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Torres energised but Chelsea need midfield boost

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Alistair Magowan - BBC Sport | 09:55 UK time, Monday, 15 August 2011

Rather than considering himself a special one, new Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas has preached a collective approach since taking over at Stamford Bridge this summer.

He has been reluctant to talk about individual players despite constant questions about the form of Fernando Torres, and even after one of the Spaniard's best displays in a Chelsea shirt as they drew 0-0 with Stoke, the Portuguese coach was careful to praise the group.

Not that he was totally satisfied with the performance from his team, but he was content to gain a point against a Stoke defence which looked as though it had been grazing on iron filings over the summer.

Torres rode a barrage of challenges by Ryan Shawcross and also had to contend with Jonathan Woodgate, yet it was his overall sharpness and improved movement which had observers purring.

"Villas-Boas gave the green light to playing Torres up front and that would have provided a confidence boost to the striker," says Match of the Day pundit Lee Dixon. "I thought he did really well and he looked a completely different player compared to last season.

"Back then, he looked laboured, his touch was bad and he didn't have any snap in his play but from the start it looked like the real Torres had returned. Chelsea didn't have a lot of chances in the first half but he ran the line well and was under pressure from a backline which is notoriously strong."

Torres had at least one penalty claim and although he managed only three shots, it was his overall involvement which was most noticeable.

Last season with Chelsea he averaged 44 touches over 90 minutes, whereas he touched the ball 66 times in his 89 minutes at the Britannia stadium.

He also improved his distribution, managing 36 passes instead of an average of 21 over 90 minutes last term but that does not tell the whole story.

Torres made more passes in the game against Stoke than he did on average last season for Chelsea

The 27-year-old consistently took up intelligent positions to receive the ball and his dribbles into the Stoke penalty area kept the likes of Shawcross on their toes. Indeed it was only a smart challenge by the England defender which denied Torres a goal after a mazy run.

Villas-Boas spoke before the game about his overall intention to free up more spaces on the pitch and it may have been that desire which persuaded him to choose Torres over Didier Drogba.

His theory is that if you have attacking midfielders like Frank Lampard, you do not want your forwards to play too much between the lines. With Torres' improved lateral movement, the decision to select the ex-Liverpool forward looked justified.

The former Porto boss will also have noticed a slightly laboured approach from his midfield and this too can contribute to a narrowing of space in crucial areas.

With two weeks left before the transfer window closes, the temptation to sign Luka Modric may have grown and Dixon believes his inclusion in the team would also help Lampard flourish.

"John Obi Mikel's distribution can sometimes appear a bit slow and if Michael Essien was fit he probably wouldn't be in the team," Dixon says. "Chelsea have Ramires, who looks quite sharp on ball, and the midfield has support from the two full-backs Jose Bosingwa and Ashley Cole, who like to bomb forward.

"But sometimes it takes a while for Lampard to get into his stride from a fitness point of view. He's at an age, 33, where long term injuries can take time to get over. He will only get back to his best when he's bombing into the box, making runs and scoring goals.

"Chelsea definitely need an injection of something a bit different, maybe from someone like Modric and I'm pretty sure they will go back in for him. It will take somebody like him to relieve the creative pressure off the midfield and release Frank a little bit further forward.

"You need someone who is comfortable on the ball, who can see a pass, who can receive it in all sorts of positions and also create a bit of uncertainty in the opposition.

"Modric puts fear into midfielders or defenders so they might just drop off deeper and that could create space for the likes of Lampard or Torres. It also allows the players to make a run into a position they might not usually go, because they know the ball will arrive or he will drive into a different space. It's almost like a domino effect when a player of that ability gets on the ball.

"After the Stoke game, Villas-Boas will have learnt that there is a lot of quality in his team and that they can be in a position to challenge for honours. He will also have discovered that a creative midfield player is not necessarily there.

"But the biggest plus was the sharpness of Torres. Without being super potent in front of goal he showed huge leaps from where he was at the end of last season."

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  • Comment number 1.

    16 shots, 8 on target? Stoke theoretically fitter and a good defensive outfit?

    I really think people are coming to the wrong conclusions. I don't think the midfield in itself had any problem yesterday. In the 4-3-3, the bigger questions should be on the wide men of Malouda and Kalou rather than on midfield.

    Overall, I think Chelsea probably need to move Drogba and Anelka on and play Sturridge on wide right for a start. With Lakuka supposedly coming as well, there are too many forwards.

  • Comment number 2.

    From what I saw at the weekend, Torres looked infinitely more comfortable in a Chelsea shirt that at any point since his transfer. Torres didn't become a bad footballer overnight, and those people who wrote him off did so prematurely in my opinion. I think we are going to see Chelsea go through a transitional period this season where we see the slow demise of the core of that excellent Mourinho team. Torres is surely the polar opposite to Drogba in terms of style, and it will take time and personnel, for Chelsea to adapt. I think for Torres to prosper, Chelsea need to be a little more refined in their approach play and rid themselves of the tag imposed by some of bullying their way to the league title and is reflected in their pursuit of Luka Modric.

  • Comment number 3.

    as a chelsea fan, its been evident for a year or two that we need more creativity in our midfield and final third. for me, we could get rid of kalou, malouda and mikel because i just dont think they're good enough, compared to the likes of young, nani and valencia who offer much more to united in terms of goals and assists.

    Modric would be an ideal signing in terms of age, being a proven pl player and the creativity he would offer (30 million should do, with fabregas leaving for 35). however, as for 2 players to play either side of torres, sturridge and benayoun would be ideal partners for him - benayoun can spot a pass and strurridge has pace and is all round a good player. starting mceachran in midfield would alsp provide more cretivity. as for torres, i was surprised by his performance yesterday; he looked brilliant, even though before the game i thought he might struggle again this season - it looks like drogs might have to get used to being on the bench, not sure what he'll think about that!

  • Comment number 4.

    #2 thoughtfulphil

    'Bullying their way to the league title'
    I think this is more perception than reality. Rather than Chelsea bullying, I think it would be more accurate to say that they won't actually be bullied and intimated. Standing your ground isn't in itself bullying.

    On the subject of physical presence, one point I would like to make yesterday is when does marking a goalkeeper become obstruction? Every time Stoke had a set piece, Stoke had a man on Cech like a rash and every time he moved, the man barged into him.

