Oh Fernando. You were, and quite possibly still are, one of the most talented strikers in football.
The performances shown for Atlítico Madrid, the Spanish national team and, to the greatest annoyance of all Chelsea supporters, Liverpool, have proven this point. But then why do you fail to replicate these performances for our beloved Chelsea?
Is it just a dramatic loss of confidence? Failing to settle in a new town? Don’t like a blue kit? Or maybe, as some highly educated tacticians say, your change in hair style/colour?
Obviously I will not be the first person, or the most qualified person to ask this question, but we can always hope I’m one of the last- otherwise a divorce may be necessary.
In my humble opinion, the relative failure of Mr Torres in the Royal Blue should be narrowed to two vital points; either he isn’t as good as we thought, and he can’t handle playing for a title challenging team (Liverpool annoyance intended). Or, the rest of the team isn’t playing well enough to induce your fantastic performances once seen across Europe.
Firstly, is he still the player ‘he used to be’? In the first half of last season, his performances for Liverpool were criticised even by the most die-hard Anfield followers for ‘lacking passion and desire’. Despite this, he still turned in the goals and assists- most poignantly, the curling effort that saw off Chelsea.
Then after various forms of transport been reported he turned up at the Bridge just in time to make the deadline on the 1st January. His first appearance, a very misguided decision, even stupid, was against Liverpool. The proceeding failure against 11 old friends was most certainly not the best confidence builder for ‘El Nino’, but then, it’s just one game isn’t it.
To make it worse, we, as Chelsea fans, sang his name in a tune to which the Liverpool fans had created and even copied their flag (leaving the Shankley gates on it); this did not help. The rest of the season showed a staggering, stuttering, passive pace to Fernando’s game, but still, we could justify this with ‘settling-in’ and ‘the pressure of his price-tag’.
This season, where he was declared to be a new man and back to his best, blonde locks and all, has still been disappointing; but maybe for different reasons. This season, his inconsistent appearances early on and now where he has taken the full weight of been the main striker on his shoulders in Drogba’s absence, have shown a different Fernando. He has regained some pace, a sharp turn, the ability to control the ball and, most importantly, some desire to get hold of the ball.
Despite this, although improving his performances and contributing to the team, as AVB would say, he has still not been prolific in front of goal. Is there something else stopping his progression?
The more and more I watch this Chelsea team, the more I think that the problem may be deeper than just one misfiring, highly rated and highly paid striker. Looking back a couple of years, when we went into every game full of confidence. You remember the days? A solid defence, dynamic midfield and most importantly for this point, a crushing forward threesome?
Well, the forward three in those days, involved two flying wingers and in Didier a striker with enough physical presence to outwit defenders when the crosses weren’t perfect and the though balls were over hit. This system does not suit Fernando Torres. Fernando has been used to, and requires, midfielders that will slip in a through ball to feet and create enough space in behind him to allow him to perfect his ‘touch, turn and shoot.’ This is the link between his success at previous teams, and his failure at Chelsea.
The purchase of Mata and Meireles and development of Sturridge seem to want to change this, but it seems that the squad is set in playing in their Mourinho-esque 4-3-3 style. The desire to change may have been too quick or, dare I say, against the wishes of some squad members.
The old guard are perfectly capable of playing in this way; Lampard for instance, is fully capable of setting Torres free with a quick through ball.
The other view would be that some players simply don’t want to change- Malouda, Mikel and Kalou, seem reluctant to change their ways and sometimes even reluctant to pass to Fernando, in what would seem like a playground style jealousy of falling from Mr Abramovich’s grace.
Whatever your view; whether you think Torres has simply ‘lost it’ or you think it’s more of a deeper crack within the team’s style and desire, all Chelsea fans should agree it’s a problem that needs to be resolved quickly. Fernando was an expensive purchase, but the cost of the relationship, if performances continue to stutter, or drop further, could be a lot more than expense of the divorce.