It was January 31st 2011 deadline day, and Chelsea fans all across the globe were smiling uncontrollably. Roman Abramovich had smashed the British transfer record and signed Fernando Torres for 50 million pounds. Fast forward 20 months and all Chelsea fans across the globe are frowning uncontrollably. Fernando Torres has been an undeniable flop, possibly the biggest flop in football history along with Kaka and Andy Carroll. There are three factors that one must analyze when evaluating Fernando Torres’s Chelsea career and those are; history, tactics, and personnel.
Fernando Torres has always been one of the greatest scorers of all time, in fact at one point he had the highest goals to game ratio in premiership history. For Liverpool Torres had an impressive 0.63 goals to game ratio in the premiership and an overall of 0. 57 goals to game ration in all competitions. Torres was always lethal for Liverpool getting on the end of every through ball and usually finishing any chance that came his way. He possessed scary pace, a good touch and had the confidence to shoot from anywhere just look at his goal against Sunderland in 2010. “Nevertheless all of those glistening attributes have somehow disappeared, and now Torres can’t even put away the mitre footballs served up in training.”
Some say it was injuries, and confidence, but whatever the reason the attributes that made Torres worth 50 million pounds have escaped him. Maybe it was due to the fact that he has played under pressure and has had a lot of football in the past 8 years. Being captain of Atletico Madrid at just 18, and being a vital part for Spain and Liverpool for years. All those factors could’ve been an excuse but then again he did thrive in those situations. Thus one must ask themselves what is the enigma that is Fernando Torres?. One way to solve this mystery is by looking at the tactics which have been implemented at Chelsea for the past two seasons.
Over the past decade Chelsea have played with a 4-3-3 with many variations; in the Mourinho years it was a flat back 4 with a holder (Makelele) a center mid slightly pushed up on the right (Essien) and then another center mid pushed further up on the left (Lampard). However when Torres arrived it was during the Ancelotti years. Ancelotti first played Torres in a 4-3-1-2 formation with Anelka and Drogba accompanying him in a three pronged attack. It did not work as it quickly became evident that all three strikers would not be able to work together thus any goal supply would suffer a massive shortage. Ancelotti switched back to a traditional 4-3-3 with wingbacks giving width and a flat middle 3. Torres was still starved of any supply, and some said it was due to the fact that it was the magical Steven Gerrard who played just in behind Torres that supplied all of his goals. Fast forward to the 2011-2012 campaign where AVB comes in and uses a more innovative 4-3-3 with Juan Mata being brought in to be the service provider for Torres. At the start of the 2011-2012 campaign Torres looked good as he had some pace, was holding up the ball well, and seemed to be fitting in. However as games passed by so did Torres’s confidence and skill as he went on a 25 hour and 40 minute goal drought (that is a David Ngog esque stat). Although Torres scored an important goal against Barcelona and a hat trick against QPR late in the season he still failed to impress as he looked out of shape and out of form. This brings us to the Roberto Di Matteo era specifically this season. RDM plays a 4-2-3-1 formation which was the same formation that Torres thrived under at Liverpool. The only difference is, Chelsea have much better personnel than Liverpool did. The likes of Hazard, Mata, Oscar, and Moses all cost Abramovich around 80 million pounds, and all that money just to get the best out of Torres. Viewing it from a tactical perspective these players are all born from the school of tiki-taka. They possess a tremendous ability to find little pockets of space and deliver excellent through balls for players like Torres who like to run in behind defences. Under RDM this season these three magicians have been doing just that the only problem is Torres still fails to find the net. Last week against Stoke City, Mata delivered a nice chip through ball to Torres who brought it down brilliantly but completely made a meal of it. In summary the tactics have been spot on to help Torres yet he still fails to deliver (thus far) now it’s time to look at the player himself.
There have been many theories out there about how to get the best out of Torres. For example: he needs to feel loved, he needs to be the first choice, the team needs to be built around him etc. None of these theories have worked so far and Chelsea have tried everything imaginable. First Chelsea tried to play him with a bigger stronger forward (Drogba) in order to provide him with space to make his runs. Then Chelsea brought in his Spanish teammate and friend Juan Mata in order to supply him with service. Then Chelsea tried to create the entire team around him by bringing in a lot of players who can give him service. Lastly, Chelsea have also made him the main striker by loaning out the likes of Lukaku and shunning Sturridge. With regards to managers approach, AVB tried to give him tough love, while RDM is trying to give him adoration and praise. Nothing seems to be working so at what point does Torres look at himself and say I have to step up.
In summary, Roman Abramovich has technically thrown 180 million pounds at the Torres project as he has brought in many players to supply him, and many coaches to get the best out of him. One stat that stands out is the fact that In Torres’s first 50 games for Liverpool he scored a whopping 33 goals. As opposed to his first 50 games for Chelsea where he has scored an appalling 9 goals. It is time for Roman to let go of his dream, he has done excellent things for Chelsea by; bringing in these new players, and building a mini La Masia at Cobham. However if Chelsea truly want to dominate Europe they either need a new striker like a Falcao, Neymar, or Damiao or for Torres to wake up. At this point it’s more likely that Chelsea will succeed without Torres. For all Chelsea fans who disagree with me feel free to do so in the comments section below.
Gerald Baffour @gerald_baffour