  • Comment number 5.

    #3 messien

    Bosingwa (had a good game I thought) - Luiz - Terry - Cole
    McEachran - Lampard - Modric
    Benayoun - Torres - Sturridge

    Is that how you see it?

  • Comment number 6.

    Chelsea looked very predictable and lack something in the middle, whether that be mobility or vision or desire?

    Maybe I saw a different game but Torres still looks like he doesn't quite know what is expected of him and his team mates are on different wavelengths, maybe they are so used to Drogba that they find it harder to accomodate him. One goal in however many appearances, in a good side, speaks for itself. Torres is not Drogba, and looks like he never will be, Chelsea midfield and coaches needs to work that out if they are to persist with Torres.

    On the other side of things from an ABU compare with Young for Man U, ideas, running, vision, looked a class apart on his debut and like he was in his natural element.

  • Comment number 7.

    I actually think with the current players we should play

    Ivanovic Luiz/Alex Terry A.Cole

    Mikel Ramieres

    Malouda Lampard Sturridge

    Torres / Drogba

    Kalou - has impressed when coming on as a sub but then is useless when he is does start.

    Chelsea require 3 players at the moment
    a Def Midielder - i would suggest Yann M'Vila
    a Playmaker - Modric
    a Winger - a player in the similar to Robben

    When/If Lukaku does come to chelsea we need to sell Anelka.

  • Comment number 8.

    He looked positive, yes, but I think the decision to include him in the team of the week and now dedicate a blog to him is a bit of an overreaction. The press are besotted with Torres and, for the past year, have really had no reason to be.

    His shooting was off the mark, and while he did dribble his way round a few players, he wasn't quite the player these reactions make him out to be. I'd also disagree with Lee Dixon's comment that he looked happy - to me he has looked lonely ever since his move to Chelsea.

    I like Torres, a lot, and it was great to see him looking a bit sharper and having the confidence to take players on - but this was still a shadow of the Torres of old, and certainly not the kind of performance that warrants a team-of-the-week mention and a blog post.

  • Comment number 9.

    #6 EazilyGrizly

    I think the point with Torres yesterday is that he looked for the ball, had a nice first touch, was strong in holding the ball and on more than one occasion looked to run at defenders. In short, he was most things that he wasn't towards the end of last season. Looking at him as an individual, that was encouraging.

    The broader question is whether this individual 'works' within yesterday's team. Short answer - no, long answer - jury's out.

    Looking at Young at Man U, it was a good display. However, he is playing as something of a flying winger, something Man U have done for some time and therefore he is slotting in where others have been in the past. Also, he plays deeper than a striker (i.e. Torres) so it is easier to involve himself so overall, you're not comparing like with like.

  • Comment number 10.

    As a United fan I haven't seen Chelsea in pre-season but I was a bit surprised they didn't start with McEcheran or Benayoun given the decision had been made to start the season with Torres so as to encourage more interplay on the ground in the last third. The selection of one of those in place of Mikel may have worked. Stoke are a big powerful team but they actually have a dreadful (and slow/weak) central midfield rendering the selection of a holding player in there a bit conserative. As it was Torres looked well up for the match. You don't become bad overnight, Rooney played like a drain for six months last season.

    Thought Alex had a very good game which seemed to go un-noticed by everyone bar Gary Neville in the sky studio after the game.

  • Comment number 11.

    #11 Bellion-Wonderland

    Chelsea did 'win' the midfield very easily and perhaps McEachran should have come on for Mikel, particularly given the issue with Mikel personally that has come out this morning. However, Mikel didn't do anything wrong yesterday so in part, there was nothing wrong with his selection.

    Benayoun instead of either of Malouda or Kalou might have been a better selection (mostly with the benefit of hindsight) and maybe the three attackers on towards the end was over cooking it. Still, first game and all that.

  • Comment number 12.

    Agree that Torres looked infinitely sharper yesterday but like one of the fellas above me said, it doesn't look like he knows what kind of role he has to play for the club. Anything positive he done he had to create for himself. Saying that, Stoke are a hard side to play against and it was only one game. Time will tell but don't be surprised if he doesn't score a huge amount this season.

  • Comment number 13.


    in defence i'd probably have alex rather than luiz for now, and the forwards are correct

    If modric was bought, i think the midfield should be

    Ramires Romeu Modric

    i think ramires should be in the team for his pace and workrate and he's decent on the ball. obviously modric would start, but the problem is the abscence of a holding midfielder, i'd do anything to keep mikel out of the team, but without him and essien, there is nobody to anchor the midfield. maybe we should see how romeu looks, and start him alongside potentially modric and ramires? .

  • Comment number 14.

    Ok im sick of BBC pundits, presenters etc linking Modric with Chelsea! Are you all completely dumb and incapable of understanding the following statement???

    "In respect of Luka Modric, we are not prepared to sell, at any price, to Chelsea Football Club or any other club." Daniel Levy

    Frankly im surprised the club hasnt contacted its Solicitors to start legal proceedings in some way!?

  • Comment number 15.

    We don't need Modric. We need Benayoun for his chemistry with Torres.
    Save that Modric money and buy a proper winger like Hazard(future star) for 25-30m

  • Comment number 16.

    #13 messien

    Just on one point, Wilkins said in commentary that Alex IS going to Juventus. He said it with some authority.

    Assume it's true, and assume you're right about the holding midfielder, Ivanovic would play centre back and what about Luiz as the holding midfielder? Think I've heard somewhere that he has done that before, and he certainly seems to have the skills required there.

  • Comment number 17.


    Thought that Stoke midfield, ie Whelan played particularly well in the first half yesterday against supposedly vastly superior players, admittedly not a household name, but as the result yesterday showed you don't have to spend billions...?

    Mr BB

    Making more the point about players having the desire and confidence to make things happen,

    Curious about peoples thoughts about Begovic, from what I have seen looks very impressive?

  • Comment number 18.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 19.

    Torres was his old self yesterday and the man of the match award was justified because he was able to rush the Stoke players into fouling him and bring other team mates into play. Being a striker isn't always about just scoring goals, but instead about leading by example through the frontline. A goal was the only thing missing and they will come no doubt. Well done to him, and keep it up!

