SWANSEA, WALES - JANUARY 31: Fernando Torres of Chelsea talks with referee Andre Marriner during the Barclays Premier League match between Swansea City and Chelsea at Liberty Stadium on January 31, 2012 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
The latest edition of TheReport is here! In this column, I offer my perspective on £50m man and his team! Today, I look at yesterday's Premier League match against Swansea
My, but aren't we a fickle bunch? It's amazing how quickly some will turn against a player. After an FA Cup tie against Q.P.R. which featured a performance so anonymous I didn't feel compelled to write a report, Fernando Torres again started for Chelsea away to Swansea. I'm not going to dodge the issue here, Nando was abysmal last night. Not poor. Not just not good. Properly bad. Because of this, the arrow on the meter registering Torres' fan approval has gone from "He might just be turning it around" to "Sell him! He's the worst example of footballer I've ever seen" Is that change justified? I, for one, don't think so. Sure, his Chelsea career has been disappointing, and he was, as I said, abysmal against Swansea, but as far as I'm concerned, they're separate issues.
Really, though, I'm sure you're saying, what are the chances that this was an isolated poor game? I think there's a decent chance. Throughout his Chelsea career, Nando's form has correlated roughly with the form of his team. The only time it's not been perfectly true was during the first half of January, where Torres was our most influential player by a mile, despite our generally playing to a level I'd label "Just okay". I'll admit right now that, in the course of my duty as Official Apologist, I've created something of a double standard for myself. I have, at times, somewhat understated the percentage of Fernando's good performances which is tied to the overall team performance.
That makes it difficult for me to make my point in good faith, unless I correct that error. As I said earlier, Fernando's performance in any game is usually dependent on the overall team performance. A lot of the good things Fernando has done this season have been the result of good team play behind him. Not all, certainly, his form prior to Q.P.R. did exceed the level of his team mates, but most of the time, he plays as well as those around him do. That's neither an excuse or a criticism, it's a trait he shares with most players. It's also a trait he's always had. Is it any surprise that his form dipped as Liverpool's did?
It does, I guess, raise the question of whether Roman[, and let's not pretend Carlo had much to do with it,] knew what he was getting. It should have been as obvious to him, a self-professed student of the game, as it was to us that Nando isn't really a player capable of amazing individual efforts. He is[, or at least was,] a dangerous player, of course, but not the same type of player as Didier Drogba in his pomp. The type of player who can make a chance from absolutely nothing, and destroy the opposition in the process. In a sense, Torres is the goal poacher taken to another level. He needs more consistent service than we're used to, or even able, to provide.
Back to the match at hand, I do find the reaction somewhat overblown. Had Fernando been alone in being terrible, I'd be more understanding of the view. Unfortunately for fans of the easy story, he definitely wasn't. No player forward of Oriol Romeu put in a performance that was even remotely acceptable. Chelsea were just as abysmal as Fernando. The second half was better, as we all saw, but despite our more positive play, none of our front four could do much to capitalise on it. I think it says something about their performance that late sub Romelu Lukaku impressed the most of our forward players, despite neither scoring or having any great influence.
In short, I think it's slightly unfair to judge a player so harshly for a performance roughly up to that of the players around him. I understand that Fernando has been disappointing in his Chelsea career, but the level of anger and frustration I've seen since the match ended seems ridiculous to me. Even worse, some people are angry at Fernando himself. There is no excuse for that. Dislike the transfer, want him sold, want him to never play for us again, fine, that's you're opinion, but making it personal isn't cool. He hasn't done anything to hurt you personally.
Sure, he hasn't been what we expected this time last year, and perhaps it's getting to the point where it's not going to work out for him here. I don't think it's that he's not good any more, or that he's finished at the top level, the problem is that he's not suited to the style of play Chelsea have had in the Abramovich era, and truthfully, he was never going to be. There are two options for why we bought Nando. The first is that he was bought in the hope that we would have tuned our style of play to Torres' needs by now, which was always a pipe-dream. Without significant spending, there's no way we would have achieved that in so short a time. The other is that Roman is not as clever as he likes us to think he is, and he thought Fernando would begin the change himself, or simply never considered how he'd fit into our squad.
In conclusion, something isn't working for Nando here. Whether it's tactical, mental, or even physical, we shouldn't be blaming him. He's probably not the ideal striker for Chelsea right now, he's probably not in the best mental shape, and he's probably not as fit as he once was. These shouldn't be as big an issue as they seem to be for him right now. If our current system is the best we can do to accommodate his tactical and physical requirements, and AVB is motivating him to the best of his ability, then he's got to be on the way out. If not, then he deserves more time. How can we tell, though? We can look at how those players around him are playing. From the evidence we've seen recently, something is wrong there too. I'm not privy to the information available to the club, but at a guess, there's something wrong with the formation and tactics we've been using, or our players are unmotivated and disillusioned. I don't know what it is, but something needs to change. I'm not certain what it is, but I'm certain it's not the players, and certainly not Nando. It might be too late for him, but as long as he's a Chelsea player, we should support him. The same goes for any of our players, even Salomon Kalou.