When Chelsea started their golden period of 2004-2007, and even in the Indian summer of 2010, they had options up front, even if they chose not to exercise them. The frontline centred on Drogba and as time goes on, his role in Chelsea’s La Belle Epoch will be seen more and more as highly influential. The fact is, Torres is no Drogba and he’s never going to be. Unlike the great Ivorian, Torres cannot change games. He can – when in the mood – finish off the good work of others, but after almost two years, it just isn’t working, no matter how much Chelsea officials and supporters try to talk themselves into believing it will come good.
And now, it is also apparent that the options Manchester City and United have in the striking ranks is going to outgun Chelsea in pursuit of the title. Look at what’s happened in recent weeks – Hernandez at the Bridge and Villa Park, Dzeko off the bench to inspire City. Both players are not guaranteed starting places at their respective clubs, yet both would grace any top flight Premier club. The fact is, when the title race gets tough and form, suspensions and injuries kick in, Chelsea will not have the flexibility up front. United and City both have around four strikers of quality they can call on.
Opportunities may have been lost in the summer, for while Chelsea packed their midfield with arguably some of the most fleet-footed and nimble talent around – Oscar and Hazard – all the eggs fell into the Fernando Torres basket. You cannot blame Mr Abramovich for wanting to get a return from his £ 50m investment, but the price tag has weighed heavily on Torres’ and indeed, Chelsea’s shoulders. Everyone wants him to succeed, celebrating every Torres goal as if it’s his last – it could well be – and claiming the start of a new personal dawn for the Spaniard. The truth is, Torres’ performances are no better than a handful of average Premier strikers plying their trade elsewhere.
Have Chelsea done him justice? Patience aside, it has seemed as though the burden of expectation has been too much. He’s lacked a partner to play alongside and the singular striker role just might not suit him.
Perhaps it is time to cut the losses on Torres and look elsewhere. They had to give it two years, largely because of the fee, but that time is approaching and the transfer window is starting to creak open. Atletico Madrid’s Rademal Falcao is an obvious target (69 goals in 76 games versus 19 in 80 for Torres) – his mobility, finishing and virtuosity are all qualities that Chelsea lack beyond the midfield. But he won’t come cheap and the fee may approach the £50m tabled for Torres. Chelsea cannot afford to get it wrong again.
What went wrong with Torres? When he arrived at Chelsea, he was not exactly firing all cylinders at Liverpool. In his first three seasons at Anfield, his goalscoring form in the Premier was impressive: 24 in 33 games; 14 in 24; and 18 in 22. In 2010-11, he netted 9 in 23 before joining Chelsea. There was also constant talk of him moving and that he had become a “surly and sulking figure” – something he has often appeared to be at Chelsea. Some said he was past his best, but that a change of club would reinvigorate him. Despite winning the Golden Boot at Euro 2012, it has not really happened for him at Stamford Bridge.
There’s not a lot wrong with Chelsea’s side that a couple of January acquisitions would not solve. In defence they have to get it right, but that should be in their own hands. Likewise, once they face the truth about Torres, they should put a couple of strikers on their New Year shopping list. Do nothing and the advantages the Manchester clubs have in the “goals for” column may ensure Chelsea’s promise of late summer disappears in the depth of winter.