    Chelsea are still pedestrian in their build up and rely far too much on the full backs for width. Threading a ball through at Stoke is no easy task, but it is hardly impossible, so there was a real lack of service for Torres, Drogba and Anelka yesterday. When Sturridge is back from suspension he should replace Kalouless, who continually underperforms. The former would be far more dynamic and wouldn't overrun the ball so much, and is far more talented in general. I have no complaints about the defence who were magnificent yesterday!

    West Brom at home won't be easy, but I expect 3 points and a far more polished performance from Chelsea. A point away to Stoke is no disgrace that's for sure.

  • Comment number 20.

    #14 spurs_surfer

    You have a short memory, are naive or having too black and white a view of life.

    I seem to recall statements similar to the one you have quoted being made regarding Berbatov together with the threat of reporting Man U for tapping him up.

    Remind me how THAT one ended up......

  • Comment number 21.

    17. At 13:04 15th Aug 2011, EazilyGrizly wrote:

    Curious about peoples thoughts about Begovic, from what I have seen looks very impressive?


    An excellent player. We didn't want to see him leave at Portsmouth - he was our David James successor! Good to see him getting games at Stoke now - immediately after his move there he spent a while on the bench.

    Anyway, I like him. Enough to put him in my fantasy team, at least.

  • Comment number 22.

    I totally understand Torres was the Marqueue siging of last year for Chelsea. When you look at cold hard facts Sturridge has had a better spell in 2nd half of season than most strikers in the EPL. I'm not saying that i think Sturridge is a better player than Torres or Drogba but i definately think that he deserves his shot. Of course there are egos involved and transfers to be justified but what is wrong with good old 442 with Sturridge & Torres or Drogba with 2 wingers/wingbacks bombing on providing for 2 strikers.

    Chelsea have it in them to be great, i believe there is a certain Mr Sneijder available for £30M. To me he's a far better player than Modric (over-rated) although his wage demands are high he's got to be worth the money.

  • Comment number 23.

    @ 16

    i don't have sky but thought the alex - juve link was just a rumour. not sure we should be letting him go, but what you suggest seems plausible, especially with the physical presence Luiz would add to the midfield

  • Comment number 24.


    If Lukaku likes to play the RW role, then we dont need spendind, although i would buy a winger like De Bruyne for back up.
    This is the formula AVB needs to do:
    JoshM ------------- Beneyoun
    ?????? ----------------------) Torres (----------------------------Sturridge

  • Comment number 25.

    Already this season feels like it might go the way the last one did - something further emphasised on Saturday when Gary Lineker began Match of the Day by announcing "we start the 2010-2011 at Loftus Road"!

  • Comment number 26.

    #23 messien

    thought the alex - juve link was just a rumour.
    It might well be, I believe nothing until I see the player in the shirt of that club! So much rubbish is written, much of it should be reported and investigated for tapping up!

    However, Wilkins is more likely to be in the know than many a journalist and it was just the way he said it that made it sound certain. Still, we shall have to wait and see.

  • Comment number 27.

    This is the formula AVB needs to do:
    ------------------ V-------------------
    ?????---------)Torres (------------DannyS

  • Comment number 28.

    I agree with no 8, getting in to team of the week because you played better than you were playing last season is a bit odd to say the least!
    I wonder if Garth saw Klasnic score a decent goal for his team, set one up, have another good effort saved as just generally be a handful for the opposition? I'm not a Bolton fan but I think he was more deserving of a place in TotW than Torres or Suarez.

    Back on subject, people want to see players at their best so it's good for football to see Torres is getting back on the right track. But it's been 1 game so still far too soon to tell if this year will be different to last!
    A bit of patience might be a good idea before getting carried away with expecting a sudden turnaround in fortunes based on 90 minutes!

  • Comment number 29.

    Interesting thoughts about Benayoun and McEachran. When I spoke to Pat Nevin last season he said Benayoun was the key to unlocking Torres at Chelsea, and I wonder if McEachran was at Man Utd whether he would have been used more regularly by now?

    I'd be keen to get your views on what constitutes a creative midfielder. Nevin said it was someone who could thread pass like Benayoun or Gerrard, and although Lampard does set goals up and scores lots, is he in the same bracket? Spurs might say that Modric is going nowhere but his all-round ability would fit well between Lampard and Ramires. Do you need Ramires and Mikel as two of three central midfielders?

  • Comment number 30.

    Torres re energised? After one game? .....
    So all of a sudden he is good again despite not scoring, OK, makes sense.

  • Comment number 31.

    @30 Rob918
    Striker do not need to score goals to get themselves re energised. Torres' performance speaks for it self.

  • Comment number 32.

    Chelsea: still solid at the back but still ponderous in midfield and going forward.

    Whole team needs reconfiguring. Malouda offers little after his one good season two years ago, he's not dynamic enough, looks like he's cruising though games with only 90% effort. You need 100% at this level. Kalou has been given plenty of chances and it's now clear that top Premiership and European standard is a class too high for him. Anelka has qualities as a centre forward but Drogba and Torres and maybe Lukaka are ahead of him in the pecking order. He doesn't do enough graft off the ball to play wide in the modern game.

    All three should be let go, or used as squad players.

    Mikel is OK, deserves a few more chances. Last season and yesterday he has started to play quite a variety of passes, long and short. The old criticism of him that he only plays 10 metre sideways passes is no longer true. The only doubt about him is that he takes slightly too long on the ball.

    So, Chelsea need a creative midfielder, of course Modric would be perfect, but looking at what they've got, AVB needs to incorporate Benayoun, Sturridge and McEachran into the team in a balanced way.

    The old Chelsea power 4-3-3 is no longer working because the players are getting too old and teams have worked out how to nullify it.

    I had hoped AVB would have sussed this and introduced the creativity (Benayoun and McEachran) already. maybe against Stoke he thought it wasn't appropriate. But we look forward to the next home game.

  • Comment number 33.

    #29 Alistair M - BBC Sport

    if McEachran was at Man Utd whether he would have been used more regularly by now?
    Simple answer - yes! Ferguson has the capital/license to experiment more and make mistakes if necessary. Chelsea managers tend to have to produce results earlier which leads to less experimenting and stick to something which has worked in the past.

