It seems as though we’ve finally reached the heart of Fernando Torres’ problems at Chelsea, in his own words, they play too ‘slowly’.
Jonathan Wilson better summarised Torres’ point this week:
[Torres] criticized his Chelsea teammates for being slow. He needs the ball played to him quickly, while opposing defenders are still setting themselves, before they have had a chance to retreat and raise the barricades. In essence, his comment was nothing more than a slightly clumsy variant on what Villas-Boas has being saying all season, that Chelsea need to start playing quicker, “more vertical” passes.
To what extent have we seen this change in approach this season? It is very early days, but some simple correlations suggest that the longer Torres is on the pitch, the more Chelsea look to play forward:
The relationship between minutes played and direction of passes is by no means conclusive – we’ll need to see a continued trend throughout the season – but the early signs suggest that when Torres is on the pitch for more than 80 minutes, Chelsea look to play more balls forward and less backward.
Incidentally, Chelsea have only won one of the three games Torres has played for more than an hour, defeating Norwich whilst dropping points at the Britannia and Old Trafford. Nonetheless, it is the latter two games in which Torres impressed the most this season.
So expect to see Chelsea continue to look to play quicker and more directly, though not necessarily long balls, to Torres as the season progresses.