Pat Nevin: Value added

The transfer market, assessing your own worth and appreciation for a pass master are topics written about by Pat Nevin in this week’s column…

You get the feeling this could be a lively little transfer window. The signs are all there from the available finances to the tightness of the Premier League and that doesn’t mean just at the top. Wherever you are in this division, managing to squeeze out an extra point because you bought well in the January window could make all the difference.

When I say ‘all the difference’, I mean that it could be the difference between winning the league and coming second. It might just be bridging the gap between Champions League qualification and either Europa League or nothing at all in the coming season. It could also easily be the difference between relegation and survival because it is going to be extremely tight down the other end too.

For the Blues, some business has or maybe done early. Cesc Fabregas and his likelihood of leaving is the big signpost as well as securing Christian Pulisic already for next season. I am sure every Chelsea fan has already been scouring YouTube to get an idea of Pulisic and his style if they weren’t already aware of the young American. It is safe to say to anyone who has been too busy to check him out, there is a fair chance you are going to thoroughly enjoy his lightning quick but also highly skilful attacking style.

I suspect there is more business to be done and the price will be the first point of any discussion afterwards, just as it has been with Christian and the money allegedly shelled out on the 20-year-old. Over a long period at the club we will know his true value and only after a few seasons will we all be able to make a decent judgement, the value commercially due to his prominence in the US, is not even up for debate.

Anyone who comes in, maybe someone to directly replace Cesc for starters, will still be judged by everyone first and foremost as a player. If however he is the difference between gaining a top-four spot at the end of the season or not, then the true value of that signing is harder to calculate.

Oddly enough, I used to think a bit like that as a player, when I ever did think about the money spent on me, which was rarely I have to admit. Was I value for money? I left Chelsea to go to Everton for just under a million. The record for English club-to-club transfers was broken that same month with Tony Cottee joining me at Everton for around £2 million, so that fee almost laughable now was considered a huge amount of money back then.

Near the end of that first season I scored the winner to get my new team into the FA Cup final and the winner in another semi-final that same week to get us to the Full Members’ Cup final. I remember being relieved thinking that purely financially I had paid off part, if not all, of the transfer fee with those two goals.

Whoever comes in will feel some of that pressure but he will also certainly be hand-picked to fit in with Maurizio Sarri’s style of play. Remember that was not the case with the team he inherited, though they have adapted magnificently to the style in such a short period.

Maybe the best example of all has actually been Cesc Fabregas himself oddly enough. Playing at a high tempo with quick, short passes and closing down with pace high up the field is not a perfect description of Cesc’s original game really, but he was willing and desperate to adapt. He clearly wanted to play under Sarri and showed a fantastic attitude for someone so talented and so successful who had to spend so much time on the bench and even in the stands sometimes.

So he might not be perfect for our current system but that is to take absolutely nothing away from his genius as a footballer and his ability to play at a top level for many more years yet. To gain over 100 caps for Spain would be special in any era, but in an era when they have been by a distance the best in the world, then that is incredible.

Cesc also might have scored more goals for Arsenal and played more games for them than he has Chelsea, but he has been more successful here, which gives a clue to why he was so emotional after the Nottingham Forest game. His one Gunners’ FA Cup winners’ medal pales in comparison with his two Premier League titles alongside his FA Cup and League Cup winners’ medals with the Blues. The two European Championship medals alongside the World Cup winners’ medal for Spain are pretty impressive too.

For all the baubles, it is the skill and the vision that has stood out above everything else. We could all marvel at his ability to pick up a ball deep in the midfield and play yet another inch-perfect quarterback-style pass on to a striker’s big toe, perfectly in his stride. What was more difficult to see for most fans is how hard that is to do at pitch level. He doesn’t have the overview that most fans have up in the stands; well he does have it but only in his mind.

In the past I have done analysis of his passes but used computer software to move the action down to his eye view and it is something that every fan should consider. He looks as if he has so much time and everything is in slow motion but it isn’t at all like that at pitch level. Every one of those passes shows a spatial awareness and an imagination that is even better than it looks. What Cesc can do with that brain speed has made up for any lack of blistering pace. He seems to make time stand still on occasions, right in the midst of a fast and furious Premier League game. That is a very rare ability.

- You can watch one of Pat's past analyses of Cesc Fabregas below

For years to come, anytime anyone plays a perfect through-pass from distance at Stamford Bridge, someone will say: ‘That is almost as good as a Fabregas pass’ which is not a bad legacy to leave if he does depart this transfer window.

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