Stamford Bridge boss has some tough decisions to make that could well end up playing havoc with his overly expressive eyebrows.
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Chelsea have looked to reignite their faltering season with the January acquisition of Spanish striker Fernando Torres for a cool £50 million from Premier League rivals Liverpool, and on paper have a fantasy football-esq forward line with the new addition complementing accomplished hitmen Drogba and Anelka. But can the three play together, and if not which one takes a dent to his ego and watches from the sidelines?
Roman Abramovich has forked out £50 million of his vast wealth to capture Torres, and given this investment and the pacey striker’s reputation, track record and undoubted class, one would imagine Torres will start if fit. However the new Chelsea frontman has looked decidedly off the boil in his first two appearances for his new club – against old team Liverpool and away to Fulham. The occasion may have gotten the better of Torres against The Reds, and he was largely ineffective, as were his new team, in a disappointing 1-0 home defeat. Against Fulham Torres had chances to make amends but uncharacteristically lacked composure in front of goal, and another lacklustre showing was ended around the hour mark as he was substituted.
In any transfer it takes time for the new man to adapt to and gel with his new team-mates; Torres will hope this process starts sooner rather than later. Chelsea fans will recollect the major signing of Andriy Shevchenko in 2006, at the time arguably the most feared striker in the world game and a purchase that promised to herald domestic and European success, but the Ukrainian struggled to adapt to life away from the San Siro and was largely relegated to fleeting appearances from the bench – a fate Torres will look to avoid. Make no mistake however, despite a slow start to his time at Chelsea, Torres remains one of the most prolific and explosive strikers in world football and more than likely will come good and start scoring goals at Stamford Bridge.
For a quick adjustment for Torres he will need a regular strike partner(s) who he can learn to play alongside. If Chelsea do go for two upfront the logical partner would be Didier Drogba, who at 32 years old isn’t showing signs of any diminishing physicality or quality, but has not returned as many goals as previous seasons. Drogba offers the best hold up play of the three and can drop short to receive the ball in to feet or run behind defences. Drogba also likes to pull wide, attack full backs and cut inside – a tactic that Torres has also utilised, so if the two are to play together positioning issues will need to be clarified.
Drogba started on the bench in Chelsea’s last game against Fulham and immediately there were media rumblings of Ivorian discontent, with a potential move away from Stamford Bridge reported. Drogba is a proud man and enjoys being the Chelsea figurehead; there will only be so long the African striker will put up with not being regularly included in the starting XI.
But then what of Nicholas Anelka? The Frenchman has steadily and confidently taken chances and scored important goals for The Blues, and most Premiership managers would give an arm and a leg to have a player of such pace and quality at their disposal. Anelka’s record speaks for itself and he has returned on investment at Chelsea and at previous clubs. Anelka has somewhat matured from the petulant and arrogant youngster witnessed in his Arsenal and Real Madrid days, but that said the striker is not short of opinions and still can lack temperament (ask Raymond Domenech), and similar to Drogba will not be content to spend extended time not playing.
Can all three play together? This remains to be seen, but the trio did not fire against Liverpool, with Anelka and Torres popping up more in wide positions than through the middle as they are used to and would prefer. Ancelotti will be tempted to try to get all three on the pitch, especially at home, but this may compromise the team’s shape. One of Chelsea’s main problems this season has been a lack of width, and if Ancelotti plays all three strikers, Florent Malouda, the club’s only real winger will be sacrificed.
In conclusion, Carlo Ancelotti is very lucky to have three world class strikers at his disposal and certainly has the firepower to make the top four. For new signing Torres to settle he will need consistency, and this may mean sacrificing one of the other two to the bench, and maybe to the transfer market come the summer. One thing is for sure; the Italian will need to find a formula that works quickly, otherwise Chelsea are under threat of missing out on the top four and Ancelotti will be looking for a new job.
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