Soccer

Cesc Fabregas is the Premier League's assist master, even as he takes a backseat at Chelsea

After laying on two goals in Chelsea's dominant win over Middlesbrough on Monday, Cesc Fabregas established himself as the most proficient assist manin Premier League history.He's now the firstplayer to have 10+ assists in sixdifferent Premier League seasons, moving ahead of both Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, who managed the achievement in five separate campaigns.

It's an incredible achievement for anyone, but Fabregas' success is especially impressive given his struggles over the last two years in a Chelsea shirt. He was part of Jose Mourinho's team that limped to 10th place last season, and this year, he's been used mainly off the bench in a substitute's role.

Fabregas was widely looked at as one of the biggest culprits for Chelsea's awful campaign under Mourinho last year, eventually leading to the Portuguese manager's sacking. His defensive deficiencies were especially under the microscope, but there was no questioning his ability on the ball. Despite the struggles the rest of the team faced, Fabregasstill managed to rack up 18 assists last season, and he's been just as productive this year despite playing limited minutes.

Under Antonio Conte, Fabregas has been distinctly second-choice in Chelsea's midfield. In Conte's unique 3-4-2-1 formation, Nemanja Matic and N'Golo Kante have been his preferred central pairing, with Fabregas often used off the bench to unlock stubborn defenses. Fabregas has only started 11 matches for Chelsea on the season, but he's proven to be the ideal man off the bench, and his 10 assists and four goals this year are a testament of just how vital he's been for Chelsea, despite often being the 12th man.

Fabregas just passed Chelsea legend Frank Lampard on the all-time Premier League assists list with 105, and now he's got one more player left in his sights: Ryan Giggs. The Welshman's incredible tally of 162 is some way off, but if the 30-year-old Fabregas sticks around in the Premier League for a few more seasons, it's not inconceivable that he'll take that record, too.

The Spaniard's future in London is far from assured though, with rumors that AC Milan are especially interested in acquiring his services. His status as a luxury bench player at Chelsea certainly won't stop the whispers around a possible exit, but for now, he's still owned by the Blues, and still dishing out assists left and right.

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