Just before the beginning of the new Premier League season, I wrote that this term represented the archetypal ‘make or break’ campaign for Fernando Torres at Chelsea, but after a flying start already in the opening three games, it looks as if he’s about to seriously change his fortunes at the club.
The 28 year-old striker has now scored six goals in his last nine games for both club and country at the beginning of this term and he looks like he’s finally settled and is starting to enjoy his football – short of any confidence prior to that, and boasting a record of just seven goals in 46 league games, he knew he was second-choice at the club behind Didier Drogba and he played like it too.
However, the club’s transfer activity this summer has seen manager Roberto Di Matteo give Torres one last chance, with a style and system geared largely around getting the best out of the £50m flop. Importantly for the player too, he now knows that he’s the undisputed first-choice now and the added certainty that he won’t be dropped after a poor performance or two completely changes a player’s mindset and they become more committed to the cause.
While this mental fragility still exists, the longer he keeps up this scoring streak, the better for him and the rest of the side. The likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, Marko Marin and Victor Moses have been bought with one aim in mind, to help Juan Mata deliver a consistent stream of chances for the main man up top, and to the tune of around £75m, it’s a huge gamble, which at the moment, looks like it may just pay off.
Torres said in the aftermath of the 2-0 victory over a tired Newcastle side at home: “The confidence is back because I’m playing more. It’s great to have players like Hazard here. It’s a privilege to play with Juan Mata and Hazard.”
The faith placed in him this season has been huge and they haven’t, as yet, bothered to replace the outgoing Drogba with another big name, as they’ve been frustrated in their attempts to secure deals for both Hulk and Edinson Cavani. Daniel Sturridge is far from a guaranteed starter and he is the only other player in the entire squad capable of playing up front, and he’s largely been used in a wide role while at the club, so can’t really even be seen as a rival.
Throughout most of his quite frankly awful 18-month goal-shy spell at Stamford Bridge so far, Torres has looked as if he’s lost that crucial yard of pace that often proved the difference between him beating his marker and getting a shot away. Lethargic, disinterested and only sporadically lively, while the penchant that he has for moaning and arguing with officials has gone into overdrive.
While the tempestuous nature remains, he looks much more at ease in the side now and while it’s tempting to get carried away, seeing as the club have had a reasonably straightforward run of fixtures so far in Wigan, Reading and a clearly knackered Newcastle side, the early signs are definitely promising and the finish against Alan Pardew’s side was absolutely exceptional.
The main reason for this has been how quickly the club’s marquee summer signing Hazard has settled and he’s already scored one goal from the spot (which Torres won) and set up a further three goals as he’s adjusted superbly to life in the top flight. When you factor in that Torres already had a very good understanding in the making with Mata, it seems as if it’s finally starting to come together for him, with the right support cast tailored to his needs, rather than Drogba’s.
In all likelihood, Chelsea fans will probably never see the same Torres that terrorised defence to such an extent while at Liverpool. Hampered by years of niggling injuries, but with a full pre-season behind him and an unquestionable status as top dog, he knows that now is the time to deliver and he appears to be thriving in the role as one of the more experienced members of a fairly young side. He finally looks as if he’s enjoying his football again, and that makes him an extremely dangerous proposition once more.
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