One £50m move for a striker and the pressure is going to on, that’s a given. It’s the fee Chelsea paid Liverpool for Fernando Torres a little under two years ago and it’s fair to say the deal hasn’t worked out as well as many had hoped.
A little over 20 goals in close to 100 appearances, averaging at around one every four games, isn’t the ideal return for a striker so prolific during his days at Anfield and as an Atletico Madrid youngster.
However, while Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas and Roberto Di Matteo all failed to bring the best out of the Spaniard, there is always hope if the right man is handed the opportunity to work with the 28-year-old.
Cue the arrival of Rafael Benitez. The 52-year-old was announced as Di Matteo’s successor last month and while he may not have been the favoured choice by many at Stamford Bridge, his previous work with Torres means Roman Abramovich can finally see the best out of his expensive plaything.
And while it may’ve got off to a slow start, the wheels are certainly beginning to turn once again. Torres now has six goals in five games, following wins over FC Nordsjaelland, Sunderland, Monterrey, and Leeds, having previously only scored one in 12.
It’s fair to say that Benitez brings the best out of Torres. As witnessed during the pair’s time together at Anfield, the latter blossomed under the stewardship of the former. However, with Chelsea, the style and build up play isn’t suited to the striker’s needs.
It was evident at Liverpool to utilise his talents, the 28-year-old needs to be fed the through ball early in order to capitalise on the opposition defenders inability to outpace the front-man. With the Blues, however, the emphasis was on ball retention through the attacking trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Juan Mata.
While this may’ve suited Didier Drogba during his time at Stamford Bridge, it hindered Torres’ impact in West London. Yet, under Benitez, the gameplan appears to have changed in order to benefit the Spaniard.
Chelsea now look to move the ball forward quicker to release the striker, as evident during his first of two against Nordsjaelland. David Luiz, operating in midfield for the World Club Cup win over Monterrey, more often than not looked to play Torres in behind the defence using the same approach that Xabi Alonso and Steven Gerrard would have done at Liverpool.
With the build-up play altered, and an impressive return to scoring form, it’s no surprise to see that Torres is currently 20/1 with Ladbrokes to be top scorer at the end of the season. If Chelsea persist with the current approach, allowing Torres to finally blossom at Stamford Bridge, there is no reason why El Nino can’t kick his early Blues demons into touch and live up to his hefty price tag at long last.