Can Torres and Drogba play together?
In the three games since Fernando Torres became eligible to play for Chelsea, he and his new team-mates have failed to score in normal time. Granted, the Spaniard was cup-tied for the loss to Everton on Saturday, but Frank Lampard's extra-time strike in the penalty shoot-out defeat is the only goal manager Carlo Ancelotti has seen his team score in 300 minutes of football. A worrying scenario for any team, let alone last season's Premier League and FA Cup winners, who now realistically only have the Champions League to play for and face FC Copenhagen on Tuesday aiming to make it through to the quarter-finals. Chelsea have certainly had a better time of it in Europe this season where they qualified for the knockout stages top of their group.
In the three games since Fernando Torres became eligible to play for Chelsea, he and his new team-mates have failed to score in normal time.
Granted, the Spaniard was cup-tied for the loss to Everton on Saturday, but Frank Lampard's extra-time strike in the penalty shoot-out defeat is the only goal manager Carlo Ancelotti has seen his team score in 300 minutes of football.
A worrying scenario for any team, let alone last season's Premier League and FA Cup winners, who now realistically only have the Champions League to play for and face FC Copenhagen on Tuesday aiming to make it through to the quarter-finals.
Chelsea have certainly had a better time of it in Europe this season where they qualified for the knockout stages top of their group.
The west Londoners only dropped points to Marseille after progress to the last 16 had been secured and have been more prolific in the Champions League, scoring 2.33 goals a game compared to 1.77 in the Premier League.
Chelsea will hope they can return to that sort of form even with no solution seemingly apparent when it comes to finding if Torres can play alongside fellow forwards Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.
Following Torres's £50m deadline day move from Liverpool on 31 January, the immediate evidence in the 1-0 defeat by his former club suggested that placing Anelka behind the other two was a forlorn exercise.
During the 0-0 draw at Fulham on 14 February, Drogba was dropped allowing Florent Malouda and Anelka to probe either side of the former Atletico Madrid striker in a role to which he was more accustomed.
Then without Torres on Saturday, Chelsea had 19 shots on target with Drogba looking more bullish in the first-half.
So where does that leave Ancelotti now?
With separate performances indicating they might be better off working on their own, an obvious option would be to scrap the 4-3-3 system Ancelotti favours and twin Drogba and Torres as a front two.
But former Chelsea winger Pat Nevin thinks that would be a bad idea because they are too similar. Not in the way they play the game, he says, but more in terms of the roles they fulfil in the team.
Average positions from the Liverpool game showed that when they played together, Drogba (11) and Torres (9) occupied much of the same space, whereas when Torres started up front on his own against Fulham, there was more room to work in.
"Both of them play through the middle and although their styles are very different, the positions they take up and want to make the most out of are very similar," Nevin says.
"They both want to play on the opposition backline and they both can't do that because they would kill each others space.
"In the Fulham game, even though Torres didn't play that well he was always on the shoulder of the last defender and did get away two or three times. In particular, that happened when David Luiz put him through so if Drogba had been standing near him, there wouldn't have been the necessary space to find that ball.
"When Torres did his best work with Liverpool it wasn't as part of two strikers, it was by himself, with Steven Gerrard or Yossi Benayoun playing off him. They could slip balls through to him, or he could rely on Xabi Alonso's passes from deeper areas."
Former Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari had a similar issue with strikers before he was sacked at this stage of the season two years ago.
He was reluctant to pair Drogba with Anelka against bigger teams but Nevin believes the route of the problems are more wide ranging this time, stemming from a lack of creativity in midfield and fitness difficulties after the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
"The problems Chelsea have are not just limited to one area. If it was one thing you could put your finger on Ancelotti would have figured it out a while ago," Nevin adds.
"Some of it comes from the style of the players behind the front men. Gerrard and Alonso are the type who can thread balls through the eye of a needle. The only guy at Chelsea who can do that is injured - Benayoun.
"So the issue is that Chelsea haven't got the style to make the best of Torres. If Chelsea lump the ball long and be slightly more direct, it doesn't really suit him.
"I suspect the problem is not absolutely solvable this year. I think it will be solved next year either with return of Benayoun or a slight adaptation of personnel, by bringing in one or two players who are more creative in that area."
The lack of depth in the Chelsea squad has been talked about many times this season but Nevin believes it has been crucial in a post-World Cup season with Drogba the biggest victim.
"The top players in England who played in the Champions League and the World Cup have played for two seasons without a break," Nevin states. "They have all suffered.
"I would argue that Drogba has suffered more than anyone else and after coming back from a bout of malaria he hasn't played particularly well this season.
"He hasn't looked strong which then begs the question whether he has lost it or whether he is getting too old. I don't know the answer to that question yet but the time will come and you have to be prepared for it. That's why Torres is there."
In the meantime, the quandary of who to play up front stays unresolved. But should Chelsea fail to get past Copenhagen, recent history suggests it could be a different manager who has to come up with the answer.
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