MONACO - AUGUST 30: Fernando Torres of Chelsea during a press conference at the Grimaldi Forum on August 30, 2012 in Monaco, Monaco. (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Chelsea fans, I have found, come in two camps. We'll call these camps 'Torres believers' and 'Torres skeptics' so as to avoid any pejoratives. The former side, obviously, believes in Fernando Torres as that £50 million (plus £50 million in wages) striker that the Blues acquired from Liverpool in January of 2011. Members of the latter are, well, skeptical. It's not much of a secret that I'm far more of a skeptic than a believer. That's ok. Neither is wrong. It's just a matter of faith.
I wrote the previous paragraph to set the scene. I'm sure I'll pay for it in the comments section, but hey, it'll keep me on my moderating toes. What I was trying to say is that I have pretty good credentials as someone who doesn't really have much hope that Torres will ever go back to what he once was, and that therefore my opinion that buying another striker to push him out of the lineup would be a bad plan doesn't just come from an overriding love for Torres the player.
Sure, I'd love Radamel Falcao or Edinson Cavani leading the line. Falcao would probably be my first option -- there's no finer finisher in the game than the Colombian, as we'll probably see firsthand tomorrow -- but the more-versatile Cavani would be a great second option as well. But for the prices either would command compared to the benefit they'd bring to the team, neither is a particularly good bet.
Chelsea need a striker, of course. With Romelu Lukaku out on loan at West Bromwich Albion, we're depressingly low on depth at centre forward (fifteen months ago the club boasted Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Daniel Sturridge, Torres and Lukaku as options up top), and it's very easy to see Roman Abramovich making a big money splash to turn this team from 'very good' into spectacular. But in reality, what the Blues need to do is to acquire a player who can act as depth rather than try to unseat Torres outright.
There's long been a school of thought, most vocally espoused by Carlo Ancelotti (I think), that part of the reason that so many centre forwards failed at Chelsea was because Didier Drogba 'ate them up'. Torres himself has indicated several times that he's far happier being the top dog at Stamford Bridge rather than battling for playing time, and no matter how likely you think it is that he goes back to being a world-beater, a you'd have to imagine that a happy Torres is significantly more likely to come good than a miserable one.
So, what if Chelsea did bring in a Falcao, just as their massive investment in Torres is starting to pay dividends? Well, there'd be a risk of Falcao not fitting in, or getting hurt, or all the other factors you think about when bringing in major talent. But there would also seem to be significant risk of a collapse in Torres' form alongside that. Spending a tonne of money on a big striker could easily make Torres far less valuable to the team. Sturridge would probably have a right old sulk about it too.
It's nice to imagine the club using the depth issues at centre forward as an excuse to bring in a truly elite player, but such a transfer would probably end up being even riskier than usual (and star strikers tend to be relatively bad buys anyway) thanks to the rather fragile Torres situation. If Chelsea want to improve their strike force, picking up a cheap Kalou-type option would seem to me to be a better play.