Just Fernando Torres second showing in a Chelsea shirt. Notably a large proportion of Torres goals for Liverpool came at Anfield. This season under Roy Hodgson he scored once in 10 away Premiership games and then in his brief spell under Kenny Dalglish he scored 3 goals in 2 away Premiership games.
How they set up ?
Chelsea opted to change their formation from there previous two games changing from the Diamond formation to their usual set up of 4-3-3. This was to enable Fernando Torres to operate in his prefered lone striker role, the big news though was that Didier Drogba had been dropped to the bench for Florent Malouda. Out also went Boswinga as Ivanovic was moved to right back, in his place was new £25 million centre back David Luiz. Ramires also started in place of John Obi Mikel.
Fulham made only one change Chris Baird moved from left to right back. In came Carlos Salcido and out went John Paintsil, the 4-4-2 which had earned them a draw at Villa Park remained.
Fernando Torres would be marked for the match by the two Fulham centre backs Aaron Hughes and Brede Hangeland.
It took nearly 5 minutes before Torres got his first touch of the ball, with it being played into his feet with back to goal, he tried to chip it out to the right-wing. The ball went out over the head of a jumping Ivanovic and out of play for a throw in. When Chelsea played the straight direct ball in the air up to Torres, the 2 centre backs dealt with him comfortably. At times Torres drifted out to the wings interchanging more on the left hand side with Cole, Malouda and Lampard.
At times his 1st touch was shabby and he looked frustrated with himself, had he been wearing the red of Liverpool many would have said he wanted out. The communication between the defense of Fulham was good as a whole, passing the responsibility of Torres onto whoever’s area he drifted in to. On the rare occasions he tried to run at them with the ball, they all very quickly moved to snuff him out. His best opportunities came through the clever diagonal long passes of fellow new boy David Luiz. With the balls played behind the defense with Torres playing off the shoulder to run on to. The first of which was pulled back for a foul given away by Torres and the second where his first touch let him down again rolling into the very grateful arms of Mark Schwarzer. The only other chance that fell to him this way was from a return header from Ramires, his touch taking into away from Hughes but allowed Baird to make a challenge. As Torres turned onto his prefered right foot an out stretched toe poke looked to be going wide but Schwarzer saved anyway.
Just a minute after the re-start, good work from Ramires on right and a well floated ball into the centre of the goal was headed over by Torres, who just couldn’t guide it downwards. Five minutes later he combined with Lampard for the first time, a slide pass which he thrives on, a clever bent run from the number 9 saw him through on goal had he not turned inside once again. An attempted curl into the top corner sailed over the bar. He began to find a little more space but was often not spotted. Once again the direct straight balls were doing him no favours. In the 71st minute he was replaced by Didier Drogba.
It’s fair to say it was a disappointing evening as a whole for both Fernando Torres and Chelsea as they drew 0-0. The substitution appeared simply to be getting a fresh pair of legs on and a striker more used to the role in which the team plays. Torres movement and ability to find space was good overall but it will take time for him and his team mates to develop an understanding. He will undoubtedly score goals given time, but for this to happen Chelsea will have to alter their tactics slightly. More through balls behind the centre backs will be required as David Luiz did in the first half, and less straight long balls from Petr Cech and John Terry where the defenders comfortably beat Fernando in the air. This tactic may have worked well with Drogba, but Torres isn’t particularly suited as a target man or holding the ball up as Roy Hodgson found out. More high pressing and passing will be required to get the best out of him as a whole. In 19 passes only 11 went to his intended player, of his 3 shots none were on target. In his strongest points he combined well with both fellow January signing Luiz and Summer signing Ramires. It’s clear that some of the more established players have got used to where and how Drogba liked the ball to be played.