    For all Ancelotti's talk about not fearing the sack, I think he DID fear Abramovich hence sticking with mis-firing strikers last autumn (when Sturridge should have been played) and then playing Torres all the time towards the end of the season when something was not always working.

  • Comment number 34.

    17 - Begovic is a very good keeper. Fantasy football must have!

    Perhaps came accross harsh about the midfield, I guess what I meant was they are a part of the team that doesn't perhaps fit in with what you might expect not watching them every week and was something that was telling in the cup final. Whelan is quite lightweight and Delap pretty immobile - the supposed move for Palacios makes perfect sense from an outsiders point of view. Whelan is a good technical player and the whole unit work very hard but there's not the power you associate with Stokes defence or the pace/urgency you get from the forwards and wingers in that engine room.

    There's that stat going round that you boys nearly always have less possession, now you can put some of that down to percentage football but you have good attackers so if the engine room could dominate a bit more it'd help those players.

  • Comment number 35.

    Comment 3 hit the nail on the head, Chelsea and Torres need a midfielder or supporting attacker who can pick a pass through the middle. Get a player for this and Torres will score a budle of goals for you.

    Everyone knows that Torres likes to play as a loan striker, thats where he is best. Athletico and Liverpool he was the lone striker and scored goals for fun. The problem for AVB is do you build the team round Torres and get a Modric or Kaka or do you try and fit him in to play with another striker and hope it works eventually? I know what option I'd choose!

  • Comment number 36.

    I know what we should do with Mceachran - send him to bolton! when young english players go there, they come back world-class players like sturridge and Wilshere.

  • Comment number 37.

    Personally, I was blown away that Sky gave Torres Man of the Match.
    Hello? Begovic?

  • Comment number 38.

    I hear chelsea have some good promising youngsters, it would be nice to see a a chelsea manager with balls to play them.

  • Comment number 39.

    #37 Peter B

    If you believe that Begovic was man of the match, then perhaps yesterday should just go down as one of those days and all the talk about Chelsea having problems are wrong.

  • Comment number 40.

    Completely agree with messien. Wilshere and McEachran are in the same vein and Coyle seems to know how to give these players confidence.

    Mikel has come a long way in the last few seasons, however that just means I no longer cringe when he has the ball and hasn't flown through the air into a tackle for a while.

    I would prefer to see Luiz deployed in this position. He can defend, (though he makes silly mistakes) but he is also much more comfortable on the ball and could be a good alternative in starting attacks. Belletti used to do the same thing every now and again.

    My team without Modric (though I think we would have more luck with Nasri) would be.

    Bosingwa Alex Terry Cole
    Ramires Lampard
    Benayoun Sturridge

  • Comment number 41.

    #4 MrBlueBurns

    Completely agree; it's an attribute which I completely admire in recent Chelsea teams and I think is reflective in how close Chelsea got to toppling Barcelona in comparison to Arsenal and Manchester Utd's efforts in their respective games (I did say "tag imposed by some").

  • Comment number 42.

    Decent article, perhaps a little keen with the Torres praise but I also think he will come on strong this year. Certainly tempted to select him for the fantasy league side, along with Benayoun if he commands a starting role.
    As a Bolton fan, I'm sure we would happily accomodate a talented youngster or two at the Reebok finishing school. That said, we will surprise a few with or without a loan dynamo this year.

  • Comment number 43.

    Ok im sick of BBC pundits, presenters etc linking Modric with Chelsea! Are you all completely dumb and incapable of understanding the following statement???

    "In respect of Luka Modric, we are not prepared to sell, at any price, to Chelsea Football Club or any other club." Daniel Levy

    Frankly im surprised the club hasnt contacted its Solicitors to start legal proceedings in some way!?


    How can they, when they have previously stated that a certain Berbatov was NOT FOR SALE, but of course the answer is, we couldn't turn down that sort of money for a player. That is what the chairman will say if Chelsea were to offer serious money. At the moment, Chelsea are offering a large sum but not large enough. Modric has his price, don't kid yourself about that.

    I would prefer Nasri at Chelsea because of price, and age and also quality in terms of goals and assists. I think a front three with Sturridge Torres and Nasri would frighten teams, and then if you still want Modric then get him aswell, but Chelsea's main failing is that our two wingers yesterday were appalling, along with Mikel being far too obvious in his passing.

  • Comment number 44.

    @20 You are correct in regards Berbatov, however he is/was a diiferent proposition in the sense he has a grumpy selfish persona and was on a short contract and made it clear he wanted to leave by refusing to play thus causing internal conflicts amongst the squad... Spurs were also not at the same level they are now.

    Modric however is on a 5 year contract, recently signed, is not a selfish arrogant type player and seems to have accepted that he is going to stay.

    Regarding Levy's statements, the previous ones were in effect a way of ensuring Spurs got 'top dollar' due to said short contract... However this time it appears he knows that to sell Modric would prevent the challenge for a Top 4 spot, particularly with the believed demise or Arsenal by many.

    My issue is with various pundits/presenters/Journo's on the BBC website and Football Focus etc constantly linking/suggesting/indicating Modric is effectively a Chelsea player! You dont see other players being suggested as potential players with other clubs do you? Imagine if Rooney was being touted around on here and FF, like Modric is now, as a potential Real Madrid player, with comments like 'Rooney would link up again with Ronaldo and make RM unstoppable' etc... Fergie would go mental!!!

    @43 my issue is not about what has gone before or may happen, I personally suspect that if 50m was offered it would definitely be considered, but based upon reported 'offers' thats unlikely, but with what I have stated above about pundits/presenters/journos etc including it everywhere, they seem to have it in for Spurs.

    I might add that had it not been for Chelsea leaking the offer, no one would have been any the wiser about the bid!

  • Comment number 45.

    Also, for all those that are saying Mceachran should have played, I think he is a wonderful talent, and to be honest I have been wanting him to play since I started watching youth games 4 years ago, before he got his starts for Chelsea but I fully understand why he didn't play. To be thrust in against a team like Stoke (and lets face it there is only 1 team that play as forcefully as Stoke-not bashing them I think there methods are fantastic) but that is a really tough job for the lad. I know he has quick feet but its games like West Brom who use a less physical approach where you will see him play (i.e Cleverly yesterday). Apart from the top 4/5 other clubs, Stoke are probably the one team where a player who is VERY lightweight wouldn't make his mark on a game. That's not where you start in the EPL.

