Chelsea rally round Torres but still follow Drogba's lead

West Bromwich Albion 1 Chelsea 3
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The Independent Online

Carlo Ancelotti, despite his protestations, was plainly desperate for Fernando Torres to score. The Spaniard's Chelsea colleagues went out of their way to try to set up his first goal during his appearance as a substitute on Saturday. The away fans repeatedly sang his name. Everyone did their bit to help the misfiring centre-forward – except Didier Drogba.

As long as Drogba performs as he did at West Bromwich, and Chelsea continue to thrive with the system deploying a single striker flanked by two wide players, Torres is likely to remain a £50m fringe player. It was left to Salomon Kalou, who has played alongside them both, to spell out where this left the club record signing.

Kalou, having joined his fellow Ivorian and Frank Lampard on the scoresheet as Ancelotti's side wrecked Roy Hodgson's six-match unbeaten start as Albion's head coach, was asked if Saturday's 4-3-3 was the formation most suited to Chelsea's personnel. "Yes, we play our best games like that," he said. "Everyone knows Chelsea are stronger with that system."

Drogba was a paragon of power and grace, at once ruthless and selfless. The rest of the side, having started badly when Peter Odemwingie finished a fine Albion move in style, followed his lead. "He always gives his best for the team and has the personality to bring everyone together," said Kalou. "When he plays like that, the whole team feels secure."

While Kalou also had positive words for Torres (left) – who has played 870 minutes of competitive football since his last goal, for Liverpool at Wolves three months ago – it was clear the Chelsea players feel sorry for the World Cup winner. "We all want him to score. So even if he's not in the right position you want to give him the ball because you feel the goal is the only thing he's missing. That's all everyone's thinking about. He must not give up. You can't lose all quality in a couple of months, but you can be a different player without confidence."

It was a more plausible analysis than that offered by Chelsea manager Ancelotti, who is openly facing up to the likelihood that getting the best from two strikers who appear ill-equipped to play together will be someone else's dilemma come August. "I haven't asked for [Torres] to score – I've asked him to play for the team," said the Italian, a statement that may literally be true, though he did not pay such a vast sum for him to sit on the bench.

Ancelotti felt Torres did well when he replaced Drogba, bemoaning a tight offside call that deprived him of catharsis. "He's not depressed or lacking confidence. Everyone's trying to support him, but we have to be patient and he has to have confidence. He will score."

Albion, while outclassed here by the division's form team, have enough quality to survive. Odemwingie, if not exactly a Nigerian Drogba, is a clever lone front-runner – and one currently brimming with the self-belief Torres plainly lacks.



Scorers: West Bromwich Odemwingie 17. Chelsea Drogba 22, Kalou 26, Lampard 45.

Subs: WBA Vela (Morrison, 72), Jara (Scharner, 72), Tchoyi (Thomas 82). Chelsea Bosingwa (Ivanovic 63), Benayoun (Lampard 77), Torres (Drogba 82). Booked: WBA Méïté. Chelsea None. Man of the match Drogba. Match rating 7/10. Possession: WBA 41% Chelsea 59%. Attempts on target: WBA 6 Chelsea 11. Referee L Probert (Wiltshire). Att 25,163.

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