Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over London rivals Arsenal on Sunday saw the Blues pull to within 11 points of Premier League leaders Manchester United, but the form of striker Fernando Torres continues to cause concern at Stamford Bridge.
The £50m striker has now failed to score for seven consecutive games, and manager Rafael Benitez took to defending the player’s recent drought in an interview with BBC
“These people who like to quote stats and stats, they don’t have any clue about what is going on,” said the 52-year-old.
“When you have one striker for a month and a half and cannot change, it’s more difficult for the striker. When you have now two strikers, you can manage. Fernando was doing a great job. Afterwards, Demba gave us something we didn’t have before.”
That last comment highlights what is likely to remain a key point during the second half of the season at the Blues, that is to say their striking options. Demba Ba has made a quick impact since joining the club from Newcastle, and at times has seemed to offer more of a threat to opposing defences during a 10 minute run out than fellow forward Torres has done for the previous 80, and a clear example of this could arguable have been at the Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
With the Senegal international scoring three goals since arriving in London earlier this month, as opposed to the Spaniard who has netted 14 goals in 69 league games, fans remain excited at the prospect of Ba potentially providing suitable long-term replacement for club legend Didier Drogba, who departed for Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua last summer.
Torres, however, has struggled to win over the Blues’ following since arriving from Liverpool for a British record transfer fee. He was generally adored at Anfield as an exciting and reliable option at the top of the park, but has struggled to reproduce that form since donning the blue shirt of Chelsea, and has been jeered following some less than satisfactory performances in recent weeks.
Benitez was happy with the Blues’ performance on Sunday, and took time to express his satisfaction. He said: “We have been doing well and creating chances in all our games. In the games we didn’t win we deserved to win. It was just a matter of time until we had a performance like this.”
The victory marked the first time Chelsea had won at Stamford Bridge since routing Aston Villa 8-0 on 23rd December, and looked particularly impressive during the opening 45 minutes. Benitez continued: “That was good for the fans to see the first half. We were on top and controlling the game. In the second half Arsenal came pushing but we should have had the game won by half time. We should have taken more chances and we deserved even more goals.”
The club’s next test comes in the form of a trip to Swansea in the Capital One Cup semi-final on Wednesday evening, with Benitez’s men facing a 2-0 deficit going into the fixture. The reward of a place in the final awaits, as do the winners of the opposing semi where League Two’s Bradford City take a 3-1 advantage to Premier League strugglers Aston Villa.
With Benitez having already conceded that the club will not win the title this season, the Capital One Cup at this stage appears to be their best chance to win some silverware this season. A trip to Brentford in the fourth round of the FA Cup follows the Swansea clash, and will mark the first time the two clubs have met in a West London derby since 1950.
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