The Spaniard only made 13 Premier League starts in the entirety of the 2016/17 season but has almost matched that after making 12 appearances from the off in this campaign.
After Nemanja Matic’s departure from the club, the former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder has stepped up as Chelsea look to defend their title, providing three assists and scoring once in 14 league matches.
Fabregas’ time at Stamford Bridge had appeared to be coming to an end after being unfancied by the ex-Juventus coach but he believes hard work allowed him to prove Conte wrong and he’s enjoying the ‘freedom’ under his manager.
‘You could say freedom,’ he said ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Atletico Madrid. ‘We know the boss likes to have discipline in our system and game. In this way, we cover the pitch well. It’s working well.
‘I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried – maybe worried is not the right word.
‘I wasn’t part of his initial plans. You can give up or put your head down, be humble and work hard and show him he is wrong.
‘You must adapt and be always ready in training.
‘Physically… I wouldn’t say better than ever, but in the last few years I feel the fitness. I had to adapt myself, especially defensively. It’s not my biggest strength.
‘Last season the boss might not have trusted me to play in a 3-4-3 but he does now.’
Conte accepted he was wrong about the 30-year-old and applauded his work ethic.
‘He didn’t play a lot, but through his work he changed my mind. It happened,’ the Chelsea manager added.