For me and I think for a lot of people, yesterday was the final straw – the point of no return. The single instance where all of the trust, hope and belief that had been harboured and accumulated over almost two years, simply dissolved and left us facing the harsh truth – Fernando Torres is not physically or mentally competent enough to be a key player in this Chelsea team, and he most likely never will be. It wasn’t that his performance against West Brom on Saturday was bad; in order to be bad you have to actually do something. He was lethargic, constantly out of position, half of the time he just looked ‘in the way’. Whatever his job was to do on Saturday he didn’t do it. In 15 minutes a rusty Daniel Sturridge did ten times as much to threaten the opposition goal as Torres did in 75!
I thought he gave a good interview at the start of this season to be fair, when he said he felt indebted to Chelsea supporters for the love and faith they showed during his struggles the previous season. I think he even said that everything he did from that point onwards would be for Chelsea fans. I still believe he means that. I certainly don’t dislike him personally at all, but the sad truth is now I don’t think fans actually want anything from Fernando Torres. Jason Cundy even said last night on Twitter he’d rather have Norwich City’s Grant Holt up front for Chelsea than Torres at the minute. I don’t agree but for any leading Chelsea pundit to say this puts us in a very sorry state – with no intended disrespect to Holt.
At the start of the year, with seemingly a re-invigorated Torres along with Sturridge and Moses and Lukaku and De Bruyne (before they were loaned) another new striker would’ve appeared a luxury. Now however, there are no two ways about it, a new world class striker is a necessity if we even want to compete for trophies this year, let alone win some. The obvious choice is Atletico’s Radamel Falcao, whom we’ve been linked with for some time now. He’d be expensive of course but he’s one of, if not the best #9 in the world and is as close to a guarantee of 30 goals a season I think we could possibly buy. Atletico are of course the only club Torres truly loves as well, a swap deal in January currently looks the ideal solution.
If however, a January move is out of the question, a good short term alternative could well be Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who is out of contract in the summer and might be available on the cheap. The Dutchman has been prolific for two years in Germany and I think would a smart bit of business on our part to tie down for 18 months. We’ll have to wait and see…
One other issue Saturday’s game raised was the difficulty it seems di Matteo is going to have rotating this squad, particularly in midfield. An over dependence on Ramires I feel is becoming worryingly apparent. A double pivot of Mikel and Romeu has two problems. The first is neither are good at getting forward and the second is they both seem intent on trying to do so. On paper they look a solid screen in front of the back four but in reality their ambition to transcend their primary roles leaves us unbalanced and pregnable at the back. Frank Lampard is not a good holding midfielder. For me the only real alternative to Ramires in that role is Oscar, who I think is too special a talent however to convert into something less than he is – we need to leave Oscar alone in that free #10 role to become one the best players in the world – which I’ve no doubt he will do.
We need an alternative to Ramires in that position. Whilst he’s probably fit enough to play 60 games a season, an injury to him leaves us screwed. The versatile Kevin De Bruyne could well return and prove to be a revelation in that deeper role, Josh McEachran Is another fantastic long term option. Thinking short term however, Marouane Fellaini is looking to make a step up in his career and what a perfect addition he would be. David Moyes has made him more of a forward recently but he is an outstanding box-to-box midfielder and could be exactly what we need. I’m sure Everton wouldn’t ask for more than £20million which I think he is easily worth – Just a thought.
Considering our upcoming fixture now in Turin, it’s been a long time since I would be so surprised to see Chelsea pick up a win. The state of our defence and current form could mean a serious kicking is in store for us Tuesday night. Juventus are a fantastic, well drilled team full of quality; and the ending of their incredible unbeaten run by Inter not long ago it seems has done nothing to suppress their confidence. There is no real weakness in their team and I think our system plays right into their hands, giving their wing backs (probably Isla and Asamoah) all the space they need to torture our full backs, just as they did a few weeks ago.
If we can somehow scrape a draw that means a win against Norsdjaellend puts us through, and if Juve can win in Ukraine it puts us through as winners! If we lose however then we are relying on Shakhtar to win at home in order for us to finish 2nd ahead of the Italians. The good news at this stage is that qualification is still in our hands. If it still is after Tuesday then that’s 95% of the job done in my eyes.
After the West Brom game, di Matteo talked about needing to make changes – about needing to make Chelsea more like the side who won the Champions League last season i.e. with a greater emphasis on defence. It’s a tricky situation to analyse. The problem we have is that the talents of Oscar, Mata and Hazard are such that as individuals, they’re completely undropable, easily our 3 best players. However, by fielding all three every game we can never be structurally solid/capable of defending as a team. People have talked about since the start of the season a need to find a ‘balance’ with this new system but I honestly don’t think that’s possible.
What di Matteo needs to do in my opinion is find a different system – a totally new formation we can use that prioritises defence and can make us solid for the big games and for when we need to defend a lead. He then needs to make Chelsea equally adept at employing it as this attacking 4-2-3-1, and then make the team capable of switching systems in a heartbeat.
Even with some major new signings, this problem we have with our ‘Mazacar’ system won’t go away. When it works, it is phenomenal to behold, but its flaws are fixed. I think Michels, Herrera, Cruyff and Happel in committee would struggle to find a balance with this system, let alone di Matteo. For this group of players to succeed they need to show some tactical versatility and it’s up to di Matteo to devise some alternative methods and to learn when and how to deploy each one. If he can succeed then that may well keep in the job until next season and I hope that’s what every Chelsea fan wants to see.