As the winds of change again prepare to blow into Stamford Bridge after this current English Premier League season finally comes to an end Sunday, Chelsea and Blues management have some pretty big decisions to make that will shape the immediate future of the club.
The first piece of business, quite obviously, is getting a new manager in place to replace outgoing interim manager Rafael Benitez, and it seems sooner or later a much-expected announcement that Jose Mourinho is coming back to West London will finally happen.
Once the new manager is named and the summer transfer market opens on July 1, we can expect much wheeling and dealing—like Chelsea did last summer—but one of the biggest decisions to be made by the Blues is what to do at the striker position.
And as we all know, Fernando Torres is always smack dab in the middle of that conversation, as he has been for the last two-and-a-half years since coming to Chelsea from Liverpool on the last day of the 2011 winter transfer window in a record-breaking £50 million deal from the Reds.
Chelsea have had just two real strikers on their first-team roster for the second half of this season—Torres and Demba Ba—after releasing Blues legend Didier Drogba, loaning Romelu Lukaku out to West Bromwich Albion last summer and selling Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool over the winter transfer market.
As he wanted, Torres started the bulk of Chelsea's games this season but is still prone to those mind-boggling goal droughts like the one in which he is currently mired, which is now approaching the 1,000-minute mark in England's top flight.
In Premier League action to date, the 29-year-old Torres has started 27 games and has scored just seven goals and had six assists, while Ba has had just nine starts and only two goals. Torres has 21 goals in 49 starts and Ba six goals in 15 starts in all competitions for the Blues.
In stark contrast, Barcelona's Lionel Messi has scored 23 goals in La Liga play since Torres notched his last Premiership goal on Dec. 23 versus Aston Villa.
Quite obviously, something needs to be done.
For me, selling, trading or simply dumping El Nino and bringing in two new new guys would be the best prescription, but it seems the writing may already be on the wall and that Torres will indeed be back in the fold for the Blues again for 2013/14.
Rumors of Chelsea signing a high-profile striker like Atletico Madrid's Radamel Falcao (27 goals) or Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski (23 goals) have been floating around for quite some time, but we all know how many rumors in this sport come and go, often not worth the paper they are printed on—they still make newspapers, right?
Remember the Hulk craze last summer? And all of the Edinson Cavani rumors?
Last week, Spanish TV station La Sexta claimed Falcao agreed to terms on a a €60 million move to AS Monaco (via 101 Great Goals) in France's Ligue 2, while the Daily Mail reported that Lewandowski was rumored to be heading to Bayern Munich, providing the Bundesliga champions committed to paying a €25 million asking price by this Wednesday.
On Sunday, the Daily Mail reported that a £50 million move for the 27-year-old Colombian international with Monaco was said to have been done, just one day after Fox Soccer reported that a move for Falcao was nothing but a rumor with Les Rouge et Blanc coach Claudio Ranieri saying, "Falcao will join Monaco? Oh yes, just like Beckham. I like rumors too. When he will come I will tell you."
So who really knows? The correct answer is probably nobody. But it looks as if the idea of Falcao eventually coming to Chelsea has hit a wall with his asking price being even a little too steep for Blues owner Roman Abramovich’s thick Russian blood.
One wise thing the Blues could do, besides signing an established scorer, is bring back the 19-year-old Lukaku—who has 14 goals for the Baggies in EPL play this season and who turns 20 on Monday—to Stamford Bridge this summer.
Having a talented striker triumvirate of Lewandowski, Lukaku and Ba (15 goals in the EPL) to work with in the club's 4-2-3-1 formation would be a luxury for the new coach, but things never seem to pan out in all of the speculative stories—including this one—we see in the modern, rumor mill-driven football/soccer media these days.
In my opinion, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has already made up his mind to keep his overpriced toy Torres, and recent stories in the Daily Mail and ESPN FC seem to make it pretty clear Torres will still be with the Blues come August.
And Torres's inclusion in the promotional photo of Chelsea's new 2012/13 kits leads one to believe that management may know something we don't just yet. Although Frank Lampard—who scored both historic goals in Saturday's thrilling 2-1 win over Villa, which all but locked down a UEFA Champions League berth—is also pictured in the shot, and rumors of his departure have been prevalent though never confirmed while talks of re-signing him also persist (BBC Sport).
Besides the several lengthy scoring droughts during his tenure in West London, Torres has also been below-average in possessing and controlling passes, and seems to struggle with his feet and take too long to get off shots or to find open teammates.
On his behalf, though, Torres, like Oscar, has been pretty darn good in international play, has been a workhorse, has had a couple of brilliant crucial passes that have led to Blues goals and the team seems to score lately—as it did again Saturday—when the Spaniard comes in off the bench.
And with the team's first Champions League crown, an FA Cup and a possible Europa League championship coming on Wednesday against Benfica (Fox Soccer Channel, 2:45 p.m. ET/11:45 a.m. PT), who knows, maybe Torres is actually a good luck charm for Chelsea.
But then again, the team has also achieved all of these wonderful things only since physio Eva Carneiro has been moved up to the first team last season, so one never knows. Maybe she's the European champions' good luck charm.
And if one of those two has to go, you know where I stand: pretty docs over blonde locks. All day, every day. And I have the tattoo to prove it, brother.
Anyway, weighing all these things on a sports website is pretty much an exercise in futility because no matter what us fans think, how many times one retweets a plea to re-sign Lampard on Twitter or what even fellow teammates or Mourinho thinks, Uncle Roman's gonna do what Uncle Roman wants to do.
It's just that simple.
Do you think Chelsea will be better off next season without Fernando Torres?
But having one high-priced, aging, slowing striker with a penchant for 1,000-minute goal droughts and another like Ba—who has underachieved this second half of the season—is not a recipe to winning league titles or getting out of the Champions League group stage, no matter how good your manager, goalkeeper, defense and midfield may be.
And one certainly can't argue with Torres' wonderful career accomplishments or his desire on the pitch, but with change in the air, now would be the perfect time to cut the cord. Although it looks like that's just wishful thinking on my part...again.
Trying to milk some offensive productivity out of Torres at Chelsea has been tantamount to drilling for petroleum in an oil field that has already been pretty much drained.
It may just be time to look for another well or two elsewhere, something the billionaire oligarch should be quite familiar with by now.
What do you think Chelsea should do at the striker position next season? And do you think Torres should stay or go? Leave your comments below if so inclined, and we'll all see how it all pans out over the next four months.
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11