Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Musings on Fernando Torres at Chelsea FC

Updated 15 Jan. 2013

Just read one of the most balanced and informative blogs on Fernando Torres career today by Kevin Kostka: 
Kevin concludes with 'he may yet become a half-decent striker for Chelsea'. Well worth a read. 

Instead of a recap of this excellent op-ed, I offer brief musings as a fan of both Torres and Chelsea. See Twitter account,  @eurofutball 

I'm writing this blog immediately after CFC loss to Swansea in the Capital One Cup semi-final, first-leg, on 9 Jan. 2013. 

I suspect Torres was booed when he left the field and Ba was substituted. No boos for Ivanovic whose sloppy play resulted in both Swansea's goals, none for talented magician Juan Mata who failed to score on several golden opportunities, none for likeable David Luiz, who continues to sacrifice ball possession far too easily with ridiculous long shots over the net.

Many musings below are obvious but still worth stating. I'll try not to regurgitate the hackneyed writing and cliches of mainly professional reporters for British media. Frankly, many fans and bloggers provide better analysis and more insights than so-called pros. 

What follows is a stream of consciousness, which is how I write most blogs (mainly about transfusion medicine). Over the following days and weeks, I'll revise and add to the blog as new ideas arise.

My analysis is about emotional intelligence. I leave it to more qualified fans to dissect technicalities of the beautiful game.

Torres cannot help that Chelsea paid Liverpool a whopping transfer fee of £50 million. Yet it's universally held against him by what I call boo-birds (small-minded, negative nobodies who parasitically feed on the misery of others whose jock straps they could not even carry). To me a transfer fee focus is sheer envy on the part of those who mention it at every opportunity. 

As well, Torres' agent negotiated the best salary he could get, apparently ~£175,000 a week. Many footballers earn ridiculous incomes. But as an employee, wouldn't you want the best salary possible when starting a new job and relocating your family within a foreign country to one of the most expensive cities in Europe? 

Moreover, when Torres moved to London, I'm sure he thought he'd earn every pound.

Learning point: Criticize his play but emphasizing the transfer fee exposes a critic as petty.

Torres' weaknesses are dead simple. 

(1) First, as a striker Torres doesn't score enough goals, and rarely scores in big games. As a result Chelsea loses game it should win. 

Of course, it's not Nando's fault alone. Here's what I've observed over 2 yrs:
  • Torres makes good runs but passes don't come. Many reasons but in 2011-12 club was not aligned to his style of play and vice versa.
  •  Eventually, teammates lost confidence in Torres and, instead of passing to him, even if he was in the clear, passed to others or tried to score themselves from impossible positions.
  • Lack of passes and confidence by teammates eventually sapped his confidence. To compensate, he became an effective play maker instead of a goal scorer. Valuable player but not a winning hand if you're the striker whose club paid huge transfer fee. 
  • Confidence complicated by having as teammate and fellow striker the larger than life Didier Drogba, already a club legend. 
(2) Second, Torres is introverted and sports fans don't dig shy introverts. They tend to characterize them as brooding and find that disconcerting. Even more complicated because Torres' competitor Drogba is an extrovert. 

I'm a keen observer of human nature and am positive Torres is introverted. People cannot grasp how people on a public stage can be introverted and shy, but, trust me, it's all too common. 
  • Fans and people in general, inc.colleagues, are much more comfortable with extroverts. Think David Luiz. The happy geezer is easy to like. And Torres being a family man who doesn't enjoy clubbing is another reason why he's an outsider. 
  • Recall video of Chelsea celebrating in dressing room. Frankly, celebrations are pretty forced. Note Torres at back getting dressed and ignoring the lame celebrations.   
(3) Torres has had a run of bad luck in which he almost seems to be jinxed. Shots that earlier would have scored don't anymore. I particularly recall an acrobatic strike that should have been a goal, worthy of goal of the year, but it hit the crossbar. 

Learning point: Not enough goals, introverted, and bad luck means most Chelsea fans have lost faith in Nando and have given up on him. These are human reactions from fans who just want their team to win.