  • Comment number 46.


    I wouldn't bracket either Lampard or Gerrard as particularly creative players, both were (are) very good old school box to box midfielders. The shame for England is that they were overhyped as more than this and perhaps that both bought into their own hype too much.

    Benayoun isn't a great creative player but creative he is. A very handy utility player to have on the bench but for a club like Chelsea I fear he shouldn't be their main creative outler in midfield.

    Perhaps McHecrean will come through, I haven't personally seen a lot of him but by all accounts he has that creative spark? Is he ready for that responsibility though?

    Chelsea don't neccesarily need to buy a world class playmaker to compete, they have a very good squad already but I like many others feel that such a player would take them from a team who will be there or there abouts to a team who is equal favourites for the title with United.

  • Comment number 47.

    44, Can you tell me why Spurs manager Redknapp is saying that they may not even sell for £35M? I mean not for sale would surely mean not for sale, so why does the figure £35M suddenly come about from the manager. Also I think Chelsea leaked the offer because it forced Tottenham to have a stance on the matter, and it means people are speaking about it. How many real transfer "saga's" end in the player staying forever? I don't remember any to be honest (with the sale of Fabregas being completed today). Ronaldo, Henry, Figo, Beckham, Fabregas etc. Without sounding disrespectful, they all end in the player leaving. It may take time but I have a feeling that's where it will end.

  • Comment number 48.

    When will "Chopper" Harris be fit?

  • Comment number 49.

    You can have Carrick from us for 45million.

  • Comment number 50.

    #50 Jesus the TeddyBear

    You still owe £12m re Mikel. :-)

  • Comment number 51.

    Thats cool, I will accept 33million :D

  • Comment number 52.

    Getting really frustrated with all the journalists presuming, or advertising that, Modric is leaving to Chelsea. Levy has repeatedly stated he is going nowhere, Modric has never handed in a transfer request and now Chelsea have announced they will not be bidding for him anymore. LAZY JOURNALISM.

  • Comment number 53.

    One of the things I have picked up from this is that a lot of chelsea fans want to see benayoun and sturridge playing out wide in a 4-3-3 formation. Surely Daniel Sturridge is so much more effective playing down the middle?? Bolton fans could tell you that. He is a centre forward who uses his pace by playing on the shoulder of the centre backs, similar to Javier Hernandez. Do people not think that in playing him out wide (and in that role, a lot deeper) it neutrilizes his best asset??

    And I do believe that Torres will start scoring goals, but right now I would be very tempted to play Drogba and Sturridge up front together if I were AVB. Surely the perfect big man small man combo??

  • Comment number 54.

    The midfield wasnt an issue yesterday, although i do agree an attacking player to bridge the gap between the striker and midfield is much needed. Like when Gudjohnsen was a part of our midfield with Lamps and Big Maka! I feel our failing was down the wings, when playing 4-3-3 your wingers play a vital role in stretching the play and supplying quality balls into the box... Malouda and Kalou are not these guys, they gave the ball away so often yesterday and their delivery was almost non existent... Replacements are going to be needed if the formation is going to be a success. Stoke vs Drogba is the only pound for pound option against a back like that averaged 6ft 2"! Torres got bullied despite all his effort and running, he did well finding space deeper but in the box he only got free a couple of times and was no arial threat. Ramires was by far Chelseas best player yesterday and after a season of bedding in looks the part this time round!

  • Comment number 55.

    #53 dave parker

    From what I have seen, (Chelsea, Bolton, England U21's) Sturridge can play anywhere up front. He has pace, skill and can finish. To my mind he would be perfect off either side of Torres.

    As for Drogba and Sturridge, I think generally Chelsea work better as a 4-3-3 rather than 4-4-2. Even when they have played 4-4-2 is has rarely been two up front, with usually some one dropping off one side or another. Also, I think Torres should be put in the 4-4-3 that he has largely played with.

    When Sturridge is back, I see no place for Anelka and probably likewise Kalou though Kalou offers something as a sub.

    And this ignores the possible imminent arrival of Lukaku!

  • Comment number 56.

    Time for changes I think. Chelsea remind me of an old sports car. Was great in its day, but the more you try to tweak little bits of the original, the weaker it starts to get. What we need is a new car. Out with the old, in with the new. Get Josh and Sturridge starting (I can see the logic of not playing McEachran v Stoke, only a wee lad against a team of rugby players). Anelka, Malouda, Mikel, and especially Kalou have to go, with Lampard (and Terry possibly after this season) taking up coaching roles. New RB needed as well, Bosingwa is good but too poor defensively, Branny the exact opposite. As I see it, 4-3-3 as AVB is playing but something like this...

    Cech, Van Der Wiel, Terry, Alex/Luiz, Cole, Ramires, Modric (supposing), McEachran, Sturridge, Lukaku, Torres

    Possibly guilty of being too attacking which I can understand, but Cech between the posts and our CB's are definitely good enough to keep it balanced

  • Comment number 57.


    MrBlueBurns is right. perhaps Sturridge would be more effective down the middle and would be good with drogs, but i remember watching him for bolton against arsenal last season and he was dropping deep, going out wide and generally getting involved in the play, he's also shown himelf to be effective on the flank in pre-season.

    as for the 4-4-2 idea, chelsea don't have the midfielders to play it - neither kalou, malouda nor benayoun are old-school wingers and lamps doesnt look comfortable a 4-4-2.

    @55 i agree about anelka - doenst suit being on the flank and is behind torres, drogs and soon lukaku for the centre forward role and is a potential sulker if he's left out too much.

  • Comment number 58.

    Was really pleased with Torres' performance against Stoke, he looked far more like the player we wanted when he was signed. Also, despite the result, not too bothered about the scoreline. Stoke are a good side, and they defended really well. On another day we might have got one of the penalty calls or either Mikel's or Anelka's excellent efforts might have gone in.

    We are going to have a pretty congested front line though, with Torres, Anelka, Drogba, Sturridge and Lukaku. Personally, I would have looked to sell at least one of Anelka and Drogba, possibly even both. Sturridge deserves games, and looks very good every time he gets a chance. If Torress plays like he did yesterday all season, then he will get a lot of goals, and I can't see what role Drogba or Anelka can have at the club.

