The current situation at Chelsea is somewhat confusing. Under the management of Rafa Benitez, when the team is playing well, they are pretty much unbeatable, winning matches against Nordsjaelland and Aston Villa by scores of 6-1 and 8-0 respectively. However, there is still the potential for the team to suffer catastrophic defeats, with losses to Corinthians, QPR and most recently Swansea City have called into question their consistency. But, one element that fans were considering with the appointment of Benitez is the revitalising effect his regime would have on the form of Fernando Torres.
If you were being kind, you would say that Torres hasn’t exactly lived up to the expectations that come with being the most expensive transfer in English history. If instead you were being realistic, you would call his time at Chelsea an unmitigated disappointment. The man that scored goals for fun in the most impressive Liverpool team in the twenty-first century under the direction of Benitez seems to have switched places with his uncoordinated twin brother. Many have noted that since joining Chelsea he has become a shell of his former self, and while he used to terrify defences across the country, now his best bet is his continued misses cause defenders to collapse laughing.
I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon by stating that his ability has gone, because some of the goals he has scored at Chelsea have displayed an instinct that goes beyond most other strikers in the Premier League. However, football is a game of confidence, and at the moment Torres seems to play with an expression of desperation on his face with every missed opportunity. How many times in his time with the Blues have you heard fans and pundits suggest that he is about to kick-on and rediscover his previous form? It is far too many to suggest that Torres has at any point in his tenure been in any sort of continual form. That is why against Swansea he was completely outshone by a player worth twenty-five times less than him in the form of Michu.
That being said, can Chelsea win the Premier League with Fernando Torres? It is an interesting point of discussion. The last time Chelsea spent such a huge lump of money on a player, they spent £30 million on Andrei Shevchenko, and whilst he was at the club, Chelsea fell from the dominant force in English football into perennial runners-up. Now, that isn’t entirely down to the effort of Shevchenko, as more than one player makes up a team. However, the only way for a team to achieve victories is to score goals, and if your most prominent striker cannot be trusted to consistently find the back of the net.
There is even more of a focus on Torres than there was with Shevchenko, because until very recently he hasn’t had another striker to fall back on. If reports are to be believed, Roman Abramovich is adamant that Torres must feature in the club’s most important games, whereas in the past he could be interchanged with Didier Drogba, a club legend for his knack for scoring key goals. Some suggested that the departure of Drogba would be the relaxing influence that Torres needed, as he would now be the main striker and would no longer have to fear losing his place for poor performances. The extent to which that has proven to be true is questionable – he has scored more goals already this season than in his previous season-and-a-half at Chelsea. However, it appears that his name no longer features in discussions regarding the country’s elite strikers. “Torres” can not really be mentioned in the same breath as “Van Persie” or “Suarez”.
And now, even if the release of Drogba was similarly a release for Torres to become a more regular goalscorer, that work may be undone with the arrival of Demba Ba from Newcastle, one of the leading goalscorers in the league this season so far. The competition for a starting place will be fiercer than it has ever been, with a striker in form not likely to have joined Chelsea to roll over and sit on the bench. But, the pundits still insist that this could be a good thing for Torres, as it will give him support and a player to keep him on his toes to ensure that he doesn’t lose his place in the starting eleven.
When will this so-called experts give it a rest in finding the correct formula to get Torres scoring? So far none of the previous measures have resulted in his old goalscoring exploits returning to the forefront, so why would they persist in suggesting old problems. A second striker hasn’t worked; being the only striker hasn’t worked; being managed by Rafa Benitez hasn’t worked. I’m not saying a formula isn’t out there, but it has to come from Torres himself. The very best strikers can thrive in any environment and score goals with any opportunity that arrives. Torres is lacking confidence, and therefore he is lacking form – he needs to find both if he is to be the effective lead line for Chelsea that he was expected to be when he signed for £50 million. He is currently not worth that amount of money – in fact, if Chelsea signed Ba for £7.5 million, then Torres is barely worth £5 million.
The question of this article is whether or not Chelsea can win the Premier League with Fernando Torres. If the question is if this current Chelsea team can win the Premier League then the answer is yes. There is more than enough ability within the team that when they are on form, no team in the division can stop them. They are European Champions for a very good reason. However, will they be able to win it with Torres leading the line in every single match? Not unless he finds the consistency in front of goal that a number of his contemporary strikers seem to have available to them. The killer instinct is currently lacking, but if he finds it again then everybody realises the havoc he could cause in the penalty areas of the oppostion.
Chelsea won the Champions League with Fernando Torres, but he was entirely outshone by the exploits of Drogba in the final. But, his clinical finish in the semi-final against Barcelona was one of the most memorable footballing moments of 2012, and display above all else that he can shine in the grand occasion. But, if you were to ask me now, I have to say that nothing Torres has done throughout his time at the club has convinced me that he can be a Premier League winner through his goalscoring exploits. Hopefully (if you’re a Chelsea fan at least) he can prove me wrong, because Torres at his best is a lesson for all aspiring footballers into the art of being a striker.
However, the only lesson he is teaching kids at the moment is how to collapse when the spotlight is shining on you most brightly.
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