Fernando Torres: 8 Things That Must Change for Him to Succeed at Chelsea
To borrow a phrase popularised by the Queen, 2011 has been an annus horribilis for Fernando Torres.
Since his move from Liverpool to Chelsea last January, Torres has scored just five goals for his new club, has seen his international prospects diminish and has become something of a national laughing stock.
But his situation is not irretrievable. He was a top player for long enough to show he was no flash in the pan, and he is still young enough to turn things around as he approaches what should be the peak years of his career.
Here are eight factors which could help Torres make 2012 his annus mirabilis.
Regular First-Team Football
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No struggling footballer ever played their way back into form from the bench.
Torres has been left out of the starting lineup so much recently that a £50 million player being named on the bench is no longer even remarkable.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas needs to give his most expensive squad member more minutes on the pitch if he is truly committed to getting the best out of him.
Drogba Needs to Be out of the Picture
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Didier Drogba has undoubtedly been one of the top dogs in a squad full of egos since he was signed by Jose Mourinho.
The Ivorian striker is a dominating presence at the club, a status that he has earned through his years of exemplary service.
However, with Drogba ageing and reports that he is looking for a move elsewhere gathering momentum, perhaps this is the time to cash in on their star man and give Torres the room to thrive.
Fresh Faces in the Squad
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Drogba is by no means the only alpha male in the Chelsea squad. The siege mentality that was instilled with high success under Mourinho has since been as much of a blessing as a curse in the club's dressing room.
Senior members of the squad, past and present, have often accounted for the untimely demises of managers. It must be very intimidating to walk into from the outside.
But with many of those established stars in the final years of their career, the Blues need to replenish the squad and bring through a new generation to recapture former glories and reach new heights. A fresh injection of youth and talent, without any of the baggage and ego of the current crop, could help restore Torres's confidence.
Mata Must Play More Centrally
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The signing of Torres's international teammate in the summer was seen as a shrewd move, not only in obtaining the services of one of the best young playmakers in the game, but also as a way to help Torres feel more comfortable at the club.
However, Mata has had to adapt to Chelsea's style of play, usually playing on the left of a narrow midfield rather than in his most influential central role.
When Torres has played at his best, it has been with Steven Gerrard in the No.10 role behind him at Liverpool or with support from the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas with Spain—that is how Chelsea would best maximise their striker's potential now.
He Must Rediscover His Selfish Streak
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Torres at his best was a dangerous customer, always loitering on the shoulder of the last defender, ready to pounce on any half-chance that came his way with a clinical flourish.
Since his injury problems and subsequent loss of confidence, that predatory streak has largely gone. Now, eager to show he can still contribute to the team even when he is not scoring goals, he is more often seen dropping deep in search of the ball or drifting wide in order to feed teammates the ball.
But in those positions he is not going to score the goals which will help him recapture his best form. Torres needs to eliminate every other element of his game and just focus on scoring goals.
He Needs to Get His Confidence Back
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Torres cuts such a lonely figure these days. Where once he was a fresh-faced young striker who played as though he lived for little else other than to play football, now he is a mere shell of his former self.
Clearly the best way for him to regain his former vim and vigour would be for him to start delivering on the pitch, but the situation has become the proverbial chicken and egg: He won't start scoring until he gets his mojo back, but he can't get back the confidence until he starts producing on the pitch.
Chelsea are a club of vast resources, and they need to do whatever it takes to get Torres feeling right again before he can start scoring goals once more—regular sessions with sports psychologists, team-building exercises and even a daily hug—whatever is necessary to make El Niño feel good about himself again.
Let Him Take a Penalty
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The old adage goes that when a striker is going through a scoring drought, they just need a goal to go in off their backside for them to get that monkey off their back and start scoring again.
In the absence of any such fortune, however, perhaps it is time to give him a helping hand.
Letting Torres have a free shot from 12 yards is a risky strategy. It would upset Frank Lampard, who currently has his own issues surrounding that responsibility, and he could of course miss, which would risk plunging his confidence levels even lower. But it may be a risk worth taking.
A New Tactical Blueprint
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The Chelsea of the last decade is one which has become synonymous with a certain style. A powerful, packed midfield which plays in a direct, aggressive manner has become one of the hallmarks of Chelsea over their most glorious period.
However, that is not the way in which any of the teams in which Torres has performed at optimum level has played. From Atletico Madrid to Liverpool and Spain, Torres has thrived in teams that can offer patient, passing play and also offer genuine width.
Villas-Boas has been hired to transform the club. As long as patience with him does not wear thin from Roman Abramovich, the Portuguese coach must be allowed to overhaul the way Chelsea play and hope that the new style is more in keeping with what makes Torres fire most frequently.