The latest edition of TheReport is here! In this column, I offer my [admittedly-cheeky] perspective on £50m man and his team! Today, I look at yesterday's Premier League match against Manchester United.
Oh, Nando. Another match, another one that might have been. Your goal drought is still going strong, despite all the goats I've sacrificed to the goal gods.* In fact, I'm starting to believe the goal gods are something I just invented in a dream. If so, then I am a terrible person, but I digress. In the most heart-breaking match of our half-elapsed season, Chelsea managed, to paraphrase the classic saying, to snatch a draw from the jaws of victory. No team should ever drop points from such a strong position, but, hey, we're still not as bad as Arsenal, who, exactly one year earlier, threw away a four-goal lead to a Newcastle side who were hardly the Top 7 club they are today. On the Torres front, hit was a clear improvement from the...well...I can't think of a word to describe that performance that is also publishable on this site against Swansea. It was not, however, an improvement on his season thus far.Indeed, Torres' performance was largely forgettable, despite providing the assist on one of the goals of the season, at least from a Chelsea perspective, and a gilt-edged chance to possibly win the match which he didn't take. Really, for most of the match, he was invisible. This was largely the product of his drifting wide and deep to try to get something going. Interestingly, Torres has been coming back to aid the defence more often than he was earlier in his Chelsea career. Especially at the beginning of this season, Torres got a lot of criticism, and rightly so, for not helping in defence as much as Didier Drogba does. It's one of the interesting contradictions around Fernando Torres. Since he can't be both in defence and waiting up the pitch to take on the quick counter at the same time. Normally, in these situations, the best option would be some sort of compromise, but in this case, I'm not sure that's possible. Now, I'll be fair and admit that nobody is really criticising him for getting back, but plenty of people, both here and elsewhere, have criticised him for playing too deep. Obviously, there are plenty of times where he drops deep looking for the ball that aren't related to defending, but I think the perception that he's been dropping deep a lot lately is based on the fact that he starts plenty of attacks deep.
Anyway, back to his offensive exploits, you have a choice. If you want your good news first, skip to Time Travel Transfer Point No. 3 below and follow the instructions from there. If not, ignore the Time Travel Transfer Points altogether.*
Time Travel Transfer Point No. 1: Oh, Nando, why are you so afraid to shoot? Is it because you're overthinking everything, is it because you're trying too hard to score, or is it because you're afraid to miss? If I had some way of proving it, a bookie who would take the action, and I was a betting man, I'd bet that the pressure of scoring, combined with the criticism you get for missing is the major reason. Against United, Torres had a chance to score Chelsea's fourth and put the game out of reach, but he didn't. At his best, he'd have buried the chance without a thought, but he chose to cut back instead of shooting and the chance evaporated. Really, I think the club need to find a way to convince Nando it's okay to miss. After all, the old adage for strikers is, "Never be afraid to miss." If every miss and game without scoring wasn't the stuff of a thousand headlines, I'd be willing to bet that he'd be more willing to miss. But when you cost £50 million, the pressure is always going to be there. What we need is for AVB or someone in his backroom staff to sit down with him and let him know that he's not going to be relegated to the bench for missing a chance or two. At the very least, he needs someone to remind him of the words of The Great One, Wayne Gretzky. He famously said, "You miss one hundred percent of the shots you don't take." These words perfectly describe Nando's situation. He's so afraid to miss that he's missing his chances by default. Time Travel Transfer Point No. 2 : Go to T.T.P. No. 5
Time Travel Transfer Point No. 3: Onto the good news. In the seconds following the start of the second half, Nando sent the best cross of Chelsea's season over the United defence to a waiting Juan Mata, who drilled it past David De Gea for our second goal of the match. At the time, the commentators suggested it might be one of the goals of the season, and it really was. To say nothing of the finish, it was the sort of cross that immediately makes you wonder what Torres would make of it. Then again, we know exactly what he'd do with it. He'd get us a goal with a spectacular overhead kick off the bar and Frank Lampard. : P The goal was one of those annoying situations where the spectacular cross outshines the fact that Torres had drifted out wide, and had been doing so all day. It's a classic Catch-22, where he gets very few chances if he stays centrally, but he also can't get chances if he's not in the box to get them.Time Travel Transfer Point No. 4: Go to T.T.P. No. 1
Time Travel Transfer Point No. 5: I have no idea what the answer is, frankly. Look at the confidence he had with his cross. He saw Mata calling for the ball at the far post, and he delivered it to him. There was no hesitation or thought about it. It was the sort of composure he used to have in front of goal at Liverpool. There's just something wrong mentally, when it comes to taking shots. As I said, I don't have the answer. I'm not a manager, though. In AVB, we have a manager who has a history of inheriting players who are short of confidence and getting them back to good shape mentally. In the past few months not just Torres, but his teammates too have started to struggle with confidence. It reached it's lowest ebb, in my opinion, in the fiasco in South Wales last week. Our manager seems to have seen that the traditional Chelsea 4-3-3 wasn't working. Though his hand was forced by injury somewhat, he used the 4-2-3-1 against Manchester United, and we played well. He's made changes to our tactics, but now is the time for AVB to prove himself as a man manager. He says he prefers that side of the game to the tactical side, and right now the Chelsea squad, and its £50 million striker appear in desperate need of someone who can help shake them out of the mental funk they're in.
[*Yes, This is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Report. (I've updated this to make the instructions clearer.)]