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Tortured, tormented Fernando Torres: When will Chelsea's 50m misfit regain form?
Published : 08 Apr 2011 13:53:01
When it comes to Fernando Torres and his failure to score a first goal for Chelsea, it can't simply be a temporary loss of confidence or the burden of expectation that has been created by that record-breaking price tag. He was not exactly cheap when he joined Liverpool in 2007 and he responded to that by scoring a quite brilliant goal on his Anfield debut against the team he joined this January. It was a goal that perfectly demonstrated his two greatest qualities. His marvellous skill as well as devastating speed and acceleration that first allowed him to catch a super ball from Steven Gerrard before gliding past Tal Ben Haim and guiding a left-foot shot beyond the reach of Petr Cech. At breaking point: Torres is yet to score for Chelsea A player who would soon be considered the finest striker in Europe had arrived and he ended his first Barclays Premier League season with 24 goals in 33 appearances, eclipsing a record previously set by Ruud van Nistelrooy. In the last year, however, and particularly since the World Cup, that acceleration has been missing, and Torres has struggled as a consequence. He no longer seems capable of beating an opponent with a burst of pace, the net result often being that the centre half simply barges him off the ball before he even has a chance to employ that brilliant finishing ability. That would certainly mess with his mind and it is not something he, or indeed we, are imagining either. Thanks, in particular, to him rushing back from a knee problem in time for last summer's World Cup, he has lost some of that speed and there are statistics that appear to prove as much. Ideally, we would compare a performance now to a performance back in 2007. The software that could measure his speed and acceleration certainly exists but those clever chaps at Prozone aren't prepared to share the results. Which is understandable given the contracts they have with clubs, like Chelsea, who essentially fund them. The computer whizzes at EA Sports can tell us a few things, having developed a programme that measures the top speed and distance covered by every player in the Barclays Premier League. Torres joined Chelsea's match at Stoke last weekend as a 61st-minute substitute but, on an afternoon when his side were desperately chasing a win, there was clearly something lacking in their ?50million striker. Dry patch: Torres failed to change the game during Chelsea's 1-1 draw at Stoke He left the field having recordedthe lowest top speed of any outfield player from either side involvedthat day. A relatively pedestrian 19.53mph. Torresmight argue that there were too few opportunities to reach his maximumon what was a difficult encounter for Carlo Ancelotti's side. He might also point to more impressive results against Manchester City in their previous match. In that game he reached a more respectable 21.97mph. Just to compare, Usain Bolt was a fraction short of 28mph when he set his 100m world record of 9.58 seconds. But against City, the speed Torres reached still only ranked him fourth among his Chelsea colleagues, and until he regains the pace that made him one of the fastest forwards in the Premier League, he will probably continue to struggle. Poles apart: Didier Drogba and Torres are yet to strike up an understanding Ancelotti acknowledged there was a problem when he gave an interview to this newspaper back in February. 'He is not 100 per cent, but he will score,' said Chelsea's manager. 'And he will regain that speed, that acceleration, that people think he has lost. 'He had a problem last year, with his knee, and he tried to recover quickly to play in the World Cup. He was not 100 per cent at the World Cup. He had an injury at the World Cup. 'He then came back in the September, having basically been injured for five months. When a player is injured for five months, to come back to have the speed as well as the skill, to have that acceleration, you need to have time. 'So we are arranging for him specific training to work on his speed. Now he is not 100 per cent. That acceleration is not back yet. But he doesn't have a big problem. The knee is fine. It is coming. In the last game against Fulham, two or three times he was quick. He moved very well. He is improving. 'With the people we have here I am sure we can get him back to his very best. As I said, the knee is okay now. He is a good professional, and the attitude is always important. We just have to arrange the right training for him.' What a waste of money: Andriy Shevchenko spectacularly failed to live up to his price tag Having failed to score in nine games, he obviously isn't there yet that 617 minutes of frustration ranking him below even Andriy Shevchenko in the Chelsea record books at this early stage of his Stamford Bridge career. After nine matches, the Ukrainian had managed to score twice. Torres, surely, is not going to prove as big a disappointment as a striker who cost Roman Abramovich ?30m and there is another list that should offer the Spaniard some encouragement. Thierry Henry needed nine games to score for Arsenal while Dennis Bergkamp needed seven. And remember how good Diego Forlan was at the last World Cup. Well, at Manchester United he had to wait 27 games before scoring and never really justified his ?7.5million price tag. The formation may be part of the problem. Torres, like Didier Drogba, seems happiest when playing as a lone striker, and Ancelotti's decision to select both of them in a 4-4-2 line-up certainly did not pay off against Manchester United on Wednesday night. Theirs was an unhappy partnership. On Thursday, Ray Wilkins suggested Ancelotti drop Torres and play Drogba in a 4-3-3 that has been successful in the past and the former Chelsea coach may have a point. But he will appreciate the pressure Ancelotti will be feeling from Abramovich. The Russian grew frustrated with Jose Mourinho because of Shevchenko's problems and Ancelotti will know that he needs to get Torres playing well to keep his boss happy. That may be why he hooked Drogba rather than Torres against United when it was Torres who deserved to come off. At the moment, the Spaniard cuts a forlorn figure, and the sight of him diving twice in an attempt to win a penalty in that Champions League quarter-final was a measure of his desperation. Torres commanded respect at Liverpool for his sporting conduct as well as his class, not least from opposing centre halves who admired him for playing hard but fair. So perhaps Ancelotti should take him out of the firing line for a while. At least until he knows that, the next time he comes up against a centre half, he will have the speed to take him on. Drop Torres for Chelsea's Champions League showdown with United, says WilkinsHe just can't score! ?50m Torres joins Chelsea's list of expensive strike flopsLampard determined to use anger over 'blatant' penalty snub to beat UnitedAll the latest Chelsea news, features a nd opinion Explore more:People: Tal Ben Haim, Usain Bolt, Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Roman Abramovich, Fernando Torres, Steven Gerrard, Andriy Shevchenko, Jose Mourinho, Thierry Henry, Carlo Ancelotti Places: Liverpool, Europe