Can Chelsea Bring the best out of Fernando Torres?

by Jasveer Singh Gill

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

OK Liverpool fans, he has gone now, get over it. Now that he is officially a Chelsea player the question is can they get the best out of Fernando Torres?

Chelsea fans will scoff at this question. Why wouldn’t Chelsea be able to get the best out of him? He is a top player, they are a top club. Yet, as football history tells us, it is never as simple as that.

If Torres does not reach the high standards that he should it will not be for lack of ability. For the best part of his career Torres has looked nothing short of a world-class striker. He is big, strong and very quick. He is good in the air, has excellent dribbling skills, is a superb striker of the ball and caps it all of with a predatory forwards instinct that sees him score every type of goal – from tap-ins to outrageous volleys.

      However, from the build up to the 2010 World Cup Torres has not looked the same player. Chelsea fans will simply say it has all been down to his lack of commitment to the Liverpool cause, as he wanted out since last summer and was not playing with his heart. But sometimes when you have been playing in a lazy and uncommitted manner, it is hard to get out of that style. See how many times Ronaldinho has said since 2006 that he has got himself into the best shape he has ever been in, yet still not looked the player that he once was.

It was not just what happened with Liverpool though, as Torres suffered a very poor World Cup. The World Cup is a place where many football greats have left their best days, as having a disaster in the most watched tournament in the world can change a player’s confidence forever. Think Roberto Baggio, Paul Gascoigne and even Ronaldo (until he got a chance to redeem himself in the following World Cup).

Torres has still showed in glimpses since than, most notably and ironically against Chelsea this season, that he is still a genius. This is why Chelsea were happy to pay such a huge sum for him, which brings the next question.

Can he live up to being the 4th most expensive transfer in history? It is a hefty burden, being worth the price of a small island (maybe even Ireland in these times of economic discordance). Yet it is probably just the shot in the arm that Torres needs to boost confidence again. With John Terry in his ear telling him how good he is, confidence is one thing Torres will surely gain from this move to Chelsea. He will gain confidence in his ability thanks to the price Chelsea paid for him, he will now have confidence in his teammates considering the calibre of players such as Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Frank Lampard etc and confidence he can go on to win trophies with the club.

Settling in should not be a problem either, as the cosmopolitan nature of London will allow Torres to perhaps feel even more comfortable than he did in Liverpool. So with a confident and settled Torres in the team, what could go wrong? Tactics.

During the 2010 World Cup Torres, because of injury, had not been totally ingrained in the 4-3-3 formation that Spain used. The formation which directly mimicked Barcelona, required everyone to get involved in play. Spain had previously brought the best out of Torres in 2008 playing a diamond formation with a midfield of Marcos Senna, Xavi, Andre Iniesta and David Silva. Torres and David Villa were allowed in this formation to play as out-and-out strikers, although when Villa got injured Cesc Fabregas came in to change the formation again.

Whilst it would be stupid to say Torres, without ever really having a chance, can not play in any of the forward three positions in a 4-3-3, we know so far the few times he has done in the 2010 World Cup he did not play great. With Didier Drogba more often than not looking the ideal middle-man in the front three of the 4-3-3 Torres, this season, may have to alter his game to play wider than he is used to.

Chelsea do definitely also have the option of playing a diamond midfield, which they have done already this season, with Essien, Ramires, Florent Malouda and Lampard at the point of the diamond. This could allow Torres to partner Drogba upfront in what on paper would look like the most dangerous partnership perhaps in Premiership history and is a formation which has previously brought the best out of him (Euro 2008). Still, without out-and-out wingers this formation would depend on Lampard’s ability to supply through-balls to Torres, something of which he is definitely capable of, but again Lampard is more used to coming from deeper where he is not so closely marked and gets more freedom.

The very best football we have seen Torres play is when a fully fit Steven Gerrard was played just off him. Gerrard had the ability to pick Torres out with clever passes and also use his own athleticism to make diversion runs. The many number of times the two combined to create goals for each other shows this is the perfect type of partner for Torres. While Lampard may have the ability to find a pass like Gerrard, he does not have the pace or power that his Liverpool counterpart does, so will not be making the kind of runs that could give Torres more space to wreak havoc. Similarly, Drogba, whilst having all the athleticism, does not have the ability to create that would suit Torres, nor does Nicolas Anelka.

It is not just tactics at Chelsea that could stop Torres fulfilling his potential there; the whole dynamic of the club is changing. The spine of the team since 2005, John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, are all over 30 now. It is clear with the amount of young players they are trying to bring through to the first team Chelsea are going through a transitional period to build a new team. This could mean more signings and perhaps departures too, at Chelsea. Carlos Ancelotti’s future is not even guaranteed, especially if Chelsea end up finishing anywhere of the top two in the Premiership which is a big possibility right now.

Torres will come to Chelsea and find confidence, he just may not find his position right away. He will find he can adapt to life in London easily but may find the club can not adapt to the changes that are needed. Can Chelsea bring the best out of Torres? We can only wait and see.

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  • Johnson

    I am neither a Liverpool nor Chelsea fan but I am confused by what you seem to argue in this article. It seems to infer that whilst Chelsea are “a top club” Liverpool are not? To me is is confusing seeing that it is only in the past few years that Chelsea have risen ( due entirely to a multi-millionare benefactor) to win a few trophies whereas Liverpool are giants in the trophy stakes. I can also hardly find a welter of enthusiasm or interest worldwide for Chelsea but the opposite for Liverpool who seem to be only rivalled in popularity by Manchester United. I perhaps am missing something here and should understand just why it is de rigeur to kick Liverpool during this bad spell in their history? I suppose Manchester City will be next to fall foul of “pundits”….

  • RedNProud

    Nice, balanced article. The biggest obstacle that Nando faces is his attitude. When he first came to Liverpool he played for the team but over the years that has changed to “Torres playing for Torres”.
    If Chealsea want to get the best from him they will have to change his mind set or adapt their style of play to suit him.
    Sorry to see him leave as he gave us some great memories and I wish him and his family all the best (except on Sunday).

  • Simon

    Excellent article. My sense is he may well struggle. One thing Torres seems to enjoy is being the star of the team. He had that at Athletico and Liverpool but it is not certain he will have it at Chelsea. But maybe all of that is just wishful thinking on my part! As long as he never scores again I’ll be happy!

  • flameogundeji

    i am a chelsea fan and i belive with torres and drogba at the front,chelsea can still perform better in thier remaining games.

  • Jazz Gill

    @ Johnson — the reason I called Chelsea a top club is because they are reigning champions of England, in the Champions League and generally considered one of the best clubsides in the world today. Liverpool are not any of these things, yet this is not what the article was about at all, it is simply asking a questioning (not arguing either way) if and how Chelsea can get the best out of Torres

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