‘Best’ is such a subjective term and it is impossible to come to a sensible conclusion that pleases everyone, with some arguing that La Liga’s big two of Real Madrid and Barcelona mean their league is clearly the best while others will suggest that the competition for places at the top of the table ensures the Premier League should be top of the pile. You’ll probably even find some people that will fight the Bundesliga’s corner.
One of the primary arguments which is used against the Premier League in such conversations is its struggle to attract genuine superstar talent with most of the worlds very biggest names eventually finding themselves lured to Madrid, Barca or even Bayern Munich. This summer was no exception with the Premier League’s player of the season Luis Suarez departing these shores for sunnier pastures in Spain while there was a feeling that some of the biggest names to arrive in England were in fact cast offs from La Liga’s big two.
This may have initially been the case with both Cesc Fabregas and Angel Di Maria. Seemingly discarded by Barcelona and Real respectively, would clubs that big really have let such talented players escape their clutches if their performances were not on the wane?
Fortunately for anyone still arguing the Premier League’s case, the performances of Fabregas and Di Maria so far have done plenty to debunk this theory.
It was Fabregas who got going first after signing for Chelsea early in the window. The Spain international notched an assist in each of his first three games and has gone on to bag a further four in his next five games, forming a formidable partnership with Diego Costa in the process. Any Chelsea fans who were worried that Fabregas’s eye for a clever through ball had been dulled somewhat during his time in Spain. English clubs however have had their fears allayed early in stunning fashion while watching a player clearly full of confidence and at the top of his game.
Meanwhile, Di Maria may have only made his switch to Manchester United late in the window but once he arrived; his impact was just as immediate. He was unable to inspire his side to victory against Burnley on his debut; however his eye for a pass and willingness to dribble at players and beat a man was evident. It was clearly only a matter of time before the former Benfica man made his mark, and so it proved. Against QPR in his next outing Di Maria managed to get on the scoresheet with a deceptive free-kick before his shot was steered in by Juan Mata to give his new side a comfortable win. His brilliant chipped finish in United’s next game against Leicester is generally forgotten due to the dramatic nature of the team’s collapse from 3-1 up to lose 5-3, but it was a remarkable goal all the same and one which demonstrates the elite-level player that Di Maria is.
It is difficult to assess which of the two players has made the biggest impact so far. One could point to Chelsea’s commanding position at the top of the table and suggest that Fabregas has been the better player, but that would be ignoring the fact that the former Arsenal hero (along with Costa) was something of a final piece in Mourinho’s puzzle. This Chelsea side was always just a couple of players short of becoming a phenomenal team while United were clearly going to have to undertake a painful rebuilding process following David Moyes’s disastrous season in charge. Di Maria is merely a step in that process. A significant step of course, but the big point gap between Van Gaal’s Work-in-Progress and Mourinho’s Machine cannot be put down to any shortcomings in the Argentine’s game.
When we observe the stats of the two players it becomes apparent that while they are both magnificent creators, there are plenty of subtle differences in their respective games.
Their key passes and assists per game are, as would be expected, extremely high: 0.88 assists and 2.25 key passes per game for Fabregas and 0.67 and 2.33 of the same metric for Di Maria. Almost inseparable.
However, when looking at the take-ons and dribbling stats of the La Liga exports, we can see a marked difference. Di Maria has completed 2.17 successful take-ons per game while Fabregas has only managed 1.25, a statistic which reflects their slightly differing roles in their sides. As a converted winger, there is much more onus on Di Maria to use his considerable pace and quick feet to take on players, albeit from a slightly deeper, more central midfield role.
Fabregas, meanwhile, is more of a midfield metronome with less scope to roam into wider areas and attempt risky take-ons due to the added responsibility of his usual role alongside Nemanja Matic in Mourinho’s 4-2-3-1.With both Ander Herrera and Daley Blind usually alongside him for Di Maria is more able to take risks without so much fear of losing the ball. This also means that Di Maria attempts slightly riskier passes than Fabregas, whose job it is more to control the tempo of his sides play and wait for precisely the right time to play that killer ball.
Squawka have stated that Fabregas has successfully performed 604 passes in the league so far and in six games, Di Maria has beaten his man 13 times. Statistics that clearly speak for themselves.
So will La Liga miss their quality? Only time will tell!