Fernando Torres' Career: Decline

Fernando Jose Torres Sanz, aged 28 going on 29. The phenom and teenage captain in his Atletico Madrid days, the world class striker at Liverpool, but beginning to fade and now the the burnt out shell at Chelsea.

It's a highly successful career in reverse, and the polar opposite of van Persie's career path.

Who knows what further twists Torres' career may take or what new depths it may plunge to, he was a brilliant player and was has to be the operative word used now. Torres has played an awful lot of football, both domestically and internationally, in his career and it looks to have caught up with him finally.

The purpose of this article is to search for any signs of over use or decline in Fernando's career. To discover this I am going to look at Torres' starts and minutes played and then we are going to focus on his countable numbers: Shots, shots on target and goals. Hopefully this may tease out any trends of decline as has aged.

Torres' league Career (2005-2013) by Starts, Subs And Minutes Played


Farther right denotes more starts, lower down denotes more subs, bigger the bubble denotes more minutes.

Yellow, Atletico. Red, Liverpool. Blue, Chelsea. Black, Liverpool/Chelsea split season

As you may have noticed, Torres has been around for far longer than 8 seasons, infact I found the games played numbers for his 2003/4 and 2004/5 seasons but lacked any data on minutes played. Torres started 35 games in 03/04 and 37 games in 04/05 so it is fair to suggest that those seasons would look very similar to the two Atletico seasons featured above. Torres in those early days of his career was heavily used, 145 starts over 4 seasons is a lot.

Since joining Liverpool Torres has, in six years, started more than 20 games on just three occasions. Injury and fatigue were the main reasons at liverpool, poor form during his time at Chelsea.

Torres has never started more than 80% of the available league games in England, and this after starting 95.4% of the league games during his four top flight seasons for Atletico. Was the sheer number of games and minutes played in his time at Atletico a potential cause of the fitness and injury problems he has endured in England? Has he burnt out?

Torres' Career By Shots, Shots On Target And Goals (per 90 minutes)

There is little point listing his basic totals for these categories, so how about we normalize the numbers into a per 90 minutes format.

Shots and Shots On Target Per 90


Age is listed as his age at the start of the season.

Here we see The arc of Torres' progress in terms of his shots per 90 number. He was a young player at 21, still learning, and his number progressed then peaked in his first season with Liverpool. It's been downhill ever since to the point where he is generating nearly half the amount of shots per 90 than he was at that peak, yet outlier, season.

Personally, I think total shots can be misleading. Shots on target is a better indicator of a players skill, heaven knows yopu guys have seen enough shots into orbit from Fernando.

Shots on target per 90 shows similar trends. Peak at 23, in his last Atletico season, but there was a good 3 year spell from 23 to 25 years of age where Torres was averaging over 1.5 SoT per 90. Torres was nowhere near those numbers before and his decline has been pretty evident since moving to Chelsea (halfway through his 26 year old season) where upon his SoT per 90 number has hovered and dipped below 1 SoT per 90, probably good for a goal every 3 or 4 games. That is way below what is expected of Chelsea striker.

Torres' Goals Per 90


This is probably the most telling chart of the lot: Torres' goals per 90 minutes over the course of his career. Whatever your opinion of Torres may be now, it cannot be doubted that during his last season at Atletico and his first 2 years at Liverpool that this player was one of the best in the world.

His goals per 90 numbers for that fertile 3 year period were incredible and if Torres had been fit for every game, which he wasn't, then we are talking about 95 goals over those 3 seasons. He was a helluva player. Then, at somepoint in his 26 year old season (Liverpool/Chelsea), his game fell apart. The goals per 90 numbers nosedived due to his shots and shots on target per 90 numbers crashing.

Shooting efficiency and Scoring%

Shooting Efficiency = shots on target/total shots. Scoring% = goals/shots on target


Both of Torres' means for scoring% and shooting efficiency are around 40%

Torres shooting effieciency is a little wild, we see a clear outlier at age 23 and a spike this season at 28, the rest of the way it's hovering at around 30%. Remember scoring efficiency is solely a measure of the ability to get his shots on target. Scoring% is how many of those shots on target become goals. And, yet again, for whatever reason, we see a huge dip at some point in Torres' 26 year old season. Torres' scoring% has just fallen through the floor.

So what to make of all this? Every chart featuring Torres' individual stats show us the exact same things:

Steady progress during his early years at Atletico

A world class 3 year run during his last year at Atletico and his first 2 years at Liverpool

A collapse of his form since his move to Chelsea

The complete collapse of his form at Chelsea is naturally the most interesting aspect of Torres' career. Is this collapse due to burn out (four almost complete seasons at Atletico and International demands may have casued this), or due to a shattered confidence? Maybe it has something to do with his change of club and the different tactical set-up at Chelsea?

I'll leave it you guys who watch him week in and week out to speculate on what has brought on this poor form. The collapse in his form is clear, the reasons behind it are a mystery to me.

Thanks for reading. I write at Bitter and Blue and can be found on Twitter

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