Being a Chelsea supporter has brought its fair share of ups and downs over the past few seasons. No player has embodied this more than Fernando Torres. There is no question that the striker has not scored enough goals to justify the $80 million Roman Abramovich shelled out for him during last season’s January transfer window. However, that does not mean he has been completely ineffective.
Despite the low goal tally, I’ve been impressed with the majority of Torres’ performances this season. He’s found ways to make an impact in other areas of play.
When Torres joined Chelsea, most of Chelsea’s problems towards the end Carlo Ancelotti’s reign were rooted in the midfield. Frank Lampard was injured for a good portion of the campaign, while Yossi Benayoun was lost for the entire season due to a torn achilles. As a result, Chelsea’s midfield was in a state of flux until Lampard returned to full fitness in March. Bringing in Torres was going to do nothing to alleviate these issues. Ancelotti never seemed quite sure how to integrate Torres into the squad. Whether Fernando was slightly injured for most of that season will always be a mystery, but whatever lack of confidence he may have had at the time was probably worsened by the inconsistent playing time he received under Ancelotti. Combined with the lack of consistent service from the midfield, Torres did not have a great chance of success early on at Chelsea. Eight total league starts spread out over 4 months is not going to bring a striker back to form.
The start of this season brought much of the same. The purchase of Juan Mata and the development of Ramires had helped to shore up the midfield. Torres was clearly not a part of the plan AVB was trying to implement as he continued to receive spot starts every now and then. The two early season moments fans remember are the glaring miss against Manchester United and the red card against Swansea, but in both of those games he managed to find the back of the net as well. The signs were there, but until he received consistent starts nobody could be quite sure whether he would return to form.
Drogba’s trip to the African Cup Of Nations coupled with a few injuries gave Torres the chance he needed to get back into the spotlight, and this is when I began to notice why he was still an effective player for stretches. His work rate during the second half of this season has been tremendous. He has been all over the field, tracking back to help the midfielders if needed and constantly drifting to keep defenses off balance. This has also increased his assist total. Twelve total assists in all competitions is very impressive for a forward, and he has been providing good service from wide out on the right, especially since Roberto Di Matteo took the reigns. This was highlighted in the winner against Benfica last week — a fantastic 30 yard run from the right touchline into the box to provide the cross for Kalou’s goal.
Does Torres need to start finding the net more? Absolutely, but I feel like some of the criticism he has received since he arrived at Chelsea has been slightly unjustified. He was thrown into a very difficult situation and was not given the chance he needed to succeed. The more we see of Torres week in and week out as the season draws to a close, the better he is starting to play. Let’s hope it results in more clinical finishes like we saw on Saturday.