Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Fernando Torres is still a world class player. He needs to keep going

Today I'm going to write about something completely different - something with no connection to the law. It's a topic that's very close to my heart. Readers, I can't take it any more: why oh why can't Fernando Torres score?

I've been a Chelsea fan since a few months before the FA Cup win against Leeds in 1970 I think it was!  I've been to more games at Stamford Bridge than I care to remember. I've seen the team plenty of times this season, and I've watched, in agony, as Torres - Britain's most expensive player - toils in vain to score a goal.

Between 2007 and 2011, Torres made a total of 102 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 65 goals. That's a fine strike rate in anyone's books, as is 'El Nino's' tally for Spain - 27 goals in 91 games. In a career that began, in 2001, with Atletico Madrid, the quiet and dignified Torres has reputedly amassed a £14m fortune. In the modern era, the 27-year old no doubt seemed good value to Roman Abramovich - himself not short of a bob or two - when Chelsea paid £50m for him in January 2011.

Form is temporary; class is permanent

When Torres arrived, there was a real buzz at Chelsea. I was far from alone in feeling excited by the thought of such a brilliant striker leading the line for the club, albeit that by then he had hit a run of less than brilliant form for Liverpool and Spain. But as the old football saying goes: 'Form is temporary, class is permanent'. Surely, Torres' undoubted class would resurface, and he'd be scoring for fun for the Blues in just a game or two?

The statistics tell a different story. In 35 appearances, Torres has netted just three times for Chelsea. Opposing teams' supporters show him no mercy, barracking him in every game, but professional footballers are used to this sort of thing. No, being on the receiving end of some cruel chants is not the reason for Torres' continued difficulty in front of goal. What, then, is up with him?

I believe that Torres is a truly great player. Analysis by the likes of Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson on Match of the Day has, at times, indicated that he may have lost a bit of pace, but I am not convinced. Certainly, he is a different proposition to Andriy Shevchenko, who definitely lost a yard in his spell at Chelsea. Torres still moves quickly enough, and his sense of the game is first class. He anticipates passes, sees things that other payers don't, makes excellent runs and has often been unlucky, rather than inept, in front of goal. Again, then, what ails him?

Torres needs to visualise the goals he's scored

I think Torres' woes are psychological, and they arise from a three steps forward, three back pattern which he desperately needs to break.  For example, he may score a fine goal - but then he will miss a sitter. He will play superbly, but then, the next game, he will be invisible. For example, against Swansea in September, Torres played everyone off the park, scoring in the first half, but he then managed to get himself sent off in the second half. The next day's papers were full of 'from hero to zero' headlines, and sadly they sum up what is going on with him: each misfire just sends his confidence plummeting again.

Is there an answer? I think so. Torres remains a world class player; it's just that his drought in front of goal has continued longer than most. What he needs to do is keep going. He needs to remind himself of the goals he's scored and visualise himself scoring them again. The drought will end - and when it does, it may well be that opposing teams are on the end of a deluge.

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