The fate of Chelsea's attacking midfielders symbolises the drastic change under Conte

Oscar and Fabregas were once fundamental...that is no longer the case

BY Raf Diallo 17:35 Wednesday 14 December 2016, 17:35 14 Dec 2016

Picture by Mike Egerton PA Archive/PA Images

When things were going well for Chelsea during Jose Mourinho's return to Stamford Bridge, the Blues' creativity came from Fabregas and the trio behind the front man.

The Chelsea side which won the 2014-15 Premier League title was also driven by a sturdy back four, the goals of Diego Costa and Nemanja Matic as the holding midfielder.

Fast forward two years to Antonio Conte's debut season as manager and Costa is back to his best in front of goal and the defence is miserly again, although that is down to a switch to a 3-4-3 with Matic revitalised and N'Golo Kante providing energy and grit.

The full-backs Victor Moses and Marcos Alonso have also contributed hugely.

And just like 2014-15, Eden Hazard is glittering as an inside forward who can cut inside from the wing to create and score.

On the other side, Pedro or Willian can provide balance.

But it's the fate of Cesc Fabregas and Oscar that is interesting now. Both attacking midfielders are no longer fundamental to how the team play under Conte, in comparison to Mourinho's second spell when they were key cogs.

Fabregas' playmaking role was a key factor in the title win two years ago during the first half of that season - particularly his relationship with Costa, while Oscar was also heavily involved during the campaign.

But since Conte switched to a 3-4-3 formation two months ago, Fabregas does not truly fit into the system. His defensive discipline has often been questioned and it's no surprise that Conte has gone for the Kante-Matic tandem. Both of those players have the energy and defensive guile to suit Conte's methods. The manager is also not playing the type of central trio that he had at Juventus which could have facilitated a central playmaking role a la Pirlo

The exception was the Manchester City match when Matic was ruled out and Fabregas started in a 3-1 victory alongside Kante.

However, once Matic returned for Sunday's 1-0 win over West Brom, Fabregas was relegated to the bench again to fulfill a role as an impact sub for the final quarter hour - probably not the role he expected to be fulfilling in what on paper should be his peak years. 

As the Spain international's star fades, the former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder has been linked with moves away, particularly to the less frantic pace of Serie A.

Roma and AC Milan have been mooted as potential destinations.

Meanwhile, Oscar has been linked with a big money move to the Chinese Super League with some suggestions that the transfer to Shanghai SIPG is "90% certain".

Like Fabregas, he has found game-time harder to come by since the 3-0 loss to Arsenal and the ensuing switch in formation as a No 10 position no longer exists in the new system. 

According to Sky Sports, the Brazilian wants to stay at Chelsea and fight for his place but unless there is a change in formation and move up the manager's pecking order, his place remains uncertain. 

It's certainly a far cry from the successful 4-2-3-1 formation of two years ago when he and Fabregas were key elements in a system that had a place for them. 

Chelsea visit Sunderland on Wednesday night.

Off The Ball

Newsletter

The very best bits of Off The Ball delivered every week