The capture of Fernando Torres from Liverpool back in January was unquestionably a further illustration of narcissism on Roman Abramovich’s part. The Spaniard evidently was no part of the Carlo Ancelotti blueprint and left him struggling to incorporate the striker into what was already a dithering side [Chelsea’s worst run of form in the winter months in their entire history], ultimately Ancelotti was sacrificed as ‘The Blues’ succumbed to their least successful season since before the Abramovich era. So, the much loved Italian departed from Stamford Bridge leaving Fernando Torres remaining as the satirical figure in West London.
Going into the 2011/2012 season the emphasis will still be on Fernando Torres, his unconvincing first 18 games for Chelsea will have left eyes very much on seeing whether he can produce; mark my words the expletives will still be very much at the ready come August. In fact, already this pre-season we have seen Andre Villas-Boas trying to deflect focus away from the Spaniard.
Going into this season there are a number of positives and negatives to consider for Fernando Torres.
We’ll start with the positives.
In the last couple of years Torres has seen the underside of the operating table far more than he would ever have liked; hernia, knee, hamstring all troubling the striker, and for the most part he would return right back into a full programme of football. This summer is the first in 3 years since he has been able to enjoy a proper summer break, the European Championship, Confederations Cup and World Cup all interrupting what could, and should have been vital rehabilitation periods. Hopefully this year’s off season will have provided the much needed break to propel the once formidable striker into gear.
The arrival of Andre Villas-Boas has provided a resounding sense of optimism around the Cobham camp and the team has gone into a pre-season in which they have scored four goals, conceding none. Yet, more comparisons can be made here with Jose Mourinho; although that is both for another day and in my opinion not how we will see the team unfold in the coming season. This fresh start and change of management should have aid with confidence issues that have haunted Torres of late.
The negatives comprise of the following.
Going into the 2011/2012 season, which in my opinion looks to be built upon further malaise for Fernando Torres, means still having to deal with the £50m price-tag hanging above his head and for a player whose confidence is wanting, it comes as a superfluous requirement.
It has been well documented that Fernando Torres performs to his best ability when played as a lone striker. This has been justified during Euro 2008, post David Villa injury when Spain switched from a 4-1-3-2 to 4-1-4-1 formation resulting in a much improved performance toward the end of the competition. Furthermore his most formidable season in the Premier League, in 2007/2008 with Liverpool, was when he was deployed in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Kuyt and Riise in the wide positions and Gerrard in behind. Throughout last season we saw the incessant use of 4-4-2, to the persistent exacerbation of Torres’ situation. Torres does not and will not perform without the continuous supply and creativity of those behind him.
The team as a whole last season didn’t seem to suit any individual in particular, not least Torres. Frank Lampard remained lost in a system that doesn’t give him the opportunity to push forward into the positions he has been so used to in the previous seasons and Fernando Torres has been subjected to the half-hearted attacking wingers of Florent Malouda and Nicholas Anelka, who rarely seek the touchline more than a handful of times every match. More often than not it is the wing-backs of Ashley Cole, Branislav Ivanovic, Jose Bosingwa and Yuri Zhirkov who provide the width at Stamford Bridge, a systemic movement which only concludes in the further restriction on Torres’ style of play.
Ancelotti spent much of last season exchanging the subject with Didier Drogba. With the Ivorian set to sign a one-year extension it looks as if once again Torres will have immediate competition for a place, Andre Villas-Boas himself has already stated that he is unlikely to play them both as a partnership, and quite rightly so. The fact remains that they are both lone strikers and the removal of a winger to accommodate for one just does not work. Torres himself has the pace, physical strength and movement to house this position on a world-class level himself, though it works in a very different manner to Drogba.
The Spaniard is most potent when racing into the space between centre-halves and full-backs onto balls slipped forward into areas which are exploited. Its these through balls and deftly delivered passes over the top of opposition defences which Torres thrives upon, observed from the modest amount of opportunities we’ve see him play with Yossi Benayoun last season and pre-season this year. This need for creativity is, as everyone knows, exactly what lacks from the current Chelsea side and the pursuit of Luka Modric from Tottenham could be the answer. However, with the prospective capture of the Croatian dwindling the need to bring in a comparable player remains ever more important to the Fernando Torres cause.
It seems the prerequisite that Chelsea themselves are presenting will continue to restrain Fernando Torres from his true devastating potential, collectively with excuses that Didier Drogba presents.
The hyperbole continuing to surround El Niño will maintain the expletives that Fernando Torres, coupled with past injuries, lacking confidence and loss of half-a-yard has resulted in a player who may, in fact never return to previous form. This barrage of ambiguity is though I feel, for the most part, unfounded. Fernando Torres has not been sited into a team which conform to his attributes; it remains a team fabricated upon the backbone of the Jose Mourinho era. Structure and creativity must form the defining factors in the 2011/2012 season if we are to see the best from this once world beater.
A great deal of faith and sanguinity has been placed in Fernando Torres, however many teammates have distanced the striker from comparisons with the disastrous Andrei Shevchencko, stating that unlike the Ukrainian, improvements have been seen continually and that ‘his time will come.’ When this time will arrive, however remains to be seen.
By Ben Pinkney – Chelsea fan – @benpinkney42