The international break is the perfect time for Premier League fans to reflect and take notice and so far looking good at the top of the table are Chelsea. Buoyed by the arrival of Eden Hazard the London club now resemble one of the most exciting teams in Europe with flair players a plenty with Oscar and Juan Mata supporting the supremely talented Belgian. But two things still bother me about the Blues, their failure to offer their defence any genuine quality protection and their temperamental frontman Fernando Torres.
The lack of defensive security in front of a back four that possesses the unpredictable David Luiz, has been exposed already with Reading, Atletico Madrid and Juventus all exposing the limitations of Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel. With Mikel’s hapless second half display against the Italian champions likely to worry Blues supporters most. However in their last real test Ramires was brought in for Lampard and performed admirably against Arsenal, the position also remains a weak area for all of Roberto Di Matteo’s men’s main domestic rivals.
Torres remains the deciding factor in whether or not Chelsea lift the Premier League trophy and I would hate to be supporter of a club relying on the Spaniard. He may just be 28 but he’s an old 28 and now lacks the physicality and pace to terrorise defences like he used to. He can still score goals against the most pedestrian of the defences and none have been worse than the Norwich backline he netted against last weekend. His confidence in front of goal still seems inferior to what was seen of him against Liverpool and bar a sublime goal against Newcastle United, nothing this season has been overly impressive from the Spaniard. An anonymous performance against Reading was saved by an offside goal, a decent finish against Arsenal should have been denied due to a foul.
Torres netted 28 times in 80 appearances at Athletico Madrid in his final two years and it is entirely possible that sort of ratio is what will once again see from Torres. The Spanish international was at the height of his powers at Liverpool but to expect a repeat is being idealistic. Hamstring problems and knee injuries have slowed down the Spaniard. As I mentioned earlier another reason I believe Torres’s 20 goal plus season’s are over is he is an old 28 year old. To explain, Torres has played almost as much career football as Didier Drogba who is 34 and has spent the entire doing so at a high level, his physical style puts a lot of demands on the body and I believe to an extent Chelsea’s number nine is a spent force. Michael Owen is seen as an old man at 32, and has played just 11 more career matches than the Spaniard.
In one of his many ill-thought outbursts Torres referred last year to a lack of creativity in the Chelsea team. Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso regularly provided chances for Torres on Merseyside but Torres wasn’t getting the same quality of service at Stamford Bridge. I accept that now with a team full of clever creative players Torres may score more and may also have had a point when commenting on his annoyance. But my belief is still that Torres will never be world-class again, and that £50 million transfer will be remembered as one of the most ill-judged decisions in modern football history.