Getting Behind Fernando Torres

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 29: Fernando Torres of Chelsea celebrates as he scores their fifth goal and completes his hat trick during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers at Stamford Bridge on April 29, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Didier Drogba has left Chelsea. We'll have more on the great man and just what he means to the club later today, I imagine, but we also need to talk about the future, and right now that future looks like Fernando Torres as the club's main striker.

Something interesting could happen - a Radamel Falcao swap with Atletico Madrid has been mooted as a possibility, but strikes me as pretty unlikely - but we need to be prepared for going into next season with a team built around Torres as the primary centre forward. Are we?

There's no reasonable way to paint Torres' time with Chelsea to date as anything but a monumental failure. He was brought in to be a world class player and endured a monumental slump that lasted two managers. There's been notable improvement in some aspects of his game since Roberto di Matteo took over, but he's still a pale imitation of his former self, the man who lit up the Premier League in his first few seasons with Liverpool.

But there's definitely something there. Flashes of genius pop up out of the dreck - a hattrick against Queens Park Rangers, a phenomenal shot against Sunderland that led to the only goal in what was at the time a hugely important 1-0 win. His season will be remembered for his late, late goal against Barcelona to secure Chelsea's passage to Munich, and the other scattered great moments he served up, which (like his assist statistics and the other plus points about his season) rather obscure that fact that he's not been what's expected out of a 10M per year centre forward. Or anything close.

In general, arguments about Torres are fruitless, because they all come down to whether or not you thought his signing was a good idea at the time. I did not, and perhaps I'm too negative as a result. I know that many of those who thought his signing was a good plan and continue to defend him are being almost delusional about him. It's simply a matter of wanting to be right and snatching at the evidence that supports you, while completely ignoring the rest. Human nature and all of that.

That's not what we need to focus on now. All we should be caring about is what Torres can provide in the future, and I don't think anyone here is actively rooting against him, even if some of us are more skeptical than others. Every Chelsea fan wants him to succeed whenever he's on the pitch. There will be questions about whether the club will be better off selling him. There will be discussions about the benefits of bringing in a new striker to hedge against the possibility that Torres never gets up to the standards we expect from him. But everyone talking about those issues should want what's best for Chelsea, and that's probably for Torres to be a world-class player again.

We need to be rational and critical when we talk about these things, of both the club and our own opinions. But so much of this debate is about being right about whether we should have bought him in the first place that I think our collective judgement is being clouded. I support Torres. I'll be angry when he fails and thrilled when he succeeds, and although I think we might be better off without him that doesn't mean I won't be pulling for him to absolutely obliterate the opposition whenever he's on the pitch.

So, I think, will you.

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