  • Comment number 59.

    I'm surprised there has been no mention of Kakuta as a potential replacement for Malouda? Looked promising on his loan spell at Fulham at the end of last year and would add a bit of flair. Personally I think Terry and Lampard have only got another season or so in them before age really starts to tell.
    I think they should stick to a 4-3-3 but give chances to younger players such as McEachran, Bertrand, Kakuta, Romeu, Lukaku (because you cannot define Torres' season after only one game) and Sturridge.
    A potential Chelsea team for this season.


    Boswinga Terry/Ivanovic Luiz Cole

    Lampard McEachran

    Sturridge Kakuta/Benayoun

  • Comment number 60.

    Wow, Torres manages three shots all game (how many resulted in world class saves by the way?) and all of a sudden he's back to his best. He isn't. He was outstanding during his first two seasons at Anfield, far better than he ever was at Atletico Madrid. Since then he's been rubbish. Terrible attitude, complete lack of loyalty, refusal to work hard and earn his massive pay. He was just getting his form back in January; I thought it was down to the new manager but it was just his hankering for a move that inspired him. Since then, he's been rubbish. I'd judge a world class striker as having returned to form when he leaves ordinary defenders like Shawcross and Woodgate on their bums and scores at least one goal. Torres is finished.

  • Comment number 61.

    #55 mrblueburns

    I dont doubt at all that Sturridge can play anywhere across the front, he's a very talented player, but to get the best out of him he must be played down the middle. Take Rooney or Hernandez for Utd, both had time out wide of a front three, (Rooney obviously considerably more) but they were proven to be so more effective playing down the middle.

    And you say that Chelsea work better as a 4-4-3 rather than a 4-4-2 but I dont see why that cant change. Firstly they have played a 4-3-3 formation for the past 12 months and have looked far from impressive. They are in a period of evolution on the pitch with the likes of McEachran, Oriol Romeu and the imminent Lukaku, and the return of a now fully fit Benayoun. Benayoun has proven in the past he plays well out wide in a 4-4-2. If I were AVB I definitely think its worth a try and definitely believe it would create more of a threat up top.

  • Comment number 62.

    I've not seen any quotes as saying we would not sell for £35m!? I can only presume if it has been reported that its in response to a Journo's question about Chelsea's media proposed next bid based upon the previous 2 and the fee for Fabregas!?

    Your point on those other players are somewhat irrelevant as they are all pushy types and with the exception of Beckham all foreign.. I may add I dont think Beckham pushed for a transfer, Fergie sold him, same with Henry and Wenger i think, so your point is kinda invalid!

    Besides according Bruce Buck Chelsea are not going to bid again and if they did I doubt it would be the £50m figure that would make Spurs think about it.

  • Comment number 63.

    So, Torres (who cost £50 million remember?) doesn't spend 90 minutes either looking like someone stole his sweets or some guy they just pulled out of the crowd to make up the numbers and he gets Man of the Match AND a BBC blog dedicated to him?

    Do me a favour? MOM on $ky was probably Wilkins trying to get his job back but what is the BBC's excuse?

    #61 dave parker: I agree Chelsea suit 4-3-3, howver, but what is patently obvious is that Torres does not!

  • Comment number 64.

    #59 JakeAdler

    Only saw a bit of Kakuta at Fulham. He looked ok but I think as a player he is struggling to make the transition to what I could call 'big boys football'. He was brilliant for France the summer before and I thought that would be him up and running but he just seemed a bit nervous. That said, he came into the team at an awkward time last season.

    He has absolute bags of potential and I hope he gets in the squad at least.

    #61 dave parker

    I just think Chelsea would be best served with Torres up front and Sturridge in something of a supporting role. I think that would give you the best of both worlds with Sturridge.

  • Comment number 65.

    It seems the consensus is that Chelsea needs a creative midfielder, reminds me of the saying "everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die" the logical slot for the creative midfielder is the position being played by Lampard, but nobody wants to hit the nail on the head, instead there are preposterous suggestions like dropping a holding midfielder like Mikel. for the tactically inept commentators Mikel brings control to the midfield which you need in a game.

  • Comment number 66.

    #65 Larry Osopanco

    Actually, I think the gist of the blog is that it is the final third that needs most attention. The consensus seems to be that Malouda and Kalou are the ones that should drop from the first 11 (possibly further in some people's opinions) to be replaced by Benayoun and Sturridge.

    The midfield might benefit from more but the above is the gist of it.

  • Comment number 67.

    Chelsea fans and chelsea fc seems to be unappreciative of their players contributions. For example, had Torres justified his inclusion since he arrived last year, Drogba would have been shown the exit door. Maybe that is why God of soccer has made it impossible for Torres to shine. Man U in contrast honor and appreciate old players even when their positions are not needed. Paul Schols, gary, and co. Chelsea fans are in "pull him down syndrome." Imagine Drogba given an extension of 1yr in his contract when his performers should easily fetch him 2yrs contract. Chelsea fans want kalou, mikel, anelka, malouda sold. These players have contributed more than Terry and Lampard for the past 2 seasons. How many times had drogba argued with Terry for obvious defensive lapses? Yet nobody talks about Terry and lampard. Man U will continue to flourish because fans and the club treatmeant of players are as important as the players contribution to the team. One can not do without the other.

  • Comment number 68.

    Benyanoun should play with Torres. When Torres came to Chelsea ,on the website it's showed all the goals he scored against them and they were all set up my benyaoun

  • Comment number 69.

    Torres is past it.

    Chelsea are past it.

    That's why they'll drop out of the top 4 this season (in a nutshell):

  • Comment number 70.

    #67 uche

    Mostly nonsense, I think.

    Outsiders seemed almost obsessed with the idea that the Chelsea squad is too old. Chelsea supporters suggest younger players in those roles and you accuse those supporters of a lack of honour!

    The point is it is the start of a new season and we are looking forward. Also, we are looking realistically. For example, if we have Torres (who clearly isn't going anywhere), Sturridge and Lukaku, do we need Drogba AND Anelka?

    Other trimmings must surely include young backup for older established players.

  • Comment number 71.

    #50 MrBlueBurns

    Didn't you pay us £12m for Mikel?

  • Comment number 72.

    #67 total rubbish, completely agree with #70

  • Comment number 73.

