A first match, a first double. Demba Ba couldn’t have asked for a better debut in his new Chelsea uniform, but a sulking Fernando Torres in the stands makes for a less pretty picture.
There is no room for two strikers in the Benitez plan. He did say Fernando Torres wouldn’t mind sharing the load and spending some time on the bench from time to time, but it’s hard to believe that is coming from the player himself. Fernando Torres was confident and slightly arrogant enough to tell Roman Abramovich at the end of last season, undoubtedly the worst of his career, that he wants to be guaranteed a spot in the lineup next season (the one we’re in). How do you think he’s going to react when someone with better scoring numbers has been brought on?
Forget about the loss to QPR. Chelsea simply belittled their opponents and paid for it. Against Southampton in the FA Cup, Benitez learned what he had to and fielded his best players, including Eden Hazard and Juan Mata in the lineup this time. Rotations are nice, but you should never over do it. That was one of his problems at Liverpool – overdoing the rotation, maybe costing him a league title in 2008-2009.
Demba Ba, at the moment, is the better choice for striker. It’s not just his scoring tally from the Premier League that proves it, despite playing on a team that didn’t really adapt a passing-on-the-ground style, sticking to the long ball tactics that worked very well last season but are undermined by very weak defending this year. Ba moves better than Torres at the moment and his positioning and awareness seem to be much sharper and on the spot, suddenly enjoying playing alongside players who don’t just cross him the ball.
We’re not going to see the two start together, that’s guaranteed. Benitez doesn’t change his 4-2-3-1 and turns it into a two striker thing. He tired that with Fernando Torres and Robbie Keane, and that was a rather miserable failure, especially for the Irishman. Victor Moses, Eden Hazard, on the wings, are the ones that will provide whoever starts at striker, not to mention Juan Mata, having another wonderful game playing behind the target man.
Chelsea didn’t face the strongest of Southampton sides – the FA Cup is no longer the lands of hopes and dreams. Fighting against relegation is much more important, and if Chelsea weren’t in a real need for some morale boost, I’m pretty sure Benitez would have given quite a few players some rest. Instead, he opted for his favorite lineup, including David Luiz in the midfield alongside Ramires, while Frank Lampard joined in the second half. Southampton hardly risked Russ Turnbull after scoring their surprising opening goal.
The focus goes back to Torres and Ba, and trying to wonder what player Benitez tries to go with. No hierarchy is usually a bad team on any sports team. The problems with hierarchies are the bruised egos, especially the fragile ones. I wonder if Fernando Torres can overcome his temporary demotion and win back his place.