Chelsea FC: Could Fernando Torres Have Been Successful?

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Chelsea FC: Could Fernando Torres Have Been Successful?
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Manchester United's sacking of David Moyes has been rather thought-provoking.

One of the more prominent notions birthed from the Scots' brief reign at Old Trafford was: "How do you follow a legend?"

Some might say the most difficult thing in sport is physical longevity, others individual brilliance, some claim is consistent winning but there is a strong argument to be made for treading behind the footsteps of a beloved, heroic figure.

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David Moyes was damned from the word "go."
There was no way Moyes was ever going to "replace" Sir Alex Ferguson—he was doomed from the moment Nemanja Vidic lifted the 2012-13 Premier League trophy. How do you upgrade from arguably the best managerial job in England’s top-flight history?

In two words or less: You cannot.

How does this relate to Chelsea?

Glad you asked.

If you would, flashback to Munich in May of 2012.

Didier Drogba equalised with a bullet header from a Juan Mata corner in the 88th minute of regular time.

The Ivorian then—during the penalty shootout—placed the ball on the spot, straightened his kit and calmly slotted his penalty in the lower-left corner of Manuel Neuer's goal.

Celebrations ensued.

Frank Augstein
"You save three penalties, I'll make the last one, we win the Champions League—deal?" "Yep."

Drogba found Petr Cech, the heroes embraced and a wave of Chelsea players ran from the halfway line and formed a blissful scrum of blue.

Some of you were screaming and hugging friends at the Allianz Arena, a pub or your living room. Some of you were simultaneously crying and some of you could not bring yourself to watch an English team lose to a German side on penalties (again), so you did not watch.

Nevertheless, that moment of rapture was almost unexplainable.

The man responsible?

Didier Drogba.

Christopher Lee/Getty Images
"Have you ever walked in the shadow of a giant?"
As the Ivorian's spot-kick was his last touch for Chelsea Football Club, how exactly is the next man supposed to replicate that joy?

He cannot.

Tom Adams of Sky Sports reported that Fernando Torres had been propositioned by Roman Abramovich in 2006 but he declined a move to Stamford Bridge. The Spanish striker was setting La Liga alight with Atletico Madrid and would go on to do the same with Liverpool in the Premier League.

It had an aura of Captain Ahab in Herman Melville's Moby-Dick. The Chelsea owner was going to have his prize no matter the cost and, according to BBC Sport, Torres' price tag was £50 million.

Stuck in the middle was then-Blues manager Carlo Ancelotti.

Abramovich got his "white whale," the player he thought was the best option for Chelsea moving forward, which put the Italian boss in a bind: Win the Premier League or get the sack. The Blues fell nine points short of Manchester United in 2010-11 and Ancelotti was fired.

Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Carlo Ancelotti had four months to work with Fernando Torres. Who knows the outcome if the Italian had longer?

The Torres / Drogba partnership was attempted by Ancelotti, as noted by ESPN FC, during the latter stages of 2011. With the Italian's exit, the idea was then rubbished as Chelsea were looking to cull disposable, older players from the squad.

Enter the Andre Villas-Boas nine-month reign of terror. The heads of Nicolas Anelka and Alex were rolled Maximilien de Robespierre-style and when the Portuguese decided to sit senior players in the Champions League against Napoli—Villas-Boas' fate began to teeter after a 3-1 defeat.

AVB was fired a month after Chelsea's visit to Naples in February of 2012 and Roberto Di Matteo, like Ancelotti, thought to partner Drogba with Torres, as reported by The Daily Mail, but the idea—once again—never took flight.

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If Peter Osgood is the "King of Stamford Bridge," Didier Drogba is certainly its prince.
With a squad built for the aerial prowess of Drogba, Torres was surplus to requirements. He found himself like many strikers before—caught in the undercurrent of Drogba.

Andriy Shevchenko, Salomon Kalou, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Daniel Sturridge, Romelu Lukaku, Anelka and Torres found themselves as either wingers or substitutes when Chelsea played with one striker—it could be labeled the "Drogba Effect."

The Ivorian powerhouse rejected nearly every attempt to replace him. No matter the playing style, no matter the transfer fees of his teammates, Drogba found a way to play—the only things which left him missing from Chelsea’s starting XI were injuries and the African Cup of Nations. Leaving it hard for other forwards to get minutes and build rapport with their midfield compatriots.

You add in the way Drogba left west London and filling those irrepressible boots was always going to be a gargantuan task.

Essentially, the only way Torres had a chance to be successful at Stamford Bridge was in a formation with two strikers. A system allowing him to run into channels and play off a teammate rather than be a focal point of an attack already accustomed to the ball magnet that was Drogba.

The chance to collaborate never came with any longevity.

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The Spanish international had success at Liverpool in a formation with two strikers. Chelsea never truly gave him the opportunity to reproduce that style.

Could Abramovich have found a manager fond of playing two strikers? You would think he could have but the landscape of football has vastly changed in recent years.

The ubiquity of the 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3 left many managers abandoning the two-striker ethic.

Then again, you look at Liverpool this season and think there could be a resurgence of the 4-4-2 and 4-4-2 diamond in coming seasons. In any event, the timetable for a 4-4-2 revival would pass Torres by.

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You could point to the Spaniard's various knee or groin ailments as contributing factors to his downward trend and be well within reason. You could point to the pressure associated with a record Premier League transfer fee and be likewise sane.

There has become a cocktail of reasons why Torres failed to take off in west London but the argument could be made—rather easily—that with the right tactics, and a bit more fortune, the Spaniard could have been fruitful. 

With Torres being linked away from Stamford Bridge in recent months—most notably to Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid, as reported by Metro Sport—it seems Chelsea supporters, and the man who spent £50 million to acquire him, will never see the full array of talent El Nino had to offer.

Shame really—because Torres was nothing short of terrifying in his prime.

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