Apart from all the money and trimmings which go with being one of the most expensive and high-profile players in football, for Fernando Torres 2012 wasn’t the best year on a personal note. Yes, he won the FA Cup, Champions League and European Championships for Chelsea and Spain, but he contributed sparsely to all three achievements scoring just 11 for his club and five for the national team. He started around 64 per cent of Chelsea’s games during his first full season at the club, used as backup to Didier Drogba by Andre Vilas Boas and then Roberto Di Matteo, and was so uninspired for Spain that Vicente Del Bosque used Cesc Fabregas in a ‘false nine’ position in preference to the woefully off-form £50 million former Liverpool and Athletico Madrid man.
This season hasn’t been much better. He may have improved on his game time, the retirement of Didier Drogba and no real competition saw to that, but has he improved on his game? Well, his 15-goal return would say yes, but if you ask anyone who has had the displeasure of watching Torres this season they’d tell you no. Performances full of missed chances, slack touches and a general lack of inspiration point to a striker who has lost all belief in his ability to what once made him one of Europe’s most dangerous forwards.
Di Matteo, unsuccessfully, tried to find a side of life at Stamford Bridge without the Spanish striker when he dropped Torres against Juventus in Turin just days before he was sacked. Rafa Benitez was brought in and you’d be forgiven for thinking Roman Abramovich earmarked the former Liverpool boss as more of a psychologist who could get something out of his massive investment rather than the man to lead Chelsea in the long-term. Signs of the Torres circa 2008 have been there, but just when you think he’s woke up from his Andriy Shevchenko-like slumber, he falls back in to a performance just as bad he may as well be sleeping on the job. So, now what?
Well, Chelsea’s acquisition of Newcastle United’s Demba Ba gives the club a new option in attack and potential to see Abramovich finally admit defeat in getting the best from his most lucrative purchase. Ba scored 13 goals in 20 games for the Magpies this term, adding to the 16 in 32 last season; outside Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie, he’s been the most potent striker in the league in the last season and a half. He may not have the honours or price tag of his team-mate, but he has an unquestionable knack for scoring goals in England and his debut display against Southampton at the weekend only adds to any Torres worry.
Two goals and an assured performance from Ba put the Saints to the slaughter in the FA Cup with Rafa Benitez heralding his new signing’s performance as ‘almost perfect’. Where was Torres while Ba was showing Chelsea what they now had and what Newcastle were missing? On the bench.
Reaction to Ba’s move suggest that Benitez will continue to play Torres, but when there’s such an obvious in-form talent like Ba available, someone who has shown his ability to lead the line alone in the Premier League, how can he be ignored? This could be the final boot up the backside Torres needs and everything hinges on how he reacts.
If the red-hot, powerful, sharp and clinical Fernando Torres replaces the sluggish has-been which fills the Chelsea number nine shirt at the moment then Demba Ba, and everyone at Chelsea, can’t complain if their new signing spends time on the bench. If he doesn’t, then he’s out the door.
It’s do or die time, Fernando.
Can Demba Ba push Fernando Torres out of the Chelsea team? Tweet us @talkingbaws or comment below. Watch out for Marc Eadie’s blog tomorrow.