The latest edition of TheReport is here! In this column, I offer my [admittedly-very-cheeky] perspective on £50m man and his team! Today, I look at yesterday's FA Cup match against Leicester City.
One day short of five months, and more than twenty-five hours of play since the unicorn broke the NandoMagic field and let Fernando Torres find the back of the net for Chelsea, he came back again! In fact, Fernando got a pair of goals in the 5-2 win, as well as assists on Chelsea's second and fifth goals by Salomon Kalou and Raul Marelsh*. By anyone's standard, the seemingly-cursed striker had a very good day at the office. Or did he? Though there were definitely plenty of positives, there were also definitely negatives.
[*Known to most, except the match commentator on Fox Soccer Plus, as Raul Meireles, Hair Ferret Enthusiast.]I know what you're going to say. I know it's borderline insane to have defended Torres for so long, only to take him down when he does something good, but, as I said in the opening paragraph, there were plenty of negatives in his performance. Of course, as we've established in previous discussions, negatives go out the window when a striker scores, as positives do when he doesn't, but Torres can still definitely improve.
Yesterday, Nando looked brighter than he has in about two months, but he still wasn't really back to his best. Despite the brace and assists, there were a few moments were our Spanish striker really should have done better. Chief among them was the chance just minutes after his assist for Kalou, where Juan Mata found Torres free in the area with a cross. Nando, sadly, only found the grateful arms of Kasper Schmeichel with his header. Of course, it wasn't exactly an easy chance, and he did well to even get his header on target, but it should have been Chelsea's third. Of course, it was hardly a big negative relative to everything else, but it would have been held against him pretty loudly had he not scored later on.
Oddly enough, Torres actually missed his clearest chances in the game, heading at Schmeichel, missing the target from an early corner, shanking his shot into a Leicester defender just before the hour, and shooting over moments after his first goal. I hate to imagine the reaction had Fernando not scored his goals. It's not that these misses were worse, or even as bad as some of his priors this season, but they are symptomatic of the post-October Fernando we've come to know and...er...love.
I've been picking at his performance so far, trying to find things to criticise, so it's about time I get to the positives. Shortly after his missed header, Torres drew a great save from Schmeichel, turning on the edge of the area, and getting a good shot away, despite being surrounded by several defenders. Nando managed to find the goal which ended his drought out of virtually nothing. Marelsh found him free in the area, and despite his relatively poor first touch, Nando managed a side-foot finish into the bottom corner. The second goal, however, was much more aesthetically pleasing. Torres won a corner late on, when his shot was blocked by a Leicester defender, from which Marelsh found him free. Torres got a glancing head to the ball, which flew past Schmeichel and into the net for his second and Chelsea's fourth.
In addition to his goals, Torres played provider just as well. In the first half, he found Kalou with a great cross to the Ivorian's feet. His first touch wasn't spectacular, and put pressure on him, but Kalou got his shot away, around the keeper, and in the net. It was a good team goal, and Torres' pass, while not spectacular, was a vital in the goal. Nando's second assist, as with his goals, was the more spectacular. with a decent chance to exorcise his personal demons with a hat-trick, the Spaniard unselfishly squared for Marelsh, who finished past Schmeichel for the final goal of the game. Nobody in the world would have criticised him for shooting, but he preferred to pay back the provider of his two goals, kill the game definitely, or, as the cynic in me would prefer, to avoid taking the gloss off his achievement with a miss.
All in all, I'm not sure how to take this game. Certainly, I'm happy he's scored again, but his performance wasn't that much better than it was in some of his games during his barren run, particularly those in early January. [Edit: I mean this as a compliment to those performances, where he was unlucky not to score, rather than a criticism of this one.] He was still running away from the ball at times, and his movement with the ball still has room for improvement, but the luck was with him. I'm sure Robert Di Matteo will keep him working, and I can only hope it will translate on the pitch.At the end of the day, though, I suppose my biggest criticism was itself a positive. A player can't miss a number of chances without also getting a number of chances. Some of that is Fernando running away less, but some of it is that the team is looking more fluid and providing more chances. Well, except for Sturridge, who continues to be selfish to the annoyance of all.
We have to remember three things: First, his game still has major flaws. Second, five of his seven Chelsea goals have come against Championship-quality opposition and Genk, who, with the greatest respect, aren't really Premier League quality either. Finally, we have to remember that the unicorn who repels the NandoMagic field can leave at any time, and without warning, bringing the goal drought back. Hopefully, though, the fact that Chelsea are getting results and look happy again will bring about another period like that before his red card against Swansea.
[NB: I promise to never call him Marelsh again.]