In and amongst all the drama surrounding Chelsea this week, the performance of Fernando Torres against Manchester United at the weekend has gone relatively unnoticed.
The Spaniard’s harsh dismissal has been the focal point of discussion, and has gone a long way to mask what was in fact a rather poor performance from Chelsea’s number 9, which probably should have culminated in a straight red card before half time for a wild challenge on Tom Cleverley.
Having written a couple of weeks ago how Torres has had to adapt his game having lost half a yard of pace, a lot of interesting responses were received. The vast amount of Chelsea fans agreed with the fact Torres has improved his game and has brought a lot more to the team so far this season, in terms of movement, link-up-play, assists, and most importantly the fact he has been providing more goals.
However, others raised an interesting point, as to whether Chelsea would choose to cash in on their record signing in the transfer window if they were able to bring in one of Europe’s top marksman. Would Chelsea fans prefer to see the likes of a Falcao plying their trade at Stamford Bridge?
A few seem to be losing patience with Torres, who netted just one goal in October at home to Norwich. It often seems the case he will take one step forward before taking two back, with the red card picked up at the weekend almost summing up his time at Stamford Bridge.
The problem for Chelsea lies in their lack of striking options. If Fernando Torres is not firing, Daniel Sturridge remains their only alternative. Despite some encouraging displays, I remain unconvinced Torres has enough to lead the Chelsea line week in week out from now until January.
His fitness however, remains the biggest concern. During the second half of the win at White Hart Lane he looked sluggish, while against Shaktar in the Champions League and against United on Sunday he looked undeniably poor. I am not convinced he has the fitness to be playing three games a week. He has not played this amount of consecutive matches since probably the first half of his second season at Liverpool, as injuries and poor form continued to disrupt his playing time.
Having started every Premier League game this season, it is natural for tiredness and fatigue to set in, but because of the incredible pressure on his shoulders, every performance will be heavily scrutinised. It leaves Roberto Di Matteo with a dilemma, as Sturridge is clearly not entirely trusted.
Sturridge’s performance against Manchester United last night was typical of the young forward. He scored what proved to be a crucial goal in extra time, but left Chelsea fans frustrated with some casual play. His attempt to back heel the ball into the net when unmarked from a corner with his side trailing served as an example of his unreliability.
It is clear Torres needs help in his bid to provide enough goals to keep Chelsea top of the table. The likes of Oscar, Hazard, Mata and Ramires will continue to chip in, but you feel Chelsea are still a top goalscorer short if they are to retain their title.
It is a shame for Torres in many ways, because he will ultimately be judged on his goal-return, with many simply uninterested in what else he may bring to the side. He has gone from one extreme to another in a relatively short space of time, spending the majority of his time on the bench or making cameos last season, to this campaign playing 90 minutes every week with the responsibility of being Chelsea’s main man.
For a player who has struggled so often with injuries during his time in England, this is a heavy burden. It is clear Chelsea need another striker, but the question remains as to whether Di Matteo will look for a replacement or a partner for Torres.
Roman Abramovich has proven often in the past he is not afraid to dip into his pockets, but dependent on who becomes available and for what price, you wonder if the Chelsea owner may be tempted to cut his losses and start again with his strike force.
I would like to see Torres given more time, and another top striker brought in to play alongside or rotate with. There have been encouraging signs from him this season, but the fitness aspect remains a worry. As does the fact time is so often a commodity not allowed in football.
What have you made of Torres this season? Would you swap him for one of Europe’s top strikers? Follow me on Twitter @LukeGreenwood89 and let me know your thoughts.