The latest edition of TheReport is here! In this column, I offer my perspective on £50m man and his team! Today, I look at today's Premier League match against Blackburn Rovers.
I was all prepared to write a column about how Fernando Torres was anonymous, or maybe just write about Petr Cech's heroic broken face, but then Fernando went and missed a complete sitter. Or did he? I'm not convinced the chance he missed deep into second half stoppage time was easy, and I'm not convinced he's to be blamed for missing it. Sure, I'm his official We Ain't Got No History apologist, but I don't think it was as much of a crime as the rest of the footballing world apparently does. Frankly, I don't think it was anything like as easy as has been assumed, or that any striker in the world would have dealt with it perfectly and scored.I take that back, Lionel Messi would have scored, but only because he's like four feet tall anyway. The biggest problem with reading the situation as a horrible Torres miss is that the chance was extremely awkward. Ashley Cole's cross was very much mishit, meaning the cross was four or four-and-a-half feet off the ground by the time it got to Fernando. Fernando, being roughly six feet tall, was forced to choose with a risky and difficult low header and an awkward, equally difficult volley. I suppose he could also have used his chest, but I'm not sure he would have had either the power or control to get the ball past Robinson off his chest. Perhaps he should have done better, but I think there are bigger factors at work.
In any case, yes, I am blaming Ashley Cole. His cross was, frankly, poor. I don't know if he was caught in two minds between crossing low toward Fernando's feet, or crossing high toward his head, but the cross ended up in the awkward zone between the two. Depending on which one you think he was going for, the cross was wither over- or under-hit. Throughout his career, Ash has been very good at both crossing and selecting the right cross. I'm not saying he's lost that ability, but he failed in this case. Obviously, it's the job of the recipient to do his best with the cross he gets, but it's the job of the crosser to give him the best cross he can. Ashley Cole definitely deserves some of the blame. We've crucified Jose Bosingwa for less.
Another part of the blame has to lay at the feet of Daniel Sturridge. Yes, I said it. Maybe it puts me into tin-foil hat territory, and if it does, I'll get right on procuring one. How, you may ask, can I blame Danny for this? Easy. As Torres was bringing the ball forward, toward the Blackburn defenders, Sturridge lagged behind, jogging, rather than sprinting up to either take some of the attention off Torres, or provide an outlet for him. Eventually, he did, but not until it was too late, forcing Torres to pass it wide to Sturridge to set up Ashley Cole for the poor cross. At this point, I will own up and admit that Fernando's pass was itself over-hit, which had some effect on taking Sturridge out of the play. That said, Sturridge had to better to get himself forward to put pressure on the defence.
In the end, if I had to apportion blame, it would break down like this: Cole 40% for the rubbish cross, Torres 35% for the poor pass wide to Danny and making a hash of the difficult chance, and Sturridge, 25% for not getting forward to help 'Nando in a timely manner. Maybe that's harsh, and maybe it's biased, but I am biased, and the cross was absolute crap, knowing Fernando was waiting at the near post.
The other part of the column is the overall progression of Fernando back from abject despair to fully-fledged top striker. I've heard rumblings that a number of you have started to fear that progression has started to derail a bit. I'm not entirely sure it has. Since the first Genk match, none of our strikers has looked particularly dangerous, but our team hasn't either.I wasn't sure how well we could compare the strikers' performances match to match, but today's match was good for that. In the first half, Sturridge didn't look fantastic, but most of that was a lack of good service. The midfield didn't link well with Danny today.
That continued in the second half, when Sturridge slid over to the right wing to replace the departed Malouda, and Torres took his place. I don't know why our midfield has struggled to supply our forwards, but it's becoming a problem. Not only is it hurting our scoring chances, but it's hurting our strikers as well. Danny will never live up to his promise and Fernando will never complete his return to form if their chances continue to be so limited. In the end, that Fernando missing a less-than-easy chance is the biggest issue, rather than that it was pretty much his only chance in the match is ridiculous. One is a freak occurrence, and the other is a chronic problem affecting our results.
NB: I'm not trying to crucify anyone with this column. In my opinion, the chance was relatively insignificant, and hardly easy. This is how I would apportion blame, were I forced. In that case, I would lay more blame on the midfield for failing to steadily supply either striker today, and making this chance a talking point.