    #71 smithyt2100

    Just digressing onto the detail of that for a moment, the payment was based on a contract that was later found to be unenforceable. Why Chelsea didn't pursue this is something of a [tangled] mystery. It should therefore have been paid back but wasn't.

  • Comment number 74.

    its funny how some peope think that they know exacty what formation and IX chelsea should use where as world class managers have been unsucessfull.

  • Comment number 75.

    Just digressing onto the detail of that for a moment, the payment was based on a contract that was later found to be unenforceable. Why Chelsea didn't pursue this is something of a [tangled] mystery. It should therefore have been paid back but wasn't.


    Didn't Chelsea offer to pay United that to stop the FIFA investigation into the transfer? There's something about the way Chelsea went about that transfer that they didn't want to come out.

  • Comment number 76.

    Alistair - I only saw the MOTD highlights, but would tend to agree that Torres looked a lot sharper with his on the ball movements and he also was showing more ambition when not in possession. However the reaction of his team mates was puzzling, they seemed either not understand what he as attempting to do (at times just standing and watching him), or to shy away from him completely.
    Clearly, even with Torres back to something like his old self, he is still very much a 'square peg' in respect of how the Chelsea machine plays. Could not understand why Benayoun was not in the original 11, perhaps Villas-Boas is not as 'clued-up' as we have been led to believe?

  • Comment number 77.

    Is that the same Alistair Magowan that impersonates all n sundry personally I think all n sundry is a brilliant impression.As for Torres impersonating well Torres I think he is getting back to his best.Riding tackles sidesteps vision and creating space for himself are all comming back he looked more confident on the ball and all that was missing was a goal!I must be the only one who dosen't think Man Utd will win the Premiership their obviously good but it's far too early to say they will run away with it. A long hard Season lies ahead for everybody I don't think AVB is out of his depth and will give a good account of himself.Stoke will be a place once again where few teams go home with 3 points.

  • Comment number 78.

    As a Utd fan, say what you like about Drogba but he is a regular 20 plus goals a season and delivers in the big matches. Who is going to replace those goals if he goes? He is still the stiker who, at his best, is almost unplayable. Torres looks like he has a lost some pace. Not sure if he will get back to his best. Essien is a huge loss this season. He has real quality.

  • Comment number 79.

    #75 We all follow United

    Oh yeah, something murky hence the 'tangled mystery'.

    #76 georgiethebest7

    One game and you are concluding 'Villas-Boas is not as 'clued-up' as we have been led to believe?'. Bit premature don't you think?

  • Comment number 80.


    slightly hypocrytical. on the one hand you suggest that after 1 game you cant say that torres is getting back to his best, yet you suggest that afer 1 game he cant play in a 4-3-3?


    a little bit scared after watching a resurgent torres on motd? woodgate, who was signed for real madrid, is an ordianry defender?! All the things you list about tores's loyalty and attitude blah blah was when he was desperate to get out of liverpool, who could blame him? now hes with better players, in the champions league and generally at a superiour club.

    @ 69
    you seem to be a liverpool supporter - remember - you'll never win naff all!


    dont think anyone is saying we dont need a holding midfielder, just one that is less ponderous than Mikel.

  • Comment number 81.

    #77 RON

    Stoke lost 5 out of 19 home league games last season. They were to Blackpool (1-0), Fulham (2-0), Man U (2-1), Spurs (2-1) and Wigan (1-0). A pretty good record I would say.

  • Comment number 82.

    I accept AVB wanted to asses the squad but anyone who's attended regular chelsea games over the last 2 seasons would know Malouda and Anelka come inside far to ofter from wide positions, meaning the full backs do the same an this closes the opponents back line, hence there no space for the likes of Torres. The midfield is ok but a creative player would indeed help, HOWEVER we are still crying out for 2 proper pacey wide men a la Robben / Duff / Cole. Players that creat the space and get defences turned on the back foot. Just look how impressive Young and Downing were on the opening weekend!!

  • Comment number 83.

    Oh and with regards to McEachran - He will go on to play more often but his frame was far to slight for Stoke away, and I'm pretty sure Cleverley had a couple of seasons on loan elsewhere before Fergie played him, as with Ramsey, Wiltshire, Sturridge etc. I agree a season somewhere like Bolton would help but he's defo one for the future and will probably see more action this season at home games where he'll have a bit more time to play when teams " park the bus "

  • Comment number 84.

    Good new for blue. I always trust torres. Biggest problem for blue is the elder player.

  • Comment number 85.

    Are you Psychic?

  • Comment number 86.

    As a Liverpool fan who watched Torres every week in the prime stage of his career, believe me he is nowhere near back to his best. That extreme pace of old that carried him past defenders with ease appears to be diminishing. Don't get me wrong Torres had one of his best games in a Chelsea shirt and did look sharp but to dedicate a blog to a reasonably improved performance from lacklustre, laboured ones is farcical. Torres thrives as a lone striker playing in front of an intelligent, creative playmaker. Benayoun provided this service for him well, and while he may not be the greatest player in the world he should not be overlooked. Modric would be a fantastic player for Chelsea to buy to aid Torres' performance.

  • Comment number 87.

    Spurs_sufer. To be pefectly honest, I would prefer that he stays at Tottenham. The last thing I want to see is Chelsea bid an obscene amount of money and Tottenham be almost forced to sell (not saying they are a selling club, my point is that if a club bids £40M or there abouts clubs have to consider selling, and they are almost forced into it. No one else would bid that sort of money for him.) and I think there aren't a shortage of creative players in the market. What saddens me is that I think we will get him, and then for £30M Spurs could go out and sign a player like Juan Mata, who will do just as good a job as Modric did. I personally don't think he is incredible, he isn't a bad player by any stretch but he isn't worth £30M, and wouldn't be to many teams other than Madrid Barca Chelsea City and Utd. (the teams with serious cash). Hopefully Chelsea sign Nasri and Mata, for £20M each roughly.

  • Comment number 88.

    On topic

    I watched the game as a neutral, quite enjoyed it. Stoke is a very tough place to go and a point a good result for bith sides. I don't remember Stoke threatening the Chelsea goal tbh. Torres looked sharp but MOTM bit of a joke striker gets it in a 0-0. Begovic looked solid thought he deserved it.

