Fernando Torres has produced some pretty dreadful performances since swapping the all-red outfit of Liverpool for the all-blue kit of Chelsea. If you want to dig out an example of his hopelessness, look no further than his dire effort in the 3-1 defeat at West Ham.
All of which must make it particularly awkward when Chelsea’s manager this past week or so, the much loathed Rafael Benitez (loathed, that is, at Stamford Bridge – he’s generally well liked within the wider football family) sits down to have his personal meetings with Chelsea’s most expensive signing, Fernando Torres.
The two men share Spanish blood, but stronger than that is the link they established at Liverpool. So quickly did Torres adapt to the cut-and-thrust of the Premier League in his first season at Anfield, 2007-08, that he racked up a seriously impressive 33 goals across all competitions and 24 in the English top flight.
Torres, still a precocious youth back then, had explosive speed, electric feet and was blessed with a rare confidence that carried him through to the Euro 2008 final, where he scored the goal in the final against Germany that put Spain on the road to global domination.
Personally, his own life story hasn’t quite panned out so gloriously. The best bit of business Liverpool ever did was flogging him to Chelsea for a cool £50m when it was clear as day that the world had already seen the best of Torres. He was never able to recapture that one incredible season for club and country. Injuries started cropping up over the course of the next couple of years. Each time he went away for repairs, he came back looking a little less quick, and less vibrant. But Chelsea bought a player from memory, assuming the magic would return. It never has.
Roberto Di Matteo chose to leave Torres out of his line-up for the crucial game against Juventus, and lost it. Roman Abramovich sacked the manager immediately, and it’s now an established theory that the absence of Torres was a critical factor in swaying the Russian billionaire’s decision.
Benitez has started with Torres in all three of his games in charge so far, but Torres has been Torres mark 2 – the version that doesn’t function. He hasn’t scored, and in those 270 minutes Chelsea have only scored one goal in all. Not that Chelsea can do a whole lot about the situation until the transfer window opens in January, but when they do they most definitely need to buy a replacement striker.
It is of course fascinating to ponder how long, or short, Benitez’s reign at Stamford Bridge will be. The one thing that might rescue him would be if he and Abramovich can collectively bite the bullet on the Torres conundrum and successfully pursue an alternative strategy. If not, then only a few months on from that heady European triumph, Chelsea’s season could be spiralling into something farcical.
Arsenal fans would probably love to be where Chelsea are. The Gunners are positioned seven places below their London rivals after a hideous 2-0 home defeat to Swansea that triggered the loudest chorus of boos Arsene Wenger has probably heard at the Emirates. But Arsenal fans are a lot more classy than Chelsea’s. Whereas it’s the done thing at Stamford Bridge to hold up pathetic pieces of paper telling the manager they don’t like him much, in north London they applauded Swansea off the pitch for a wonderful victory sealed by two ultra-cool finishes from Michu.
Theo Walcott can’t have a decent game – it’s either brilliant or terrible, and this time the latter was the case.
Gervinho missed two great chances and Mikel Arteta was bereft of inspiration. These are good players doing a poor job, and it’s absolutely right for anyone connected with Arsenal to be very concerned indeed.
Meanwhile, a Manchester City draw and a Manchester United win put the red half of the city three points clear ahead of next weekend’s meeting of the two teams.
United’s win was a mad affair, with seven goals scored in the first half at Reading and some extraordinarily statuesque defending that allowed the home side to score some easy goals.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s team are so good going forward at the moment that they shrug off such setbacks with ease, which is why the big match coming up could be all about how City’s defence performs. You heard it here first.