Benitez in need of back-up for lonely forward Torres
A little burst of six goals in five games and Fernando Torres supposedly has his mojo back. Just as he was assumed to have done after scoring three times in the first four matches of the season. It is the long droughts in between times that cause concern, and should continue to do so until more convincing evidence of a genuine rehabilitation is forthcoming.
Whether or not we will ever again see the world-class striker of 2007-10 – which remains highly unlikely now that injury has limited his fabled powers of acceleration – any significant improvement in form needs to be reflected in his all-round game as much as an ability to put tap-ins the right side of the post. Then the hunched shoulders and drooping head of the past two years may be held high again, even if the ludicrous £50 million transfer fee can never be repaid.
Of course, it suits Rafa Benitez to play up the positives and ideally to claim some of the credit. His expensive recruitment as Chelsea's new manager was, after all, based partly on him having been the man who signed his fellow Spaniard for Liverpool and oversaw a devastating period when he was the leader of a line that brought 80 goals in 132 games.
Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas- Boas and Roberto Di Matteo could work no such magic, and Benitez is now having to coax the players they left him into feeding what he has to hope are still Torres's strengths.
"Little things have helped," the manager revealed on Friday, "like we have told him to go high around the [penalty] box, because we have players like [Eden] Hazard and Oscar who can work behind him. He understands this. He is a player who can run behind defenders and he has to do what he was doing well.
"He has always been trying hard. Now perhaps he is trying hard in the right positions. You can see he now has the confidence to do well and he is getting closer to how he was at Liverpool."
One fortunate by-product of the strange balance of Chelsea's squad is that, as the only fit striker, Torres has had to be kept playing rather than having his fragile confidence further damaged by being left out when it really matters, as he was for Didier Drogba in the Champions' League final.
"He is playing because he is doing well, and with [Daniel] Sturridge injured he is the only option we have at the moment," Benitez said. "He knows that in a top side if you want to challenge for all the trophies you need competition in the squad. It is important for us to have different options, hopefully for him and for the team too."
The existing ones seem to have been ruled out. A disenchanted Sturridge will leave for Liverpool if contractual difficulties can be ironed out and there are no plans to bring back Romelu Lukaku from his loan at West Bromwich Albion.
All of which means that Roman Abramovich may have to risk another financial gamble in January on a player who will either keep Torres out of the team or have to spend significant periods on the bench himself.
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