If Carlo Ancelotti is to get the most from Fernando Torres, then he needs to take decisive action and set about shaping shape his team to exploit the Spaniard’s talents. Ultimately, this will be at the expense of a club legend Didier Drogba – but in football, there’s no real room for sentiment.
Torres at 27 represents a key building block in Chelsea’s future. Drogba at 34 is soon to be consigned to the past. If Chelsea are to make both short and long term gains, then Ancelotti needs to drop efforts to pair the two and start to focus on integrating and indeed rehabilitating Torres. Ultimately, there will be no long term gain in trying to foster a partnership between the Spaniard and the Ivorian – and on recent evidence and the evidence of both their careers, there’s unlikely to be any short-term dividend either.
Torres’s reputation has been built as a lone gunman in a Liverpool team that was ostensibly set up by Rafael Benitez to service him. He needs to be given the freedom to seek out dangerous positions without having to involve himself too much with the buildup play or consider the needs of an orthodox strike partner. And at the critical moment, he needs the ball to be moved quickly and precisely to allow him to exploit the chinks in defensive cover that he exposes.
In fact, Torres’s decline could be traced back to the exit of Xabi Alonso from Anfield. After his departure, Liverpool lost their fluency and became increasingly lugubrious in midfield. Critically, the ball was being moved too slowly and in the wrong areas to get the best out of the striker.
Roy Hodgson compounded Torres’s problems by incorrectly believing that what the striker needed was more support – giving him a partner to share the load. The plan failed, just as it is failing at Chelsea at present, because an orthodox partner tends to inhibit Torres, attacking the same spaces, making similar runs and even filling gaps that Torres would look to exploit.
Hodgson did not help matters with his stodgy tactics and Liverpool’s increasingly direct and imprecise approach. Frustrated by injury, a lack of confidence and the club’s decline – Torres appeared to give up the ghost.
Carlo Ancelotti’s efforts to shoehorn Drogba and Torres into a 4-4-2 formation at Chelsea shows a similar lack of understanding and is only serving to compound Torres’s problems. Both strikers have operated most effectively in their careers as lone strikers. Both seem to share the same instincts, attack the same areas. When both play, they appear suffocated, smothered – frustrated. And the pairing and resultant formation is proving uncomfortable not just for both players and but for the team as well, which looks increasingly ponderous in this new guise.
Ancelotti needs to take decisive action. Torres is the future of the club, and this reality requires that the manager affect a system of play that will exploit his talents to the full. Necessarily, and inevitably, this will see Drogba consigned to the Chelsea history books.
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