It's in our nature as fans to overreact to more or less everything. Chelsea have a bad season? Time to set everything on fire (actually, none of us have spontaneously combusted yet, which surprises me). Lose or even draw a game where the team was clearly dominant? It doesn't matter how they played - they didn't get it done. £50M striker wastes a few opportunities in his second match with the club? Total flop!
It doesn't help that the media are predictably choosing this angle to hit on, branding Fernando Torres, recently acquired from Liverpool a flop at virtually every opportunity. Which would be fine, I suppose if he had played enough for us to know whether indeed a flop is on the cards. However, 135 minutes of football certainly isn't enough to give us a reasonable sample of Torres's abilities, and the idea that discarding all he's done in a Liverpool shirt is somehow valid is, frankly, laughable.
A Premier League season is 38 games long, which is 3420 minutes of football. Now, players barely ever touch that much actual time, but if Torres had scored any of his opportunities with Chelsea so far, he'd be on the same sort of track we expect from 15-20 league goal scoring seasons. We shouldn't judge a player or a team based on tiny, insignificant fractions of a season. 180 minutes into the league campaign and Chelsea were on track to net 228 times in the season, and that's 25% more time than we've given Torres to score even once.
Over the past three seasons with Liverpool, Torres has averaged 0.95, 0.73, and 0.85 goals per ninety minutes played, on teams of varying strengths. Using a quick regression trick from baseball analysis (weight seasons 5/4/3 from most recent to least recent, use subsequent weighted average as projection), we end up with more than 0.9 goals a game from Torres - a fantastic number. Obviously, that's back of the envelope, quick and dirty stuff, and we should really take the poor start to 2010/11 into account, which will knock off some of that number, but the point is that this isn't a washed up or unknown player. This is Fernando Torres, scourge of the Premier League since 2007. He's had dry runs before, and he's having an indifferent season, but there's a very good reason Chelsea were willing to spend so much money on him, namely that he's still relatively young, still a proven player, and still brilliant.
Oh, and I made a graph, because that's what I do. Here's a five-game rolling average of Torres goals per ninety minutes over the past three and a half years (click for full-size).
He's had dry spells before, in other words. Anyway, my point is that we shouldn't be rushing to judgment on this just yet. Making decisions based on the tiniest of sample is madness. And that's without going into the excellent work Torres did do against Fulham to help create all those chances he then missed.
There may be a time when we look back at the transfer and remember it as a total waste of money. But until then, Torres doesn't deserve the kind of flak I've been seeing him get.