Fernando Torres managed to end yet another infamous goal-drought against Nordsjaelland in the Champions League. On Saturday he followed up his Champions League exploits with a well-deserved double against Sunderland in the Premier League. And while his goals in the Champions League didn’t help Chelsea in any way (we were knocked out of the tournament regardless of the win) his double against Sunderland helped Chelsea win their first League game since October (yes, it’s been that long). It was also Rafael Benitez’s first win as interim manager.
4 goals in 2 games for Torres…. cue the traditional “Torres is back” comments from various people. However, Chelsea fans know better: this isn’t the first time we’ve witnessed a false dawn from our False 9! All jokes aside (he’s obviously not a False 9) he has looked a lot better in his last 2 games. The Express were quick to use the term “The Rafa Benitez effect” to explain Torres’ recent goal surge. While that catchphrase makes for wonderful reading, it doesn’t really explain anything. The fact that Torres has been scoring is down to the football he’s playing, not some magic Benitez has worked on him (even though Torres has credited Rafa for his recent form). But what exactly are the reasons behind him finding the net once again?
Firstly, he’s managing to link up well with other players. Previously he only seemed to be able to link up well with his compatriot Juan Mata. Lately he seems to be on the same wavelength with Eden Hazard and Victor Moses as well. One of the main reasons Chelsea went all-out and purchased an enviable arsenal of attacking midfielders during the summer was to ensure that Torres got plenty of service. It took a bit of time to happen, but we are now seeing the results of Torres finally being able to link up with other players.
Secondly, he’s running in behind defenders and demanding the ball when he’s in a good position. Having people like Hazard and Mata play behind you is well and good, but they won’t be able to provide the correct passes for Torres if he doesn’t make the correct runs and demand the ball when he’s in a goal-scoring position. This was best demonstrated in the build-up to his first goal against Sunderland: he positioned himself between two defenders and demanded that Hazard cross the ball. Hazard duly obliged and Torres duly converted. His runs are an essential part of his game and if he doesn’t make them, he will naturally go AWOL during the match.
Thirdly (and I can’t even begin to stress how important this is) he’s shooting a lot more. Torres had developed a tendency of mentally freezing out when he was in a shooting position and either losing possession or passing the ball to a team-mate. Against Nordsjaelland he shot 9 times and he wasn’t shy to shoot against Sunderland either. Since he’s started shooting more, there is a marked rise in his confidence level which has in turn led to goals. The fact that he’s more confident than before is evident from the fact that he volunteered to take the penalty against Sunderland. That penalty was the first one he had scored in five and a half years.
However, despite everything that’s been stated above, I still stand firm in my resolve that Torres is not ‘back’. For him to truly get back to goal-scoring form, he needs to score regularly. For that to happen, he needs to stay on his game. He needs to keep making his customary runs and demand the ball when he feels he’s in a good position. Guys like Hazard, Mata, Oscar, Moses, Marin (whenever Benitez decides to give him a run-out) will happily pass the ball to Torres if Torres himself is confident that he can score from the position he’s in. Lastly, he needs to keep shooting whenever he gets the chance for he’s not going to score otherwise.
Also, he needs to hit the gym in order to make himself more of a presence upfront, and that’s something even Benitez has acknowledged. I’m not saying he needs to become as solid as Drogba or Lukaku but Torres is as light as a feather. During a match he seems to spend more time on his bum than he does on his feet. The best strikers in the Premier League (Wayne Rooney, Mario Balotelli, Sergio Aguero, Robin Van Persie) are well-built and don’t allow defenders to effortlessly boss them around. Torres needs to ensure that he is well-built so that he can stay on his feet more often, for he is of absolutely no use to the team when he’s down.
Torres has improved a fair bit, but there’s still work to be done before he’s among the goals again. That being said, it’s not a futile exercise. Despite his from being indifferent this season, he’s already scored 10 goals in all competitions (the goal he scored in the Community Shield doesn’t count as the Community Shield is a pre-season match). If he keeps working hard, he can easily score 30+ goals a season.