Carlo Ancelotti's patience seems to be wearing thin with the misfiring striker as the Premier League champions attempt to defend their crown against Manchester United on Sunday
The reaction to Fernando Torres’ first Chelsea goal nearly a fortnight ago suggested that it was a return of messianic proportions from the Spaniard but in his performance against Tottenham last weekend, it was a return to the same old ineptitude, the same old excuses. Was it all a false dawn?
Now, as Carlo Ancelotti prepares his side for Sunday's top of the table clash against Manchester United - a match that will come to define the club's season - he must decide whether the man who was brought in to save it can be trusted to deliver. The Italian’s trust certainly seems to be waning.
Actions speak louder than words and despite the Blues boss being vocal in his support of the much maligned striker, Torres has only played a full 90 minutes once in Chelsea’s last 10 games. Hardly a ringing endorsement by anyone’s standards.
Grim reading for a man carrying a price tag of £50 million, but Ancelotti’s job is to surely win football matches, not massage the ego of Roman Abramovich after he’s been on a shopping splurge. Such is the dynamics of a club in which, in the Italian’s words, he is “just a coach”.
The Torres dilemma is complicated further by the fact that his inclusion inevitably leads to the omission of a squad mate and if Chelsea is to line up with one sole striker at Old Trafford, as is often argued as its only effective formation, the absentee is likely to be Didier Drogba.The Ivorian has not been at his unplayable best this season. But more often than not, he has proven to be a much more frightening prospect than the man brought in to be his partner in crime.
The stats prove it. Since Torres made his debut against former club Liverpool in February, Chelsea has played 803 minutes and scored 11 goals with him in the side. Without him, Chelsea has played 667 minutes and scored 13 goals. That equates to a goal every 73 minutes with the former Liverpool man in the side and one every 57 minutes when he hasn’t played.
|IN OR OUT? | Torres in numbers
So poor is Chelsea’s scoring ratio when carrying the millstone that El Nino has become around its neck, that if it averaged out across a 38-game campaign, the club would manage a total of just 46 goals. Chelsea hit 103 last season.It gets worse for the Spaniard. According to Opta, Liverpool has netted 2.2 goals per game without Fernando Torres this season, compared to just 1.2 when he played for them.
The settling in process of the Spaniard has forced his teammates to step up and take some of the weight so clearly proving cumbersome on his slumped shoulders. Salomon Kalou, for example, has reached double figures in the league for the first time in his Blues career. Hardly impressive stuff but without the 25-year-old’s goals, the club would be in dire straits.
It would appear that even the argument of including Torres due to his lucrative history against Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic has weakened to the point of being little more than mythology.
Three games in Chelsea blue against the Red Devils have yielded next to nothing for the 27-year-old. He was brought off after only 45 minutes of toil at Old Trafford in the sides’ Champions League quarterfinal second leg. The hoodoo he once held over Ferguson’s men has disappeared with the rest of his powers.
In spite of wavering confidence and stats to make a Russian billionaire blush, to write off Torres would be a dangerous thing to do.
But with the title not yet lost and a chance to catch United, starting him would be a huge gamble by Ancelotti. For it to backfire would prove the most expensive of mistakes.Follow Goal.com on to get the latest soccer news directly. Check out Goal.com's page; be part of the best soccer fan community in the world!