Rafael Benitez Defends Fernando Torres but for How Long?

Ian RodgersWorld Football Staff WriterJanuary 21, 2013

Rafael Benitez was viewed as the manager who could get the best out of Fernando Torres.
Rafael Benitez was viewed as the manager who could get the best out of Fernando Torres.Michael Regan/Getty Images

Chelsea interim manager Rafael Benitez launched another stoic defense of misfiring striker Fernando Torres in the wake of the team's 2-1 win over Arsenal on Sunday, as reported by the Daily Telegraph.

The Spain international failed to score for the seventh successive match, which marks his worst dry run of the season so far.

The substitution of the £50 million forward—he was replaced by Demba Ba—against the Gunners was perhaps more telling than any statistical analysis of the player.

The Stamford Bridge supporters cheered the switch with enthusiasm as the former Liverpool man left the field, with Ba's goalscoring figures since joining from Newcastle earlier this month clearly underlining a loss of patience with Torres.

Ba has scored three times in four appearances since moving south, while Torres needed 25 games for Chelsea to reach the same figure.

The Senegal forward could even have gleaned greater praise from the fans if—after he rounded Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech SzczesnyThomas Vermaelen had not blocked his goal-bound shot on the line.

Previously, the presence of Chelsea legend Didier Drogba had been considered a shadow over the Spaniard, but that comfort blanket was removed in the summer with the Ivorian's departure to China. Torres has barely thrived on being in the limelight since then.

When Benitez took over from the sacked Roberto Di Matteo in November, he was viewed as the manager who could get the best out of Torres.

Benitez was the man who brought the Spaniard to the Premier League when he signed him for Liverpool from Atletico Madrid for £20 million in July 2007, as BBC Sport reported at the time.

Torres went on to become a darling of the Kop, scoring 81 times in 142 appearances for the Merseyside club before his acrimonious departure to Stamford Bridge in January 2011.

Following the arrival of Benitez in West London, Torres did enjoy an upsurge in scoring form. He hit seven goals in six matches for Chelsea. The signs were good, but they have not lasted long.

Following his move from Anfield, Torres did not score for the Blues until he was 903 minutes into his Chelsea career. There has been little to indicate his transfer would be a success ever since.

Ba is a year younger than 28-year-old Torres and is already the more instinctive finisher of the two. The former Newcastle man was in the thick of the action immediately after coming on against Arsenal, while Torres' only shot on target came five minutes before he left the pitch.

Benitez may not be keen on statistics where Torres is concerned, but the evidence in favor of Ba being the leading striker at Chelsea is overwhelming as the EPL Index highlighted earlier this month.

Ba does not only have a better strike rate than Torres, his passing ability is far superior. Torres may create more opportunities but the presence of creative players such as Juan Mata, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Frank Lampard in midfield negates that fact. It is up front where Chelsea need Torres to be inspired.

At the moment, the striker once nicknamed "El Nino" is nowhere and even Benitez must concede time is against both him and Torres if they are to move forward.