As Chelsea and Fernando Torres look to push through a £35m transfer from Liverpool to Stamford Bridge before Monday, A
The Anfield side Torres currently plays for has fallen dramatically from the 2008/09 campaign’s heights of a title race with Manchester United, where the Spanish striker’s 14 goals from 20 Premier League starts directly earned 12 of the 86 points Rafa Benitez’ team picked up on the way to a second-place finish. Liverpool of 2010-11 no longer has Benitez, Xabi Alonso, Javier Mascherano or the financial clout to replace them, and so now, no longer has the faith of their star striker, pushing for a transfer.
However, is Chelsea best placed as the team to tempt Torres away from what seems in his eyes, an insurmountable situation on Merseyside? Immediately speaking, it is a far-from-certain dressing room the 26-year-old would enter, one that has just come out of a nine-game league run of just one win, that saw a four-point lead over Manchester United turn into a 10-point deficit in the space of three months. Indeed, Liverpool – and 16 other teams – collected more points over the same nine games. It is also a run of league form worse than Torres has ever experienced playing in England. Whilst the club he currently wears No 9 for do not fill him with confidence, will the one he wants to join be able to?
Chelsea’s dressing room is currently one with individuals uncertain of their own futures, and collectively of their revered Coach Carlo Ancelotti. The London team has shown surprising fragility in its recent slump, looking disjointed in Frank Lampard’s absence, uncertain in defence even in John Terry’s presence and with Didier Drogba’s recent struggles with Malaria, uninspired in attack. No player’s long-term future looks safe, be that through recent performances, the cost-cutting approach recently brought into action behind the scenes or as they sit the wrong side of 30.
On the pitch, Torres’ arrival would almost certainly signal a tactical shift from the 4-3-3 shape to something more accommodating of both he and Drogba. However, other instances of formation-fiddling at Stamford Bridge post-Jose Mourinho have been met with resounding immaturity from the Chelsea players – be that in fully backing certain Coaches, or in understanding the principles put in place by others.
Ancelotti last term was keen for a diamond-shaped midfield, but this only worked without Lampard in the team as he struggled to find the same level of influence in it, and proved less-than-successful in breaking through more stubborn opposition, such was the narrowing effect it had on the team, and more surprisingly the inability of Jose Bosingwa, Ashley Cole and Paolo Ferreira to provide the extra width it required.
Chelsea with two in attack would almost certainly see a reversion to this set-up, placing Lampard behind the strikers, backed up by a midfield three, or one of Drogba and Torres playing second fiddle either from wide or the bench. Whilst Ancelotti wanted the 4-1-2-1-2 formation at the start of last season, the quick return to the 4-3-3 was part of the reason for going on to win the double, and it is understood he is not overly keen on such money going on Torres that could be spent elsewhere on the squad.
This is a team remarkably close to Torres’ Liverpool of two seasons ago – one with leaders on the pitch, but arguably just as vulnerable when the surface is scratched. There is minimal support from the youth team or outside members of the Blues’ first-team to step in when the likes of Lampard and Terry are out and ensure the team’s performance is maintained at the highest level.
Torres may see this as his best opportunity to progress as a professional, but with Manchester City and even Manchester United as potential suitors in the summer, clubs with arguably greater infrastructure and squad depth will be there as options for the World Cup winner.
Chelsea view Torres as the key to bouncing back, but dangerously for them, they could be putting faith in a player out of form, not yet over niggling injury concerns, and needing a stable, long-term environment Chelsea may not be able to offer. Alternatively, this could be a match made in heaven, but at £35m and in mid-season, pressure will be on the relationship, the tactical adjustments and the confidence of both player and club to come together almost immediately, for if it doesn’t, the only thing Torres may find has changed is the colour of his shirt.