Fernando Torres enjoyed a personal resurgence back in 2012, only to slump back to his inconsistent form in the last few months. Meanwhile, Demba Ba has found playing time harder to come by at Chelsea than in Newcastle United, and his production levels haven’t come anywhere close to last season’s. Under Benitez’s rotation policy, neither Ba nor Torres have made the starting spot their own.
Harry Redknapp recently wrote an article in The Sun about Torres’ form, saying that “with Chelsea in the position they are [Torres] can help get [Chelsea] trophies.” It’s a fair point – with 19 goals this season, Torres is, at the very least, scoring somewhat regularly this season. He’s a top five forward in the English Premier League, too.
Yet Chelsea will spend much of the next few months gracing headlines and linked to one forward or another. The most recurring name – Radamel Falcao from Athletico Madrid – seems to be the most obvious choices for Chelsea. Falcao is certainly set for a big move, after impressing this season and scoring 28 goals. He is a rather expensive option, but that won’t deter Roman Abramovich, whose free-spending philosophy has yielded trophies for the club.
Other forwards that may make their way to new clubs include Roberto Lewendowski of Borussia Dortmund, Edison Cavani from Napoli and Roberto Soldado from Valencia. Gonzalo Higuain is also an attractive option. He is a well-established forward that has been a part of Real Madrid’s set up for the better part of the last seven years.
Yet, Chelsea would do well to ignore each and every one of them and focus their attention, instead, on another forward, plying his trade in Brazil.
His name is Fred.
Well, Frederico Chaves Guedes, though the name on his shirt is much shorter and simpler. Currently at Fluminense in Brazil, Fred is a 29-year-old forward, a Brazilian international, and Chelsea’s best bet for a smart, cheap signing come July. He’s valued at practically a fifth of what Falcao is worth.
Fluminense head coach Abel Braga called Fred “the best forward in Brazil,” and some of Brazil’s World Cup hopes will fall on Fred’s shoulders. The former Lyon striker netted 30 goals in 45 games in 2012.
Fred is also a complimentary forward to Torres and the rest of Chelsea’s line up. While Torres likes to involve himself in running movements, Fred is the kind of forward that draws defenders backwards.
This opens space in between the opposition’s defensive line and midfield line, allowing Hazard or Mata to cut in and fill that spot. Fred also has a strong head, giving the Blues a dangerous option on set pieces. While Falcao may be a superb goalscorer from outside the box, he is similar in stature and in style to Torres.
Therein lies the problem with Falcao at Chelsea – there is no guarantee that Falcao will score more than 20 goals a season with the Blues. It’s a case of replacing one player with a similar forward, instead of supplementing the player you already have.
Fred is that supplementary forward. He is everything Falcao is not; he’s a strong, physical presence in the box with nimble passing feet.
Falcao is a runner, Fred is a fighter; Falcao enjoys possession, Fred gets rid of the ball; Falcao burns out near the end of a game, Fred spends the game lazily floating in and out of the box, snapping his teeth and scoring when goalkeepers least expect it.
In almost every way, Falcao looks like a better striker, a flashier forward, and a more exciting option for Chelsea; He is the talk of the town with a bright future at a big club almost guaranteed, but his style may not be what Chelsea need. Fred offers the Blues an archetypal solution up front. In almost every way, Fred would be the smarter and more effective player in a blue shirt, paired alongside Fernando Torres.
In a league that has changed from the single striker model back to a two-forward system, Chelsea may soon be left behind. Manchester United is finding success with a combination of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Robin van Persie up top; Manchester City can say the same with Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero. Defenders are finding it easier and easier to cover a single striker, while fullbacks have trouble with wingers.
Chelsea has an even greater need for a pair of forwards up top, considering the style of their midfield. Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are small and tricky wingers who like to cut in and cause trouble from the middle; Frank Lampard and Ramires like to push forward but are also good at distributing the ball. All four are output players; this is not a midfield built like Barcelona’s, catering to a passing style that yields high-number goal rates for a select few; Chelsea’s midfielders grace the scoresheet as often as their forwards. Utilizing this output-based midfield requires forwards who can latch onto crosses and score easy goals, something that Torres has been criticized for – he is an independent striker through and through; what Chelsea really need is a forward who can capitalize on Hazard and Mata’s crossing, while also opening space for the duo’s offensive runs.
Chelsea is a team undergoing a period of change – Lampard’s time at Stamford Bridge is dwindling, Oscar is enjoying life – and football – in London, and with a midfield capable of dominating matches, Chelsea’s one major deficiency comes in wasting offensive output when using only one forward.
It would be wise if Chelsea restructured to a more straightforward 4-4-2, signing a strong defensive midfielder to partner Ramires in the centre of the midfield, allowing Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Marko Marin to share the wings and drift into the middle as they please. Finally, partner Fernando Torres not with Falcao but with a sleeping giant from Brazil, Fred.
Fernando Torres and Fred.
It even sounds fun!