Fernando Torres, The Ghost of Stamford Bridge Against Man United
Chelsea’s vital win Tuesday night against Manchester United will help their bragging rights, but it certainly wasn’t a performance that you would expect from the current title holder of the Premier League. For the first 40 minutes of the game, Chelsea were flaccid, playing like an away team and constantly losing possession.
Around the 40th minute, Chelsea created their first real chance of the game when Frank Lampard’s rocket of a free kick was saved by Edwin van der Sar, but Branislav Ivanovic was unable to get a clean hit on the rebound which van der Sar had two further swipes at before the ball was cleared away.
After that, for long periods of time, the only danger that Chelsea seemed to cause was from set plays.
But in the second half, the game changed completely after David Luiz scored an equalizer in the 54th minute with a superbly taken shot that most strikers would have been proud of. From that moment on, Chelsea gained a massive dose of confidence and they were a changed team thereafter.
Except for one man. Fernando Torres.
The former Liverpool striker looked lost at sea for almost the entire 90 minutes. The only moment where you saw a glimpse of his former magic was near the end of the match where he cut back and opened space in front of goal but ended passing the ball into the box instead only for the ball to be cleared away.
But consider, for a second, his stats from the game against Manchester during his 90 minutes (plus five minutes of stoppage time):
- 3 shots: 2 off target, 1 blocked
- 25 passes: 16 successful (a pass completion percentage of 64%), 9 unsuccessful. Of those 16 successful passes, only eight were in a forward motion; the others were side-to-side or backwards
- 2 interceptions
- 7 tackles: 2 won (28%), 5 lost
- 1 clearance attempted: 0 successful
- 0 blocks
- 1 free kick won, 2 conceded
And that’s it from 95 minutes of playing. Value for money for a £50 million player? I don’t think so. Torres was a ghost on the Stamford Bridge pitch. He seemed to be wandering around the penalty area at times, looking unsure of where he should stand and being unable to read the intentions of his Chelsea teammates who had the ball. Other times he tried to connect with Michael Essien and other players, but the understanding between the players was not there.
To be fair, Torres is at a new club with a set of players that he has not had experience playing with. It’ll take to gain an understanding. And the Spaniard is also coming off a demoralizing six months at Liverpool where nothing seemed to go right (other than a win against Chelsea earlier this season where Torres finally showed the spark that he know him for).
But to watch him now is sad. Yes, he’s the type of player that if given one chance can make a massive difference in a game and score a crucial goal. But Didier Drogba showed more in 30 minutes of action than Torres did for the entire 90. At the same time, the service that Torres got was weak. Ramires tried to link up with him a few times, but the accuracy of the passes weren’t precise enough to give Torres a chance.
That’s why he looks lost at sea at Chelsea. He’s not getting the service he needs. And he’s not able to create something out of nothing. No offense to Manchester United but it wasn’t because Torres was marked out of the game. Torres was often open enough to give him a chance to create something, but the Chelsea players were not on the same wavelength as Torres.
It’s obvious that Torres’s partnership up front with Nicolas Anelka isn’t working. It may be best for Chelsea to go back to the Anelka-Drogba partnership which is far more deadly than when Torres is on the pitch. Right now, with the way Torres is playing, I don’t see him scoring a goal in the league anytime soon. Perhaps he can get a run out against Copenhagen again in the return leg of the Champions League, to see if he can regain his striking prowess as well as helping the rest of the Chelsea players to gel with Torres the playmaker.
Luckily for Chelsea on Tuesday night, they didn’t end up needing Torres to work his magic to win this match. He may have been a ghost at Stamford Bridge, but it was a valiant effort by the Blues in the second half that won this game for Chelsea as well as some fortunate refereeing decisions that helped their cause. But when the going gets tough and Chelsea needs Torres to be the difference in games between now and the end of the season, the jury is out whether or not he can step up and take the responsibility. Based on his current form, I don’t think he’s mentally or physically capable of doing it. But as we saw Tuesday night, a goal can change everything And the Luiz goal changed Chelsea. A goal for Torres may perhaps change his confidence too.