Fernando Torres Remains Vital to Chelsea Despite Carragher Comments
"It's probably the end at Chelsea [for Fernando Torres]. I didn't think he was going to have too great a time under Mourinho," said Jamie Carragher on Sky Sports on Monday evening (via London Evening Standard).
With Chelsea's £50 million striker on the bench and the Blues starting their biggest game of the season so far without a recognized striker, the ex-Liverpool defender turned television pundit seemed to have a point.
Jose Mourinho had traveled to Old Trafford to face Manchester United with a game plan that didn't involve any of his strikers, and on the surface it appeared a damning indictment of the confidence he has in those at his disposal.
Come the final whistle, it was rather the opposite. Chelsea hadn't ventured north to win a Premier League match; their intention was simply not to lose. Playing a striker from the outset would have severely dented that plan, and with the game finishing goalless, Mourinho got his reward.
Right or wrong, the wisdom behind Mourinho's tactics will become clear over the course of the season, and it's equally premature to surmise that Torres' Stamford Bridge career is over.
Nor should it be, either.
All summer long Chelsea have been linked with adding an extra striker to their ranks, with Wayne Rooney the man they have their sights set firmly on.
Mourinho suggested after last night's game, according to Phil McNulty of BBC Sport, that he was giving the Englishman 48 hours to make up his mind on the move, but Rooney or not, Torres remains a vital part of this Chelsea team.
Mourinho seems to think so, too.
It was telling that his first substitution on Monday was to bring on Torres for Kevin De Bruyne on the hour. With Romelu Lukaku—who scored a hat-trick against United for West Bromwich Albion on the final day of 2012-13—and Juan Mata also among his options, he turned to his No. 9 to help the Blues see out the draw.
With the Spaniard's presence followed Chelsea's best spell of the game. They were able to retain possession further forward, and he gave their three attacking midfielders an outlet that Andre Schurrle, despite his endeavors, could not.
Against Hull City Tigers on the opening weekend, it was a similar story. Torres may not have scored that day, yet he did enough to ensure those around him could flourish—Frank Lampard scoring from a free-kick won by Torres having failed to convert an earlier penalty the Spaniard was awarded.
Indeed, with Torres in the lineup, Chelsea have enjoyed their best football this season. They struggled against Aston Villa with Demba Ba leading the line, and without an out-and-out striker on Monday, they were somewhat toothless at Old Trafford.
Torres' biggest problem is that Chelsea paid £50 million for his services. With that comes the expectation from fans and pundits alike for a player to score every week, with his contribution elsewhere overlooked.
The Spaniard scored 23 goals last season, an excellent return regardless of price tag, yet it still isn't enough for some, either, including Carragher.
Do you agree with Jamie Carragher: Is Fernando Torres' time up at Chelsea?
"For me, in terms of an individual player, I don't think we'll ever see Torres come back to being the player we saw a few years ago," he continued on Sky Sports.
And he's right, but Torres isn't playing in that Liverpool team from 2009.
There isn't a Steven Gerrard playing in behind, and without wingers to provide extra width, the central areas are rather more congested.
Torres is no longer the "individual player" Carragher describes. He has developed his game to suit Chelsea's needs, and the Blues are better for it.
Mourinho, a manager of such great means, must surely recognize that.
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