    Off topic

    The quality of punditry on BBC radio and MOTD is deteriorating each year.
    Lee Dixon, Garth Crooks, Hansen, Lawrenson all cliche machines with poor knowledge outside top 5 of England. Robbie Savage and Steve Claridge can hardly put a coherent sentance together.

  • Comment number 89.

    As a Chelsea fan, I was bemused by Drogba's omission against a side renowned for it's physical attributes.

    However, I have to say that Torres fully justified his place with a much improved performance. Granted he is paid to score goals, nevertheless it was his best performance in a Chelsea shirt.

    Where AVB went wrong yesterday was his inclusion of Kalou and some could argue Malouda (although Malouda was our top scorer last term). In my opinion we have no width with these two anyway, neither of them can beat an egg. On this basis I'd play 4-3-1-2. With what we had available this would be Drogba and Torres up top, with Benayoun or Anelka in the hole.

    In reference to the question of what constitutes a playmaker in the sense of what Chelsea need, i feel it is this. It has to be a player who has the quality to receive a pass in any situation, be able to hold the ball and to be able to see a defence splitting forward pass. Xavi is the master of this. I haven't seen Modric close up, but I know Josh McEachran has all the potential to be this type of's just that maybe he needs a full season or 2 before he can demonstrate this in the Prem.

    Who we get to fulfil this role that's a question for the Chelsea powers that be, but we need it ASAP or 2nd/ 3rd and/ or a domestic cup is the best we can achieve.

  • Comment number 90.

    Oh and don't forget Joey Barton as the star guest on 606. One for the future, I wish I could hear more from him....

    Joey Barton near assaults someone for going down easy to then go down easy 10 seconds later. Top bloke

  • Comment number 91.

    82. blueslav I made that observation a few times too. Malouda and Kalou do tend to come inside but when I put it to Dixon, he said that allowed space for the likes of Cole and Bosingwa to overlap which is a big part of how Chelsea play.

    Also, when you have one striker the two wide forwards tend to support more, rather than if there were two front men in a conventional 4-4-2, where the wingers can play wider. Different horses I suppose.

  • Comment number 92.

    #89 jay842

    By the definition being put forward, Chelsea haven't had a playmaker in years and yet we seem to have done alright in that time.

    Personally, I think a 'playmaker' as opposed to an ordinary midfielder is just semantics. David Silva at Man City seems to be a 'playmaker' but he's just so lightweight that you wonder if the team gains more than it loses with such a player.

    As you (and many of us have said) it is the wide men in a 4-3-3 that didn't work yesterday.

  • Comment number 93.

    Alistair, I think that's something that AVB is trying to get rid of. Wingers are players that can be switched around and changed more easily full backs. This means its better to be more reliant on a number of players for example Bayern who have Muller Robben Ribery and until recently Altintop. My knowledge of the Bayern wingers isn't extensive I'm sure they have more... Its very tough to rotate full backs, because a) Ashley Cole is almost irreplaceable and b) consistency in defence is far more important (see the Man Utd./Chelsea back four over the past few seasons that performed much better when they stay the same) To be honest I want my defenders to defend and I noticed against Stoke Ashley Cole did a lot less attacking than he usually would.

  • Comment number 94.

    @80 messien

    "a little bit scared after watching a resurgent torres on motd?"

    - Hardly. He cost you £50m for a reason. He was once an outstanding player capable of extraordinary things. That he is now trying to earn his colossal pay packet is lovely for you, but he isn't anywhere near his best and I doubt he ever will be again.

    "woodgate, who was signed for real madrid, is an ordianry defender?!"

    Woodgate waited for an age to make his Marid debut, scoring an own goal and getting sent off when he finally did. He was soon sold, and was voted the worst signing of the 21st century by users of the website of Spain's leading sports daily, Diario Marca, polling 37.11% of the votes cast. He played three games for England during the last half decade.

    "All the things you list about tores's loyalty and attitude blah blah was when he was desperate to get out of liverpool, who could blame him? now hes with better players, in the champions league and generally at a superiour club."

    That's your opinion chief, and stupid people are allowed stupid opinions; that's the beauty of living in a democracy. But with our history and heritage, and the fact we're supported all around the globe in ways your lot can only ever dream about, I doubt that you're all that "superiour" (sic) to us.

  • Comment number 95.

    Of course any team would be better off with Modric, so the whole blog is a bit of a waste if time.
    Chelsea started last season scoring tons of goals, without Modric, and they're capable of doing it again if Malouda, Drogba, Anelka etc regain their form, not to mention Torres.
    Too much emphasis on one player making the difference Lee, this is a team game.

  • Comment number 96.

    '94 Mad Cow

    Don't play the history card again.

    At this point in his career, do you think Torres has a better chance of silverware with Chelsea or Liverpool?

  • Comment number 97.


    Read that link. Biggest load of toss I've ever seen. Not just as a Chelsea fan but just generally....toss. As I read through each one my laughing became harder in time with my head sinking further into my hands. Whoever wrote that trash should try watching a bit of football. Arsenal 2nd and Chelsea 5th? If that happens you'll see me on the news in hospital having a hat surgically removed from my intestine

  • Comment number 98.

    @ 20: yes, but some people learn from experience :o)

  • Comment number 99.

    I wonder if McEachran was at Man Utd whether he would have been used more regularly by now?
    Josh McEcahran at the age of 17 made 16 first team appearances last season, six of them in the CL. Any research will prove that is the exception for a player of that age, not the norm.

    Cleverly has made how many first team appearances for United?

    Wilshire how many for Arsenal before last season?, and remember he is older than Mceachran

    So the answer appears to be, NO he would not have been used more at United!

  • Comment number 100.

    I thought Chelsea looked sharp, but in the box Stoke had too many bodies to make a break;Even with plaudits of pundits of ManU am totally not convinced with players that they bought, two young promising players, but for sure the Gea will be tested and looks a shadow of the presence of van der Sar; like Chelsea, ManU can do with a established name in midfield and do think ManU with their leverage buyout have more contraints on the financial side of things than Chelsea, not to mention that Yolantha (wife of wesley sneyder) prefers Milan over Manchester, and who can blame her, all in all, think could e an interesting competition, and after 10 games or so we know more, if Mancini gets less cautious, I give them the nod!


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