Figuring Out Fernando Part 1
El Niño hasn’t exactly regained his Liverpool form since joining our London Club, but what’s more ridiculous than this is people actually expecting him to. Yes, I can see how that sounds insulting to him. The complete opposite actually, I am easily one of the biggest Nando fans, dating back to his time at Atletico. However there have been a series of unfortunate events that have changed his game style. Waiting for the Torres of Liverpool will make us blind to our Torres. The Torres of Chelsea.
The first thing that happened to the beast was the injury he picked up in Spain’s stunning World Cup victory. He didn’t feature much in the campaign as he was recovering from a previous injury. Upon his return to Liverpool, he was cleared probably before he should have been, returning to the league a different player. The injury caused him to loose his trademark pace which allowed him to pick up one of Alonso or Gerrard’s passes, sprint around defenders, into the box and score. Even before he handed in his transfer request, when he scored goals, he would drift out wide and score from an angle.
It’s pretty unreasonable for Chelsea to have been expecting the 2008 target man taking into consideration his changing playing style. Factor in the difference in the teams. Let’s be honest, Torres was brought in as a backup for Drogba, not really to be their star man, the kind of treatment he was accustomed to at Anfield.
Next was the huge transfer fee. Torres definitely IS a class player and deserves a good bundle of millions to his name. But £50 million? That price tag will raise unrealistic expectations on any player. With that kind of price, fans were expecting a goal a game, even if he is introduced in the 80th minute. It’s not like Torres demanded this fee, Roman all but threw the money after him. For a ‘confidence player’, having the huge expectations of ‘the £50 million man’ placed on him before the name on the back of his shirt has time to dry, must have been tough. Not to mention the abuse he received from the Kopites who once praised him greatly affected Torres who, by all accounts seems to be a genuinely nice guy.
Let’s get straight to this season! Take a quick look at our midfield and take a deep breath along with that. Our entire team knows they can score goals, and our midfielders are more likely to try a shot at goal than pass to Torres or Ba. Of course it’s common for Mata and Hazard to get into goal scoring positions, but if holding midfielders and defenders like Lampard, David Luiz, and Cahill are able to rack up their own goal count, what chance does a lone striker have of getting the service he needs? This dilemma has been one of the main reasons for Torres’ change in his playing style. Suddenly Torres wasn’t lurking around the last opposing defender waiting for a clearance to come his way. He was running back, defending even at times, winning balls and overall being a real team player. This gave him the opportunity to provide assists to his team mates. A memorable one was his perfect through ball for Ramires’ goal against Wigan earlier this year (which he did again against Spurs). From the point of view of a Torres fan, it may be preferable to see him on the end of those passes rather than providing them. But personally I think it shows great character and drive that he is willing to selflessly give a ball up if it increases the possibility of his team scoring. He himself has said he feels more a part of Chelsea than he did at Liverpool and I think this has played a major part in that sentiment. It’s important for him to regain just a tad bit of that selfishness (you may call it) that he had at Liverpool.
And here comes the confidence talk. Maybe he gives those balls up to his teammates because he no longer feels he is good enough to dribble through defenders and score. With his long droughts one may be able to understand his slouched shoulders and that ‘I give up’ body language. What you’d expect out of Chelsea fans is some hard-core chanting and encouragement sent Torres’ way like, and I’m sorry to mention it again, the Kopites. Those fans scream for you if you score a hat trick or of you miss a hat trick worth of goals. If it’s one thing that can be said about Liverpool fans, it’s that they stand behind their players even if they don’t deserve it (ahem, Suarez). Regardless, a select group of fans took to ridiculing him rather than supporting him. They began using ‘Torres’ as a verb for ‘miss’ especially after that unfortunate miss-hit against Manchester United. May I just say there have been worse misses than that? Thank god for the true fans that have just cheered him on through his droughts, spells of greatness, hits and misses. It can’t be denied that he has scored some extremely important goals, and has saved Chelsea more times than I care to count.
Let’s look at that Barcelona semi-final. I understand the concept of away goals and that at 2-2 we were going through thanks to Ramires’ goal. But with a few minutes left of the game, a ten man Chelsea team was struggling to defend against apparently the entire Barcelona team which seemed determine to squeeze into the 18 yard box. We were parking the bus just fine up to that point, but I find it hard to imagine one of the Spanish starts wouldn’t have found a way through. Lampard’s clearance was picked up by the late sub, Torres who created the goal to seal our place in the finals with only a few minutes left. He also got us into the quarters of Europa this season by scoring the winning goal against Steaua București. He may have missed a penalty later on, but which is more important? Missing a penalty that didn’t affect the game in the end, or scoring earlier on and having the confidence to take the penalty on the absence of Lampard? And his equalizing goal against the Corinthians in the Club World Cup was unfortunate to be called offside.
And that Europa League final goal? Amazing! He did well, made a long run, fought off a defender and goal keeper and still managed to finish from a tight angle. Going round the keeper after long runs seems to be his forte after witnessing a similar goal at Camp Nou and in the final for Euro 2008, a goal which won that generation of Spanish their first major title. His confidence was high despite the lack of many opportunities. We owe our win to Fernando as much as we do to Brana.