Succeeding in the Club World Cup isn’t going to win over fans for Rafa Benitez, but Fernando Torres scoring goals again is. Two matches isn’t the sample size you need to verify that the Spaniard is actually making some kind of progress under the new manager, but it’s certainly much better than before.
Like it’s been proven this season, a lot of Torres’ scoring problems have to do with the problems behind him. Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and whoever else plays alongside them in the second line can create plenty of chances for players who are far less talented that Fernando Torres. Maybe the fact that he struggles to create for himself and beat player on one-on-one situations is proof that he’s not the same player that he once was, but when the offense click, he’ll get his chances, and probably even convert them.
Two wins, and smiles are much easier to spot among Chelsea personnel. The 7 match win-less streak has taken its toll on the players and on the new manager, who wasn’t even part of that problem for more than half of the slide. Benitez came in as the enemy for fans because he was the manager of Liverpool, but deeper than that, it’s because they think he isn’t good enough for the job. Like Di Matteo was? He won the Champions League, but did it with luck, not with some tactical brilliance. It’s hard to understand what pushes some fans to make decisions and take sides like that, especially when everything is Roman Abramovich’s decision anyway. Chelsea fans don’t want to piss him off.
But the story here is Torres, who spent more than 12 hours of Premier League football without goals before this weekend, and looks like a new man, a reborn player. Confident, mobile, dangerous with almost every touch. he could have finished with a hat trick, maybe even more, if it wasn’t for the woodwork and some good goalkeeping. Maybe it’s meeting the right club at the right time, and Sudnerland were just what the doctor ordered.
I’m not being asked so many questions about Fernando and this means people are getting used to seeing him scoring. Everybody has been talking for months about, ‘Fernando has to score more goals’, so to score four in a week he must be pleased. He’s happy. When a striker is scoring, he is happy and I’ve noticed the difference in him.
Fernando has been in good positions only because the team has created more chances. It is the team that is doing well. Maybe I can communicate with him a different way sometimes but the main thing, for me, is his team-mates.
Is Benitez’ way the right way? Changing to a wider variant of the 4-2-3-1, limiting one of his two central midfielders to become a stopper full time and the other to be the deep playmaker? That formation worked with Liverpool, especially in the 2008-2009 season, with some people still trying to grasp how they missed out on a title in that one. The introduction of Victor Moses to the lineup has also been beneficial, while Eden Hazard slowly regains his form.
Maybe that’s the answer – making Hazard feel comfortable in his position, effective, instead of the free role he enjoyed with Di Matteo. Some players need boundaries and limits to make the most out of their talents. Some players, like Fernando Torres, need two things: Someone to believe in them and others to create for them, making him look good.