Lee Dixon: Buying Torres was easy – fitting him in will be the real test of Ancelotti's skills

The Weekend Dossier
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Chelsea's capture of Fernando Torres is a major statement of intent, and after his poor form at Liverpool for the past few months it will be fascinating to see how he does at Stamford Bridge.

The first puzzle is how he will fit into the team, because there is no simple solution for Carlo Ancelotti. Whatever decision he makes will have knock-on effects for the rest of the side.

I rate Torres highly. He certainly will bring greater goal threat to Chelsea but Ancelotti needs to integrate him into the side without causing too much disruption. His arrival surely signifies a change of role for Didier Drogba. For the past seven seasons he has been the main striker, the man around whom the others had to play. His 37 goals last season were a major reason Chelsea were able to win both the Premier League and the FA Cup.

But the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, has not spent £50m to see Torres sitting on the bench. So either Drogba has to accept that his role in the team is going to fundamentally change, or he will be dropped. The ideal scenario for Ancelotti is probably finding a way to play both Torres and Drogba together, because they are potentially a devastating partnership.

The clearest indication of his thinking came in midweek, when he tinkered with his formation even though Torres was not part of the team that won 4-2 at Sunderland. Some thought Nicolas Anelka would be dropped to make way for Torres, but at the Stadium of Light the Frenchman played a deeper role behind a front two of Drogba and Salomon Kalou. If you take out Kalou and put in Torres, then you have a possible formation to face Liverpool.

That works for me. Anelka certainly has the ability to play that role. It probably suits him a bit better now than it might have done earlier in his career. He is a talented player and can see a pass. By all accounts he seems to have thrived in the role at Sunderland, and I can see Ancelotti wanting to give it another go against Liverpool tomorrow.

The big advantage of that system is that it allows you to play both Drogba and Torres. Other than going with a midfield diamond, a system which was used last season but discarded, I can't see another way of fitting both of them in.

The drawback is that it leaves you lacking natural width. I can't see Frank Lampard and Michael Essien bombing down the flanks to provide the ammunition for Drogba and Torres, so it means you are relying on your full-backs to get up the pitch. The good thing for Chelsea is that they have been asking their full-backs to do that for some time now. They are always looking for a chance to get forward.

The alternative is to play with pretty much the same 4-3-3 system that was used when they won the Double last season. It would mean less tactical disruption to the rest of the team, but it would mean leaving Drogba out.

And that is the problem for Drogba, who has been such a focal point of Chelsea's attack for seven seasons. He cannot play out wide, or play a different kind of role. And if it doesn't work with Torres, then he will be the one to miss out.

Anelka, in contrast, is more adaptable and can play in a variety of roles in the Chelsea attack. He has played as a target man, or out wide, or in the deeper role he adopted in midweek. I am not sure Drogba is quite so flexible.

I will be fascinated to see Torres tomorrow. He clearly had his head turned by Chelsea and this season he has appeared to be sulking and not produced many performances for Liverpool that he can be proud of. I think Torres has let Liverpool down this season, but now he has got the move he wants we should see a motivated player who is keen to prove a point.

Accommodating him in the Chelsea team may not be all that easy, however, and Ancelotti does not have much time to change things around too much. That's one of the reasons Arsène Wenger doesn't like buying in the January window, because you don't have time for the new players to bed in.

The best tactic tomorrow is for Ancelotti to play as he did at Sunderland, with Anelka behind Torres and Drogba. If it comes off, it could be spectacular. It is a bit hard on whoever has to make way, but that player has to make sure that when he gets his chance he plays so well it is not him who gets left out next time.

Five Asides

1 Gary Neville was the most disliked, which is why he was the best

Gary Neville has been the best right-back to have played in the Premier League. He was certainly one of the most disliked players in the game, but that is testament to how good he was. The fact that he has got up so many people's noses shows what a good job he did.



2 Moyes wrong to talk about tunnel spat

Cesc Fabregas was wrong to brandish an imaginary card against Huddersfield last weekend, but the stuff after the Everton game was nonsense. All sorts of things are said in the tunnel every week, and I don't think David Moyes should have come out with those comments about Fabregas after the game.



3 It's clear that Rooney is back in business

It was great to see Wayne Rooney scoring a couple of goals in midweek, but the signs were there already that he was rediscovering his best form. You could see it when he controlled the ball – the first touch that had deserted him last summer at the World Cup was back.



4 Kenny can make Carroll gamble pay off

It was a huge gamble by Liverpool to spend £35m on Andy Carroll, who has only been on the scene for six months. He has scored goals, been injured, got in trouble off the pitch, won an England cap and become the most expensive British player ever. Under the tutelage of Kenny Dalglish he could prosper, though.



5 Times are tough at Toon for Pardew

Everything seemed to be going so well for Alan Pardew until Carroll was sold and then Shola Ameobi broke his cheekbone. Now his team have to dig deep again.

Weekend Guide

Stoke City vs Sunderland

Dixon's verdict: Stoke have won just two of their last six games at the Britannia Stadium but have a good recent home record against Steve Bruce's side. Sunderland are flying high, so I'll go for a draw.

Kick-off: Today, 12.45pm (Sky Sports 2; Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Draw

Aston Villa vs Fulham

Dixon's verdict: Fulham looked really impressive in beating Spurs and Newcastle this week but Aston Villa have also improved since the arrival of Darren Bent and will have enough to take the points.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

Everton vs Blackpool

Dixon's verdict: After seven defeats in their last eight games, Blackpool are in danger of plunging into the relegation fight and will struggle to get much here. Everton have improved and the return of Tim Cahill will only help.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

Manchester City vs West Bromwich Albion

Dixon's verdict: City's continuing problems in defence – and Joe Hart's form – remain a worry but West Brom should be easy meat for the attacking talent they possess. An important three points ahead of next week's derby.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

Newcastle United vs Arsenal

Dixon's verdict: Alan Pardew will be wary of the loss of Andy Carroll completely derailing Newcastle's season but they will struggle to get anything from an Arsenal side who retain title ambitions.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Setanta Ireland; Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Away win

Tottenham Hotspur vs Bolton Wanderers

Dixon's verdict: Tottenham were a shambles against Fulham last weekend and slightly fortunate to win at Blackburn but Bolton have been a bit out of sorts recently. Harry Redknapp's Champions League charge continues.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Home win

Wigan Athletic vs Blackburn Rovers

Dixon's verdict: This fixture usually provides goals – with 13 in the last three meetings at Wigan. The Latics have not won in three months at home and Rovers, slightly unlucky to lose to Spurs, could take a point.

Kick-off: Today, 3pm (Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Draw

Wolverhampton Wdrs vs Manchester United

Dixon's verdict: Top travels to bottom and there can only be one outcome, especially with Wayne Rooney back in form. Wolves sank to last place in midweek and, with Arsenal to visit next week, face a battle to stay up.

Kick-off: Today, 5.30pm (ESPN; Highlights BBC1, 10.30pm)

Prediction: Away win

West Ham United vs Birmingham City

Dixon's verdict: West Ham have improved considerably recently and have lost just one in six at home, but Birmingham got the better of the Hammers in the Carling Cup last month and I fancy them to take a point.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 1.30pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC2, 10pm)

Prediction: Draw

Chelsea vs Liverpool

Dixon's verdict: Fernando Torres is probably dreading having to face his former side so soon. Luis Suarez started well for the Reds in midweek but Chelsea have clicked back into gear and the addition of Torres swings it.

Kick-off: Tomorrow, 4pm (Sky Sports 1; Highlights BBC2, 10pm)

Prediction: Home win

Comments