Torres in action against Sunderland
For once, the headlines surrounding the Spanish striker are positive ones, following his two-goal haul against Russian side Rubin Kazan in the Europa League last week and his eye-catching performance as a second-half substitute against Sunderland on Sunday.
Torres may be enjoying a period of better form of late, but he still has a lot to do to convince Chelsea fans that he should be the club’s premier striker next season. Stats don’t tell the whole story, of course, but there is no escaping the fact that this is a player who hasn’t scored in the league this calendar year and only has a total of seven Premier League goals all season.
Nonetheless, despite his well-documented struggles at Stamford Bridge since arriving for a British transfer record £50 million fee in January 2011, Torres has, for the most part at least, been backed to the hilt by match-going Chelsea fans.
Yes, there were some ironic cheers when he was substituted in the League Cup semifinal against Swansea at the Bridge in January, but that is really the one occasion when the home fans have expressed any displeasure with a player who has hardly lived up to his billing as one of the world’s best strikers or, indeed, to his exorbitant transfer fee.
You could even argue that on that particular occasion the crowd’s wrath was directed more at Blues manager Rafa Benitez for his late introduction of new signing Demba Ba, than at Torres himself for an underwhelming display in an unexpected defeat. So, to repeat, the Bridge faithful have been extremely supportive of Torres from the start and would like nothing more than to see him extend his current purple patch right through to the end of the campaign.
It’s a slightly different story, though, if we look at the wider community of Chelsea fans and their reaction to the Spanish star. If, to keep things simple, we just focus on articles about Torres on B/R, it’s apparent that a) these are articles that generate many comments from readers and b) the majority, but by no means all of these comments, take a broadly negative view of the striker, arguing that he is well past his best and should be sold as soon as possible.
That was certainly the response I got when I wrote a feature a couple of months ago pointing out that Torres tends not to score in tight games against strong teams, instead claiming the majority of his goals in big Chelsea victories against lesser sides. Not a lot has changed since then—although, to be fair to him, Torres did grab the all-important winner against Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League quarterfinal last month.
However, you could argue that what these armchair fans think and write is fairly irrelevant. Unless Torres is actively surfing the Internet searching for articles about himself, negative comments about him made by Chelsea fans in far-flung places from the Outer Hebrides to Outer Mongolia will have zero effect on his confidence which, as we know, is a fragile entity at best.
What does matter, though, is how Chelsea fans react to Torres at Stamford Bridge and on the Blues’ travels around the country and Europe. Thus far, they have been magnificent, giving him every encouragement and willing him to succeed both home and away. It was noticeable on Sunday, for example, that every time the striker received the ball there was an audible buzz around the stadium, and Torres responded with some excitingly vibrant play, including a blistering run which set up Chelsea’s equaliser.
I predict, then, that the Blues fans who actually attend matches—generally, an older, more mature bunch who can remember the gloomy years in the early 1980s when Chelsea were floundering in the old Second Division and were almost relegated to the third tier, and who consequently tend to take a broader perspective—will continue to give Torres unstinting support.
Meanwhile, opinion on the Internet will still be split, even if Torres ends the season on a real high with a flurry of vital goals. That, to put it bluntly, is the way of the world. After all, as the saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
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