It’s almost a year since Chelsea broke the British transfer record to bring Fernando Torres to Stamford Bridge and by way of an anniversary present the forlorn Spaniard has recently repaid the Blues backing by breaking a longstanding goalscoring record.
Unfortunately though, another blank at the weekend against Norwich means Torres’s haul of no goals in his last fourteen club appearances represents his worst trot as a professional and even aside from the paucity of goals, the former Liverpool hitman remains a pale imitation of the player that once terrorised Europe.
Statistics have long stopped being kind to Torres, so much so in fact that Chelsea fans have taken to consoling themselves with the number of assists their number nine has conjured up as a faux-replacement for his lack of finishing things off.
Without the presence of Didier Drogba looming over his shoulder Torres has been granted a sustained opportunity to find his feet, but even against the fertile opposition of Portsmouth, Sunderland and most recently a Norwich side previously without a clean sheet all season, the ailing assassin has again failed to register.
The Canaries were roundly lauded by their faithful and the press for earning a rare shut out but in truth – one fine John Ruddy save from Torres apart – Paul Lambert’s men had to do nothing more than defend studiously and with concentration to keep an insipid Chelsea at bay.
Quite whether Torres is the problem or the service to him is the route of the strikers travails really is chicken or the egg and to be brutally honest both are contributory factors merging to cause a conundrum with no obvious solution.
There is no doubt that a fit and firing Torres has the capability to alleviate some of the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas but with every next heavy touch, sluggish slalom and convictionless strike both parties struggles become more exasperated.
With Drogba away at the African Nations for the next couple of weeks, Torres theoretically has another window of opportunity to try to begin to right some of the year long wrongs, but with his performances in part impeding Chelsea’s form, is it time for AVB to swing the axe.
Drogba’s absence should not mean an automatic inclusion for Torres, especially given that the opportunity so far has hardly been seized upon. Instead, would the mini-me Drogba-esque Romelu Lukaku be a better bet to try to imitate the big Ivorian’s muscular presence?
Lukaku has barely figured since being procured for the princely sum of £18m from Anderlecht in the summer despite his prolific form in the Jupiler League. The Belgian international has averaged a goal every other game since making his debut for Anderlecht shortly after his 16th birthday yet this goalscoring prowess has been given few opportunities to flourish at the Bridge aside from a trio of Carling Cup starts and a few substitute appearances in the league.
For anybody that has watched Lukaku at close quarters, the word ‘raw’ would be a suitable adjective to describe the hulking teenager. Indeed, shortly after signing him, Villas-Boas stressed that the purchase centred around the players potential rather than having an instant impact but perhaps inadvertently the 18-year-old’s unknown quantity and quality could stir things up for the Blues.
Lukaku is far from the finished article. His touch lacks finesse and his leggy style is uneasy on the eye but armed with pace, power and a desire to run the channels, Lukaku could in some way replicate unsettling style that Drogba has long since brought to the Chelsea ranks.
His phenomenal goalscoring record albeit in Belgium must also be taken into consideration. Plenty of players have come to these shores with impressive returns in the lowlands but few have flourished. However, Lukaku’s goals at such a tender age suggest a natural ability to find the back of the net and at the sake of losing all credibility, if you chose to peruse youtube to see his collection of strikes with Anderlecht, Lukaku does seem to possess an innate penalty box prowess and coolness in-front of goal which few can be taught.
Given that Fernando Torres is approaching a half-century of Chelsea appearances but has notched in just four of those games, Lukaku would do well to do worse. Whether Villas-Boas opts to throw in the unproven and largely untried talent ahead of his expensive but misfiring star-turn depends on his motives for the remainder of the season.
All at Chelsea are clutching to the hope that a few goals will bring the old Fernando back again but with that notion drifting further away with every passing chance, the best way for them to win games immediately may lie with going with the lad with little to lose.
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