LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Fernando Torres of Chelsea looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Everton and Chelsea at Goodison Park on February 11, 2012 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
I've always had issues with the idea that we need to re-build the Chelsea squad to suit Fernando Torres. If we're going to pay 50 million pounds for a center forward, I'd certainly hope we don't need to tailor the squad to his needs to get anything out of him. While he's certainly going to require a few tweaks to the service provided from what we'd give Drogba, he should still be capable of getting into spaces in which our players can find him. He isn't, and unfortunately that's making us very easy to defend.
After the jump we'll take a look at quite a few instances from today's game where Torres killed off the attack himself with his poor runs and terrible positioning. I've taken some screen caps from the game and highlighted what he should be doing differently, and frankly I was shocked at the amount of material I had from 45 minutes. I literally left about 35 screen caps out just due to the sheer volume of examples available. Beyond being the main culprit for our goal conceded today Torres was completely useless on the offensive end. To say he was atrocious today would be an understatement.
For our first example I'll take a look at a marauding run by David Luiz on about the half hour mark. This is the run that eventually led to an excellent chance from a free kick, but really should have had better results from open play.
As Luiz begins to turn to run towards the center of the pitch he has two excellent ares in which to play the ball to Torres. For a player of Luiz's ability either are fairly routine balls, so all Fernando has to do is make up his mind and pick one of the three runs I've drawn in. Any of those three will leave Luiz one on one and Ryan Bertrand with his defender on the outside shoulder. Looks like a golden opportunity...
After failing to be decisive with his run Fernando decided to make the worthless run I've marked in grey. This cut off Ryan Bertrand's potentially excellent run and allowed the entire defense to collapse on Luiz, leaving him with only the unoccupied areas marked to pass the ball away to. Luckily for Chelsea, Luiz was fouled and we were bailed out. David Luiz wouldn't be the only one burned by an awful Torres decision though...
Mata has just received the ball with Torres positioned perfectly to hold off his defender. If he simply makes the indicated run we have a fairly cut and dried scoring chance and a delivery Juan Mata can make in his sleep.
Unfortunately for Mata, Torres decides to circle around his defender and make the delivery nearly impossible. Mata's attempted cross would be easily dealt with by the defense. If only that were the last of his ridiculous runs...
He had Ramires running full speed with the ball. He's running full speed to the near post and is in perfect position to keep his marker behind him (the blue line). Inexplicably he decided to slow up and put his marker between himself and the ball (the light grey path), taking away a fairly cut and dried pass for Ramires and instead leaving him with a lob that Xavi would make about one time out of a million. The result? Turnover. Smart.
Torres wouldn't make too many other awful runs largely due to his own poor positioning. Over the past several weeks Torres has been showing a tendency to place himself in positions where the defense can easily neutralize him. Take the following...
Beyond be lined up in an offside position, Torres has placed himself in a spot where any ball over the top can easily be cleared by one of the defenders marking him. What Fernando should be doing here is lining up on one of their shoulders, giving himself inside position on one while giving Sturridge a larger area to drop the ball into. Here's a look at Didier Drogba doing exactly that in the second half.
Drogba failed to control the pass, but had he done so his positioning would have left us with a near certain goal...
Fernando should be setting himself up more like Drogba, starting his runs on a defenders shoulder and creating more room for his midfield and wingers to play balls over the top. This is likely a large part of the reason Danny Sturridge does so well when paired with Drogba and virtually nothing when paired with Torres. Just look at how he's set up here and ask yourself how large a space we had to play him the ball.
Had he been set up on either defender's shoulders he likely would have given Danny a beautiful target in the highlighted area. He did not though, and he would continually set up like that.
Once again, had he been on the defender's shoulder he'd have created space for Brani to lob a pass into him. Playing off his marker like that simply puts him closer to another defender, taking away any potential of lobbing a pass over the top of that man. It also the defense to cope more easily with the runs of Sturridge and Mata. While the switch to the 4-2-3-1 will receive much of the credit for our improved 2nd half form, I honestly believe it's largely due to getting Torres off for Drogba.
I don't think there's a Chelsea fan alive who hasn't been massively disappointed with Fernando Torres since he joined the club. What's shocking to me is how easily fixable all of this is. We don't need to buy new players to provide better service, and we don't need to alter our style of play. All we really need to do is get Fernando to start making it easier to provide him the ball. In every one of the instances highlighted here we could easily have played Torres through on goal with the exact players we already have. Instead he's forcing our players to play a ball into the smallest of spaces and costing us multiple scoring chances in the process.
The lack of service to Torres is due to his poor positioning and the runs he makes more than the rest of the team. Fix the positioning, and Torres will get shots. If Torres gets shots he'll likely start to score. If he puts a few in the net he'll likely have the rest of the team looking for him more. It really seems a simple fix, and it's shocking how much easier it looked to worry the defense first opposition with Drogba doing just that.