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Torres looking like his old self

Spaniard in form despite red card

By | 27th September 2011

Just when it seemed Fernando Torres may be coming to the tail-end of his awful slump for Chelsea since joining from Liverpool last January, a red card against Swansea City marred an otherwise brilliant performance and again brought criticism from the press.

The subsequent three match ban will have come at the worst time for the Spaniard, just when he is starting to produce in the last few matches.

With recent comments from Spain boss Vicente Del Bosque emphasizing the importance of performance at club level as the main consideration for national team selection, a dejected Torres looked set to continue his struggles after being dropped in favour of Alvaro Negredo for Spain’s most recent matches.

Two assists against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League gave hope that the end of the tunnel was in sight, and a goal against Manchester United in their next match was one of the bright spots in the 3-1 defeat at Old Trafford. More cause for celebration was the quality of the goal, the type that made him the best striker in England whilst at Liverpool.

But a terrible two-footed lunge on Swans midfielder Mark Gower less than ten minutes after his brilliant take again brought doubt to the forefront, in the same way his epic open-goal miss against United defined his day, rather than the goal.

Nevertheless, recent performances indicate that “El Nino” is on the right track to regaining full form, brimming with confidence and back among the goals.

The arrival of countryman Juan Mata from Valencia has energized the striker, and former team-mate Raul Meireles’ deadline day addition from Liverpool has also positively affected Andre Villas-Boas’s new-look side, which has Torres as a main component of the attack.

Carlo Ancelotti struggled with tactics and rotation with his strikers, experimenting with different formations and player combinations often to ill effect, and the emergence of Daniel Sturridge threatened to further complicate how to best utilize the players at Chelsea’s disposal for their new manager.

Villas-Boas has implemented his 4-3-3, used to such great success at Porto, and the results so far have been positive to say the least. After an opening day scoreless draw at the Britannia against a tough Stoke side, Chelsea have taken full points in four of their last five league matches, the only failure to do so being the loss to United.

Victories over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, and Fulham in the Carling Cup, means the Blues have won six of their eight matches so far this year. But for the next three matches, the young manager will not be able to call on Torres, and faces a selection dilemma at striker.

Torres partnered Anelka and Mata up front against Swansea, and with Didier Drogba back from injury the Ivorian may be favoured to start. Daniel Sturridge has picked up where he left off after an impressive loan spell during the second half of last season at this week’s opponents Bolton Wanderers.

The five months of first-team football have done the young striker the world of good, and an England call-up beckons. Frank Lampard has failed to feature much recently, and could be recalled into the midfield in a tactical switch-up. A hot streak from one of these players could mean Torres may not go directly back into the team following his ban.

There is always the fear that a player may become a bit rusty during these red card bans, potentially unable to play at their peak confidence and fitness levels. The recent displays from Fernando Torres display why Roman Abramovich broke the bank to bring him to Stamford Bridge from Anfield, and why he was a key member of Spain’s 2008 triumph at the European Championships.

Torres will be available for the second match of the Champions League group stages, back in his home country on Wednesday as Chelsea take on Valencia.

His first league match back will likely be the heated London derby against Arsenal on 29 October, another big occasion. And now a season laden with goals and assists, rather than frustation and bewilderment, looks much more likely than two weeks ago.

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