The latest edition of TheReport is here! In this column, I offer my perspective on £50m man and his team! Today, I look at the recent Premier League matches against Aston Villa and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
A month ago, had one asked me whether I was worried about Didier Drogba leaving to get his Cote d'Ivoire on, I couldn't have said I was overly positive. Didier had been doing well, and was a big part of all things good in our attack. Fernando Torres, his presumptive replacement, was faltering in a series of feckless cameos. That changed when he somewhat unexpectedly got the start in Chelsea's disappointing 1-1 draw against Fulham. Contrary to everything we thought we knew about Everyone's Favourite Waste of Money,* he didn't suck. In fact, he was one of Chelsea's best players in the game. Despite not getting himself on the scoresheet, he was pretty consistently dangerous, and probably should have got himself a goal to go with the assist on Juan Mata's goal. David Stockdale, The Human Magnet, attracted all but one of Chelsea's shots on target to himself, keeping Fulham in a game begging for an equaliser. Despite the disappointing result, and the definite end to our title hopes,** we saw enough to make us hope a resurgence was on for Torres. Unless, that is, he, as I put it, fell down again. So, with two games in three days against West Midlands duo Aston Villa and Wolves, did Fernando fall down, or did he find his footing?
*Even I, the official apologist, will readily admit Fernando was a waste of money, but we've got him, so we've got to make the best of it.
**I'll be happy to be proved wrong about our title hopes should we end up even remotely in the title race.So, then, how did he fare? At home to Villa, as Graham's new wife got the most fabulous wedding gift, Fernando had to make do with a cameo off the bench. Despite his being pretty poor[, apart from winning and barely converting a penalty], Didier Drogba didn't come off for Fernando. Instead, Torres slotted into the right wing position of Daniel Sturridge, whom he replaced. Despite it not being his natural position, Nando still managed to impress. With his first touch, he let loose a wonder-strike from all of 30 yards, beating Villa keeper Brad Guzan all ends up, only to see his patented NandoMagic* guide it onto the crossbar and out.
*Yes, that's a thing.
Even after his misadventure with the woodwork, he continued to be impressive, several times setting up his teammates, who, sadly, couldn't make anything of them. Nando didn't really have much in the way of further chances, and Chelsea's pressure failed to create the goal it deserved before being put to the sword by a resurgent Aston Villa. Despite the overall disappointment, many of us were pleased by Torres' effort, and hoped to see another good one at Molineux.
Today, we got our wish. Fernando Torres was pretty easily our man of the match, despite not scoring and not providing an assist on either goal. Yes, he did provide the wonderful ball to Ashley Cole, who then found the seemingly-inevitable Frank Lampard with an excellent cross for the winner, but I don't count secondary assists. In fact, Fernando's most creative moments had virtually no effect on the end result. Oddly enough, for a striker who was easily Chelsea's consensus Man of the Match, he had very few opportunities to score for himself, apart from one chance he utterly flubbed. How then, could he have earned such an honour? Frankly, he was our most creative player by a mile.
Nando could, and possibly should, have had two assists inside 15 minutes, as he slipped in both Mata and Lampard. Mata's chance wasn't exactly easy, but you have to feel he could have done better with the chance, which Wolves keeper Hennessey saved. It really was a fabulous through-ball, and was probably one of the best[, and few] for us this season. That is, until he did it again four minutes later when he slipped a ball in for Lampard. Again, Lampard should have scored from it, but Wolves defender Stearman managed to just get across to kill the chance. I can't blame Lampard, it was fabulous defending. Those were the two best opportunities in a match full of amazing creative play.
In short, Torres was a menace today. This was surely his best match since joining nearly one year ago. He didn't score, and he didn't directly provide on the goals, but he did pretty consistently provide the ball before the killer ball. Why buy Luka Modric when you can use a striker, whom you already spent 10m more on, and who doesn't score anymore? To be honest, there's a cruel irony in the fact that the player whose performance would have done the most to awaken the dormant scoring powers of Fernando Torres is the man himself. Therefore, unless Fernando learns to be in two places at once, or Roman spends a fortune to clone him, the Torres problem will persist.
He should get a good run of games this month with Drogba away, and will hopefully continue the upward trend he's been on of late. As we all know, the force of NandoMagic means we can't put any faith in that. Therefore, we can assume it's equally likely, either in two weeks against Sunderland, or next week against Portsmouth, Fernando will somehow get himself sent off while turning his knees into something that resembles the end-product of a wood-chipper as he is to score. Folks, don't piss off any pagan gods. The result could be devastating.