After spending my fairly short days scrolling through YouTube on my new Macbook, it seems evident that Fernando Torres is a shade of the player he used to be four years ago. Well if I told you I’ve reached this conclusion this week I’d be lying as many have realized this over the last two years, but after watching a few 07/08 compilations and a few Spain games at Euro 08 not one person four years ago would’ve expected Torres career to fall into the path it has. Torres, 28, is in the peak of his career and will carry loads of pressure over his head as he’ll be Chelsea’s main striker next season.
Once upon a time Torres was the most feared striker in European football, he was sharp, possessed an aerial threat, had loads of pace, strong on and off the ball and was the calmest of finishers in front of goal. After a few injuries that he didn’t fully recover from, Torres was forced to have surgery twice in 2010 on his right knee. Many define that as the downfall in his career, as he hasn’t been able to replicate his form prior to the surgery, in which he drastically lost his sharpness and pace. Although he was not a permanent starter for Spain or Chelsea, in the last two years Torres was still able to become a World, European (club & country) and an F.A. cup champion; all that’s missing is the Premier league title.
Torres completed his £50 move to Chelsea 18 months ago, and has yet to replicate his form that saw him blossom into a World Class striker at Liverpool. In Torres first season alone at Liverpool he scored 33 goals in all competitions compared to the 12 he’s scored in the 18 months during his time thus far at Stamford Bridge. Apart from Barcelona & Manchester United, Torres has scored against the likes of Genk, Aston Villa, Leiceister City, Swansea, QPR & West Ham. These teams sit in the bottom half of the table or currently play in the Championship, apart from Genk who aren’t world beaters. Now many have harshly judged Torres during his tenure at the West London club based on the amount of goals he’s scored, and even Torres has stated “It was a complicated season for me. It doesn’t mean it was bad, but it was complicated with very difficult moments for me. But to see my family happy after the final, you see, whatever happened during the season was worth it.”
One can admit that he is underachieving, but he has slowly grown into an all around striker, and all that’s missing is goals. His presence on the field provided more space for Chelsea, and saw them move the ball more freely compared to when Didier Drogba was on the pitch. His darting runs would always keep defenders on there toes and peg them deeper which presented more space for the likes of Juan Mata and Ramires to operate. He also played a massive role in their Champions League run, yes Didier Drogba stole the headlines, but Torres was just as important. Yes, the same Torres that assisted Salomon Kalou’s all important away goal at Estadio de Luz, that scored the tying goal that finished off Barcelona at the Camp Nou and that won the corner that led to Drogba’s tying goal in the Champions League Final.
Before the injuries, when Torres was in his prime, their were a handful of people who rated Drogba over him. The reason simply was that Drogba could win you a game on his own, he didn’t always require the service that Torres needs. He possessed the ability to take over a game at any moment. Hear we are, approximately four-five years later and those who weren’t believers, are now agreeing with what those handful of people have been preaching for a while. Although his injuries didn’t help, his move to Chelsea, and competing with Drogba displayed Drogba’s superiority over Torres.
Torres move to Stamford Bridge on deadline day in January 2011 appeared to be another over priced signing that Roman Abramovich always wanted in his squad. Chelsea manager at the time Carlo Ancelotti didn’t seem like he orchestrated the move, and Torres like expected didn’t fit into the Chelsea system that has stayed the same since Jose Mourinho’s arrival in 2004. Chelsea heavily relied on a commanding CF that could hold up the ball and constantly have his back to goal, which is what Drogba excels at.
Whereas Torres received constant service from midfielders such Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard, and had plenty of space to make the darting diagonal runs due to Liverpool’s reliance on wide wingers, who hugged the touchline and provided more space in the final third, as Rafa Benitez set his team up in a 4-2-3-1. Torres is a striker that relies on quality service from out wide or balls slipped in b ehind the back four or lobbed over the top; he received this countless service at Liverpool and Atletico Madrid which is why he succeeded there. It’s safe to say Torres form, confidence, and stats hit an all time low and that was because he never fit into the Chelsea system. “Now I do feel like football is worth it but I’ve been through a difficult time. The worst in my career. I don’t want that again. There’s been many times when I’ve felt lost, I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt like I didn’t know where I belonged.” said Torres, when asked about his season after winning the Champions League.
Sadly, Chelsea haven’t had a natural winger since the days of Arjen Robben & Damien Duff. The only creative playmaker they had was Juan Mata, who had a bright start to his Chelsea career but due to the large amounts of fixtures was burnt out midway through the season and suffered a dip in form. Yes Torres missed some glorious chances, but the problem was Chelsea created not even a quarter of the amount of chances he received during his time at Anfield. The Chelsea midfield was aging and becoming less productive, which didn’t benefit Torres at all and left him isolated up top throughout several periods in his Stamford Bridge career.
“Form is temporary, class is permanent” is a quote that is merely overused in today’s society, but with a new Premier League season approaching Torres can put an end to this played out quote. What if class is temporary as well? For the neutral and many Torres fans, it has been a frustrating two years, but maybe the world-class striker we grew to love is finished. We’ve seen glimpses that he still has it, but it hasn’t been on a consistant basis. With Didier Drogba taking his career abroad and Chelsea not looking to pick up another striker, it’s evident that Torres is the main man at Stamford Bridge.
With the arrivals, of Edin Hazard, Marko Marin, Kevin De Bruyne, and the high possibility of Hulk and Oscar joining the club, the team is being built around Torres as the club is trying to play an exquisite brand of football and play to Torres strengths. The creativity, the width and the belief the club and fans have put into Torres must’ve increased his confidence; and it’s fair to say he has better talent to work with now than at Liverpool. It’s also safe to say this is his time to shine.
Failure to succeed under this new era dawning at Stamford Bridge can see Chelsea adverting to a possible 4-6-0 that we saw Spain orchestrate with Hazard as the ‘false nine’ or see the youth in Romelu Lukaku or Daniel Sturridge lead the line if another top striker or Hulk doesn’t join the club. Exciting times are ahead at Stamford Bridge with this new crop of highly rated youngsters joining the fray, Roberto Di Matteo as the gaffer, and their mission to knock City off their perch while retaining their European title. In order for those goals to be met, Chelsea will need all their players playing at their best and for Di Matteo, including Torres.
This is the most important moment in his career and he has a chance to lead what is now his team to a Premier League title, the only major title he hasn’t claimed during his stay in England. Now, the Premier League title isn’t a mandatory requirement for the Spanish striker, but goals are. The stage is now yours Fernando, failure to meet the required standards should leave even the biggest El Niño fans admitting that we will never see the Fernando Torres we fell in love with ever again. Scary isn’t it ?