So Long and Thanks For All The
Fish Goals Silverware. As Dider Drogba has taken his final touch for Chelsea it is time for the Blues and their fans to turn their eyes to the horizon and see what fate awaits. But before we bid adieu, it is worth looking back over the past four years performance for the man who ended his career in England as the Man of the Match in the Champions League Final. And, as we look over the past four years of Drogba’s numbers, we need also to consider the numbers of the man who will be replacing him – Fernando Torres.
The past four years have seen Drogba reach the highest peaks in the sport and suffer through two difficult seasons of Premier League action. Through it all he has remained a steady presence in the defensive effort put forth by Chelsea while providing flashes of pure brilliance in the attacking end. Drogba certainly was not known for either his tackling or passing ability, but worked hard enough to create an indelible imprint in the side. Capable of creating a chance or two every match, he was actually not economical with the chances provided, three times having a chance conversion rate of 10% in the past four years.
For comparison, in his final two and half years with Liverpool, Torres converted chances at a higher rate, posting 19%, 29% and 15% over that span. Even in the 1904′ that Torres played last season for Chelsea in the Premier League he was more proficient than Drogba, scoring 6 goals to Drogba’s 5 and converting 13% of chances to Drogba’s 10%.
Drogba has been a fixture in the side since his arrival, but he has not always had the impact in the Premier League that he managed in this years run to the Champions League. In the past four seasons he has led the league in scoring once, in 2009-10 when he scored 29. In that same year Torres managed to finish joint 6th with Jermain Defoe scoring 18. However, in the 2008-09 and the 2011-12 seasons Drogba managed to score just 5 goals per term. In fact, Drogba’s minutes per goals in the past four years have been 1/310′ 1/96′ 1/254′ and 1/296′. Over those same four years Torres scored a goal 1/124′ 1/95′ in full seasons with Liverpool. In 2010-11 he managed 1/211′ for Liverpool before scoring just once in 762′ for the Blues. Still, Torres rebounded last year to score 1/317′.
It is clear that Torres has not been shooting with as much accuracy, and is requiring much more chances to find the goal, but he has made strides in other aspects of his game. In particular, the defensive effort that Torres put into each shift for Chelsea last term resulted in most tackles that he has had in the EPL. His 35 tackles represented the single largest volume in the EPL. His ability to record a successful tackle ever 54′ minutes both improved upon his 63:30′ rate from a year ago and was thrice as good as the 133′ to 160′ rate he posted while in LFC red.
Torres passing has also improved dramatically as he adapted to the tactical shift between his time at Liverpool and Chelsea. Most remarkable, Torres has already played for three managers in his 18 months at Stamford Bridge. Despite this, his passing, frequently average at best at Anfield, has seen noted statistical improvement. Certainly some of this is tactics but Torres 76% pass completion in his first six months was replicated with 74% completed in 2011-12. This is an important statistic, together with chances created and minutes per chance created because all three point to Torres’ ability to surpass the recent production of Drogba.
Torres is creating a chance every 58′ over his first 19 months at Chelsea. In his final season, Drogba created a chance every 49′. Drogba, however, never saw his pass completion % exceed 75%. This led to more turnovers. While neither records many passes in a season (2011-12 Torres 605, Drogba 428) a more than 10% difference in accuracy means more than 100 more passes completed by Torres over a full season of minutes. This equates to giving away possession 3 fewer times per match. In the Chelsea system under Di Mateo, possession remains integral to success and Torres current level of production, even if not evidences by goals, should better fit the tactics than his predecessor. With a plethora of attacking options, Di Mateo will certainly trade some proficiency at chance creation for more care on the ball and greater ability to hold possession.
Drogba did always have a flair for the dramatic, and a nose for the goal when it was most important. The poet in all of us would like to believe that he took his leave at the top of his game, having delivered the last missing piece of Silverware to Chelsea. However, the reality may be that he felt stifled in the system, that the tactics didn’t play to his strength and, coupled with his advanced age, he simply realised there would be more 5 goal seasons if he stayed. Regardless of the reason for his departure, Chelsea supporters will always remember the moments. But they mustn’t miss the forest for the trees. Fernando Torres has proven that he can ably fill the departed Drogba’s boots. Allowing him the central role that he has longed for should see Torres emerge as an attacking threat once more this season. His 24 goal inaugural EPL campaign could be a personal target, but replicating his 18 goals in 2009-10 would be enough to silence the critics.