Picking a Barcelona Starting XI to Include Fernando Torres
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Watching him at the Confederations Cup for Spain, you could be forgiven for thinking that here is a completely reborn, revitalised and rejuvenated player.
Certainly one who is about as far removed from the shell of a player that we see plying his trade in West London.
Might it be reasonable to suggest that the formation and style of play of the Spanish national team suits him far better than that within an expensively assembled XI thrown together to massage Roman Abramovich's ego?
"Torres so far is so-so. Somebody could expect more because of his potential, because of what he did before. But not so bad as people sometimes try to say.
There is a balance. Normally, the tendency is to say it was a big mistake. It was a big mistake because it didn’t work."
Hardly the vote of confidence that Torres so desperately needs to put the horror of the last few seasons behind him and get back to discovering the form that made Chelsea part with £50 million in the first place.
And therein lies part of the issue. The crazy price tag. At the time it was the fourth most expensive transfer in football history.
For that sort of spend, you might think that the buyer would endeavour to build the team around the new kid on the block. To play to his strengths as Liverpool were so adept at doing.
That Carlo Ancelotti—or was it Abramovich—preferred Didier Drogba as the attacking spearhead ensured that the style of play was anathema to the Spaniard.
Torres benefited when Chelsea hired Rafa Benitez who knew all about his skill set and how to get the best from him.
The player rarely feeds off of knock-downs or plays second fiddle, and has shown that given the right system he still excels.
That much was evident from his showing as tournament top scorer at Euro 2012 and his demeanour at this years Confederations Cup is that of a man enjoying his football.
Enjoyment = confidence = goals.
Turning our attention to Barcelona, such is their influence on the Spanish national side—eight of the starting XI vs. Nigeria were from the Catalan club—that one could argue Torres is already familiar with what might be asked of him were he to pitch up in Catalonia.
A 4-2-3-1 formation might look like this.
Rather than operating in a slightly more withdrawn forward role, supplementary to Drogba for example, Torres would lead the line as he does for the national team.
Hanging on the shoulder of the last defender for the ball over the top or played into the space between keeper and defender.
His movement is still first class. We only need look at the first touch diving header he scored against Nigeria at the weekend to see that this is a player that still has much to offer a prospective employer.
Lest we forget, Torres is still only 29 years old.
With David Villa potentially on his way out of Camp Nou, it would seem to be a foregone conclusion that Neymar will operate on the left flank for the Blaugrana, with a licence to roam as he has done so effectively for the Brazilian national team.
The youngster has surprised many at this Confederations Cup tournament with his awareness, industry and team working ethic.
We were all aware of the dazzling range of individual skill that he brought to the party but his appreciation of the game is perhaps something he has not been given enough credit for.
On the right side for Barcelona Alexis Sanchez, Cristian Tello and Pedro each offer their own impressive credentials as CV to their candidacy for the position.
Pedro needs to rediscover the form at club level that he displays for Spain. There is no rhyme or reason to his lack of confidence at club level, given that the personnel alongside are much the same.
VIDEO: Fernando Torres scores his fifth goal of the Confederations Cup in Spain's win over Nigeria. http://t.co/6t4OfPnfS4— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) June 23, 2013
Alexis seems at his most comfortable when on the right side as opposed to the main striking position. His hard working attacking presence is better served from the right side where he links well with Dani Alves.
Cristian Tello's pace is enough to give defenders nightmares but the right sided berth is the players secondary position.
He is much more effective when cutting in from the left and it's highly unlikely he will supplant Neymar from that position.
In order for this system to work efficiently, Andres Iniesta will sit in this slot swapping with Lionel Messi or Neymar as required in a constantly rotatable three, each player comfortable switching across the line in a complimentary attacking support act.
Sat just behind Torres would be the floating, destructive presence of Messi.
The delicate through balls like the one he received to score the winning goal vs. Germany in the 2008 European Championship Final would be commonplace.
Manna from heaven for Torres and a quite mouth watering prospect of seeing the Spaniard linking up with the diminutive Argentine.
Witness the lead up to, and Torres' movement for, his goal against Nigeria. That is precisely the sort of goal we could expect to see from a Torres led Barcelona front line.
With Xavi Hernandez buzzing around in the middle of the park, the more defensive minded Sergio Busquets would patrol the space behind and nearby to form a barrier in front of the centre backs.
Xavi's positioning in this formation is crucial. Sat a little further back than Messi, it allows him to display his full passing range and vision from a fairly central viewpoint.
With a nod to the future, Thiago Alcantara could slot seamlessly into the position occupied by Xavi, thus allowing the latter more recovery and longevity over the course of the season.
Alcantara gets the match time he so desires as a result but must still understand that he is not at the level yet to be considered first choice for the position.
The defensive line consists of one surprise.
Jordi Alba has been a revelation on the left side for both Barcelona and Spain and keeps his place there.
It's the opposite flank where Dani Alves loses out to Martin Montoya.
The former has shown time and again that his positional sense in a defensive set up are found wanting. Look at the picture below from the game against Real Socieded by way of example.
This is an aspect of Alves' game that is often overlooked given that much of his game is based on getting forward to give Barcelona a further option in attack.
Montoya deserves his chance in the position. More defensively minded than Alves, there is little need for him to bomb forward in this particular XI given that it is well covered in an attacking sense and furthermore, Barca have struggled down that right side in the last few months.
By virtue of not wanting to replace both central defenders, Gerard Pique keeps his place.
His lack of focus has been identified elsewhere but it is his lack of presence when the high ball is thrown into the box that is of major concern.
Marc Bartra is another La Masia graduate that has waited patiently for his chance but is he good enough at the highest level? There's only one way to find out.
Victor Valdes would be a relatively simple choice to keep goal but given his desire to move, per Daily Express, his place is taken by the up-and-coming German international Marc-Andre ter Stegen rather than the ageing Pepe Reina, both of whom have recently been linked to the goalkeeping position at Camp Nou according to TotalBarca.
Even if one was to slightly change the personnel and formation, Fernando Torres can clearly still be accommodated in the main striking position.
Should a transfer conclude successfully—and Barca fans appear to be divided in their opinion on whether they want it to happen or not—it will be an interesting exercise in seeing which version of Fernando Torres pitches up for duty in Barcelona.
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