Filed under: Feature - Posted by: Jonty
Just seven goals in 46 appearances tells the sorry story of Fernando Torres’s frustrating time at Chelsea. In the latest of our pre-season Burning Question articles our contributors examine the chances of the Spanish striker recapturing the form that persuaded Chelsea to shell out £50m on the former Liverpool man…
Since joining the London outfit in the January transfer window of 2011 many of the Stamford Bridge faithful have been left perplexed at the poor form of a player that scored 82 goals in 214 appearances for Athletico Madrid, and 65 strikes during his four years at Liverpool. As the goals dried up, Torres has struggled to sustain a starting role: last season Didier Drogba was given the nod to lead the line and repaid that faith with a string of important goals.
However, this season sees a different Chelsea setup. Drogba has departed for China and Torres finds himself with very little competition up front; currently only Daniel Sturridge is vying for the striker’s role, with Romelu Lukaku now departed for a season-long loan at the Hawthorns. While bodies are clearly required up front, the club have instead invested heavily in midfield, with Torres’s compatriot, Juan Mata, now joined by Belgian Eden Hazard and Brazilian Oscar to form a lineup brimming with creativity and craft. A confident Torres could provide the final piece in title challenging jigsaw, but can he raise his game and gain legendary status at the Bridge?
In my opinion, no. Many words have been written about his fee and the expectation that came with it, but a closer examination of his style of play and that of Chelsea, looks to me at least, in conflict. A direct counter-attacking style of football where he has to come for the ball, doesn’t suit and unless Chelsea can successfully employ a number ’10′ who can pick up the ball and play it in front of him, I cannot see him ever being a consistent goalscorer. Unfortunately, a succession of injuries and surgery has removed the explosiveness he had five years ago, so he’s had to adapt his game. There’s no question that he works hard for his team-mates but that will never be enough if the goals fail to flow.
Despite being one of his biggest fans, Vincent Del Bosque showed a lack of faith by choosing to go without a striker in all but one of the Euro 2012 games, only offering him a start against Ireland, the weakest of opponents. He duly returned a brace in that game and a goal against a 10-man Italy out on it’s feet.
Having already turned more corners than a Rubik’s cube, I’d be hugely surprised to see a transformation in form that comes anywhere near close to his dazzling first couple of years at Liverpool.
Oh god I hope so. I really, really do. His confidence has to have been boosted by his Euro 2012 goals and his form at the end of last season. With Didier Drogba having departed for pastures new, Torres really needs to step up and command that striking spot for Chelsea – not least because they have so few options available. Considering Roman Abramovich has been splashing the big bucks to amass an attacking midfielder armoury to now include Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata, Torres will surely get the ammunition.
Despite limited game time in the recent Euro 2012 tournament, Torres finished as top scorer and demonstrated his ability to function at the highest level – for as long as the tactics are suited to his style of play. While the searing pace and burst of acceleration beyond the last defender – a trademark of his time at Liverpool – may no longer be in evidence, he is still capable of excelling in the season ahead, providing Chelsea play to his strengths; something they have yet to do in El Nino’s time at the Bridge.
Much depends on Roberto Di Matteo’s ability to integrate the new signings such as Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin alongside Juan Mata in the attacking midfield positions behind Torres, while implementing a change in playing style. If the Blues boss can achieve this seamlessly, the Spanish forward could finally flourish for the Londoners. Although a return to the 24-goal haul of 2007/08 seems unlikely, a confident Torres could quite comfortably hit the 15+ mark; on the other hand, there’s no doubt he has the potential to hugely frustrate his Fantasy owners in any given Gameweek.
This has to be the time for Torres. Having struggled to earn his opportunity to lead the Chelsea attack and fend off the claims of Didier Drogba, he now looks assured of starts playing in front of what is arguably the most creative midfield in the League. Service shouldn’t be an issue, then, and, if Torres can take confidence from his Golden Boot winning displays in Euro 2012, I see no reason why the goals won’t follow.
Fantasy managers are on board regardless of his long-term prospects due to the double Gameweek but how many are actually looking to carry Torres beyond the opening week? For many, Wayne Rooney is being measured up as an immediate replacement but if Torres produces against Wigan and Reading, the temptation to hold for the visit of Newcastle will be strong. He has every chance of working his way into our lineups and Chelsea folklore – if he can get his head right and take a couple of early chances, he could make a mockery of his Fantasy price tag. Failure in the first few weeks, however, and both Fantasy managers and Roberto Di Matteo will waste little time in lining up a new recruit.
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For Gameweek 38
- van Persie
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“I am happy with the way I’ve started, but on the other hand, I should have scored four or five more, so that’s something for me to work on.”Robin Van Persie talks about his early form at United ahead of his first Manchester derby