The latest edition of The Fernando Torres Report is here! In this column, I offer my perspective on the £50m man and his team! Today, I look at yesterday's Premier League match against Sunderland.
After an arguable Man of the Match performance in the post-wedding debacle against Villa, being voted by you as Man of the Match against Wolves the day after New Year's, and two assists in the FA Cup match against Portsmouth,* which 'Nando would we see against Sunderland? I think we all had the very real fear that he would regress again. Thankfully, we were wrong. Torres was probably the best he's been in a Chelsea shirt yesterday. We had no hesitation in voting him our Man of the Match, despite not scoring. I think it says something of our woes that a striker who hasn't scored in months is voted Man of the Match in two consecutive league games. I'm going to engage in some very controversial, and largely tongue-in-cheek speculation**, and say that despite the NandoMagic keeping him from scoring, he's paying back his transfer fee. [Of course, if we didn't have him, we could have bought a different striker, or a winger and put Danny centrally, but go with me here.] How could Fernando possibly be justifying his £50 million transfer fee? Consider this: In the last two matches, Torres' runs and passes have been at the heart of everything positive for Chelsea. Where would a Chelsea where a non-scoring forward can be Man of the Match two games running be without him? I have no doubt that without Torres, or at least someone else causing opposition defences problems, we'd have dropped at least four points, but probably five or six, which would have left us in seventh, below Liverpool, and in very real danger of missing out on Champions League football next season. Of course, I'm being hyperbolic, but we needed someone to step up in a big way recently to preserve our hopes for this season, and that someone was Fernando Torres. [Also, Juan Mata says Torres was pivotal in bringing him to Chelsea, where he too has been very important in keeping us from having a season-long "bad moment"]
*I will grant that the assists were all about Ramires, rather than any specific magic from Torres.
**Please don't give me crap about it, I still think he's Everybody's Favourite Waste of Money.
If you're still reading, and not jumping straight to the comments to tell me what a pillock I am for my cheeky speculation, thank you.
Back in the land of seriousness, where we were discussing the Sunderland match, and Fernando's role in it, you have to say he was very good. He had The Assist of the Season [tm] and could have won two penalties for us, as well as having several good chances to score, which were saved well. Of course, he hasn't exactly earned our trust yet, so we all fear he could regress again in our next match. That said, you have to feel he's on the verge of something magnificent, where he starts to score regularly again. He's getting in good positions, but the NandoMagic field surrounding him has kept him off the scoresheet.
There is one moment which ought to define this match, and it's Torres' audacious overhead kick off the bar. If there were any lingering doubts about Fernando Torres' confidence, that shot should have ended them. An unconfident player doesn't go for the sublime acrobatic shot there, he chests it down and loses possession or has a weak shot or something else stupid. He didn't waste the chance, he nearly scored the goal of the season. I don't think that's hyperbolic at all. It was a near-carbon copy of Wayne Rooney's Goal of the Season-winning goal against City last year. Every time I see Fernando's goal that should have been, the sense of cosmic injustice I feel from the NandoMagic guiding it a few millimetres too high and onto the crossbar grows. It's the sort of thing which makes you believe in fate. I don't think you can deny that goal, had 'Nando's shot gone in, would have permanently etched Torres into Chelsea history for a positive reason. Obviously, he's already a part of it, being our[ seemingly] ill-fated record signing, but it would be nice if he can make a positive impression for us.
Fernando has a history of being on the wrong end of bad decisions by Phil Dowd, and I am starting to suspect him of being the High Priest of NandoMagic, sacrificing goats in his basement to earn the favour of the vindictive, Scouse prankster god who denies Fernando any joy. That, or he's just a regulation tosser. Yesterday, he denied Chelsea two penalties for fouls on Torres. The first non-call, on seeing it, I actually sort of agree with, but most of the time, it's given. I'm not sure Nando gets to the ball even if he isn't blocked off, and he went down somewhat easily, but I fully understand Chelsea fans feeling aggrieved. The second incident, which earned Fernando a yellow card for simulation, was, simply, wrong. It was a stonewall penalty, and definitely not a dive. Phil Bardsley took him out as he was running past and into the box. Had both been given and scored, it would have given Fernando his first Chelsea hat-trick[, albeit of assists]. It would also have avoided Sunderland's late rash of chances, and the fear involved with it.
Outside the three major incidents of the match, Fernando had three decent chances, which he was unlucky to score. Early in the match, he sent a header just wide of the post. It wasn't a great header, but Sunderland were actually defending well, and he was lucky to even get the header away at all. On the half hour, he had another header cleared by Kilgallon just off the line with Mignolet beaten. The final chance, in the fiftieth minute, saw Torres cut in from the right and lash a shot on target, which Mignolet did well to push wide. Yesterday was, by far, his best attacking performance for Chelsea. He had several chances yesterday, and only failed to score due to a combination of good defending and goalkeeping by Sunderland and NandoMagic.
All in all, the only way I can describe his performance against Sunderland is good. Not great, not good compared to how he's played for us in the past, just good. I am proud to have him as a striker as long as plays like did yesterday or better. He can be better, of course, but even if he doesn't get any better, he will start to score consistently, and be a player worth having. He'll, sadly, probably be a waste of money, whatever he does. For a long time, I felt I was fighting a losing battle in supporting Nando, but his recent performances have not only impressed the readers here, but, seemingly, Chelsea supporters in general. Multiple times during the match yesterday, his name was chanted from the stands at Stamford Bridge. It was great to see our fans finally vocally supporting their own prodigal son.