Having been ‘rested’ for the midweek game against Aston Villa, when Demba Ba laboured unproductively against an organized backline, Fernando Torres was probably expecting to get the nod to start against Manchester United. The fact that he didn't, and was on the bench alongside young Belgian striker Romalu Lukaku - with Ba not even in the squad – probably speaks volumes for how Jose Mourinho sees his trio of strikers. Whilst this was always going to be a learning season for Lukaku, for Torres and Ba to see new German recruit Andre Schurrle selected in front of them to play the role of front man, must have been a sobering experience. Even when the Spaniard got onto the pitch with 25 minutes or so remaining, he failed to show that his manager had made a mistake. Where now for the Chelsea strikers then?
It seems increasingly unlikely that Manchester United will relent their avowed determination to keep Wayne Rooney, so if the Blues are to add to their strike force, they may well need to consider looking elsewhere. Chelsea fans will be disappointed to realize that this is a similar situation to the one faced twelve months ago when, with the glaring requirement for a regular front man was not addressed. For 2012, write 2013. It seems the only opportunity vaguely on the cards is for a short term solution via Samuel Eto’o who can probably be secured from Anzhi’s fire sale at a reasonable price. With only days left in the window though, it’s time for the business to be done, and if Chelsea have lost faith in both Ba and Torres, efforts should be made to move on at least one of them.
Should this happen, Ba appears to be the more likely to be shipped out, although if Mourinho truly had his way, would e not seek to remove the albatross of Torres from around the club’s neck. Never one keen to carry an apparent passenger, there’s certainly reason to assume he would. If Chelsea do secure Eto’o, it’s likely that that the former Champions’ League winner, under Mourinho at Inter, would get plenty of game time. He could also prove to be a development model for the young Lukaku. Despite a strong showing last season when on loan at West Bromwich Albion, it would probably be asking too much for Chelsea to put the prime striking responsibility on such young shoulders this season. He could however, with the right tutelage be Chelsea’s number one striker for years to come in the future.
Unless Mourinho decides to persist with the questionable policy of playing Schurrle in the front role, or deploys a Barcelona-esque ‘false number nine’ format utilizing his abundance of midfield talent, it’s difficult to see how he can avoid playing his strikers. If the side selected against United is any indication however, it appears that such a decision will be one of compulsion rather than conviction.
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