When Chelsea scored their second goal in the AufSchalke Arena on Tuesday night Jose Mourinho did not celebrate - instead he summoned Oscar to the touchline and spent a minute giving the Brazilian detailed instructions.
Soon after, during another break in play, he did the same with Cesc Fabregas. Chelsea were cruising towards a seeded place in the knockout stages of the Champions League but Mourinho, though he later hailed a ‘complete performance’ was not satisfied.
“I was talking to them about positions, positions,” the manager said afterwards. “They are playing with a lot of freedom, but to play with a lot of freedom we need more discipline and to read the game very, very well. So when Oscar opens on the side, the other players have to adapt. When Fabregas goes there, the others have to adapt.”
The consequence of this ‘disciplined freedom’, revealed Fabregas, is that the Spanish midfielder feels he is playing ‘the best football of my career’.
Such an assessment will be another dagger in the hearts of those Arsenal fans who have watched with anguished bitterness as their former captain has become one of the leading figures in Chelsea’s 19-match unbeaten start to the season.
Chelsea player ratings vs Schalke
“I am playing next to great players and they are playing very well and helping me,” said Fabregas who helped create four of Chelsea’s five goals against Schalke 04.
Fabregas, who is partnering Nemanja Matic in central midfield, but with greater licence to move forward than the Serbian, added: “I feel right now I am playing some of the best football of my career. This, 100 per cent, is my best position. I feel more in control of the game, I touch the ball all the time, I feel happy, I go and get the ball from here, from there. I can go forward, Oscar drops deep. I feel free, I feel confident, I feel in control and that’s what I like the most in football.
“Sometimes in the last three, four years in the national team and Barcelona, I was playing like a No 9. I do it for the team, but where I am playing now is where my football I enjoy the most.”
Fabregas has fitted into the Chelsea side as if he has been there all his career, which, he said, has not surprised him.
“I chose this challenge it’s because I felt it could be this way. I didn’t come here to just play well and that’s it. I came here to win trophies and if I could play well and enjoy myself, the better. We know what we are doing, we know when we defend, when we have to attack, when to slow the pace, when to go quicker.
“We have a very young, talented team. We are playing very well, being composed, mature, disciplined. The mood is great and, hopefully, it will grow as the season goes on because for the next two months it’s going to be really, really tough with a lot of games.”
Repeating the words of Mourinho and team-mate Didier Drogba he said: “Potentially, this team can be very, very good but we have to win trophies. I always said it, no-one remembers if there was a great, great team and you don’t. We have to win. People will judge it how they want to judge it. The most important thing is to keep it going and at the end of the season we can talk.
“We know people say ‘how great Chelsea is’, ‘how good they are playing’, ‘how we have won the title’, but we are not saying that in the dressing room. It’s a long way to go. We have played 12 games, there is 26 to go – it’s a long, long, long way especially with the Christmas period. We play Southampton and Tottenham away, you can drop points. Why not? It can happen. We will try not to, we have the squad to cope with it, so 100 per cent there are no excuses. We will have to cope with it.”
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