccer life at FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC.
The 24-yeard-old midfielder played for the Gunners from 2003-11. At 16, he left his hometown club, Barcelona, for North London where he developed into both a polished player and balanced young man under the guidance of Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger
Although he was unable to win a major trophy in his final six years at the club, Fabregas told the Guardian that he cherishes the time he spent in English soccer. But he is also re-learning to love the familiar surroundings and style of play at the Nou Camp.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “I still feel very proud and happy with what I achieved at Arsenal. Now, of course, it’s a different story. I’m living another life and playing another kind of football. I’m very happy now.”
The first distinction he notes is on the tactical side of the game. At Arsenal, Fabregas had something akin to a free role. It was one in which he could use his judgement, roam the field, and look to create scoring chances from any number of spots.
So much of Barcelona’s success is built on the club’s unique system and style of play. Players are taught to play the “Barca Way” from a young age, and Fabregas has added a tactical discipline to his game that was not required in English soccer.
“Here, it’s completely different,” he said. “Everyone has their own place and it’s important you stick to your position. It took a while to remember stuff I’d learnt as a kid at Barcelona. But the memory is coming back and I’m improving game by game.”
“In Spain, it’s tactically much stronger than the Premier League,” he adds. “But in England there is this passion. You are always trying to attack because the fans don’t want you to keep possession for long … A very different kind of football is played in Spain and England.”
The second contrast between life at the two clubs is in the practice schedules. Although England is home to a more physical style of soccer (with more running and harder tackles), Fabregas says he practices more at Barcelona than he did at Arsenal. Both clubs play over 50 games in all competitions each season, but Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola does not ease off his players after games.
“We train more, here, definitely. It was different at Arsenal. Sometimes after games we’d stay inside the gym but here we’re always outside, with the ball, practising, working tactically. Even if we play almost every three days we hardly have a day off. We train a lot –- nearly every day.”
Fabregas has played with some of the world’s greatest players for club(s) and country. The World Cup and European Championship winner was leader on and off the field at Arsenal. He was one of the club’s most mature and experienced players, and had the task of mentoring a handful of teenage teammates like Jack Wilshire and Aaron Ramsey.
At Barcelona, he plays alongside — and learns from — veterans Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal. He also includes the incomparable Lionel Messi on his list of favorite teachers.
“All these players are magnificent footballers and working alongside them is improving my game all the time. That’s why I’m enjoying it so much. I’m learning so much every day at Barcelona.”
For Fabregas, the technical aspect of soccer stays the same. But the other “T’s” — the tactics, training, and teammates — have changed. And that’s just fine with him.
Photo via Flickr/thesportreview