We think of infidelity as breaking a promise to remain faithful to a sexual partner. But it can be applied to breaking a promise as a fan. And here's where some Chelsea fans have failed big time. 

No doubt CFC fans have been spoiled since Russian plutarch Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003. 

But aren't fans supposed to be loyal to the team, its coaches, managers, and players? 

Don't want to dwell on all gory details, but many CFC fans routinely delight in ridiculing Torres and his difficulties. I think of such fans as wee human beings. No milk of human kindness. No ability to empathize with others. Why little empathy for Nando?
  • Is it because he's Spanish?
  • Because he came to club for huge transfer fee? 
  • Because he's an easy scapegoat when club loses?
  • Because all spoiled Chelsea fans care about is winning?
  • Because they've finally run out of patience? 
Matters not. Positive fans stay loyal to players and club and would not think of booing someone having a rough time. Negative fans are fair-weather fans, bottom dwellers who thrive on Torres' misery. Says more about their character than him. Criticize play, but why the trash-talk personal venom?

Then there's the matter of fan girls. Many male CFC fans call female Torres fans, fan girls. Others dump on those who do not attend games as plastic fans

These are often young men who can only feel superior if they diss others. Very similar to bigots. Generally self-absorbed types who believe life is a zero sum game in which others winning mean you lose.

Learning point: Some Chelsea fans (not all) have no idea what being a fan means. They're insulated and provincial, i.e., wee persons of local or restricted interests. 

And if a player does not perform, they feel free to ridicule him. Indeed, they often get off on tweeting smart-ass remarks on Twitter, not realizing what asses they are. They're still fans, just not ones I choose to emulate.

Torres is Chelsea's designated scapegoat. Entire team may perform dismally, but fans attribute losses to him, regardless of how poorly entire team plays.

And in one respect, though they don't know it, and cannot be credited with insight, they're correct.

To me, the bottom line of any game is goals. If you cannot score, you don't win.

Think of all the so-so performances of MCFC and MUFC. These clubs are often outplayed for entire games, look all too ordinary,  but win at the last minute in stoppage time. 

Why? Because they have multiple talented strikers, one of whom eventually scores. Van Persie, Rooney, Chicharito , Welbeck, Tevez, Dzeko, Aguerro, Balotelli, it matters not. 

But until Ba arrived, Chelsea in 2012-13 had only Torres. He was supposed to do it all. That teammates play so-so or worse matters not. Torres was expected to rescue the club with goals.

If Chelsea outplays opponents - they often do - but Torres does not score, he takes the can for the loss. If the entire team stinks, he still takes the can for the loss. 

That's the tragedy of Fernando Torres. If only the sole STRIKER would score every game, regardless of teammates' play, Chelsea would win many games it loses. 

Too much pressure on one man. Miracle that he shows up game in, game out and tries. 

In some ways Torres is similar to a classic tragic hero. Talented. Admirable. Lionhearted, but destined to bear a burden. His fatal flaw is not to score in games when colleagues do not score. Seems he's THE ONE on whom club's entire success depends.

Yet a cadre of fickle, selfish Chelsea fans constantly ridicule him. Sadly, I despite these cretins for their lack of humanity and discernment and ability to empathize.

I believe that Torres is salvageable and can contribute to Chelsea's success if team, Ba and next hired striker in particular, have milk of human kindness, and believe that to succeed, all need to succeed. As opposed to being 'all about me' ego-freaks, who care only to pad their own nests, the typical BPL strikers who fans adore.

Of course, Torres is not the player he was at Liverpool. Not as much pace, hindered by fear of further injury, and less confident, given all that has happened. What happened to him is open to dispute and remains an enigma. No doubt he has never been the same since his two knee operations in 2010.

Still, as of 1 Jan. 2013 he has decent statistics in all team play: 14 goals, 7 assists. He's a good team player and does contribute more than boo-birds give him credit for.

Still, some, indeed many, fans simply want to jettison him and hire a striker at the top of his form, e.g., Radamel Falcao. They typically tweet that Torres is a piece of sh*t, a flop, a f*cking c*nt. Yes, sadly, that's the intellectual level and vocabulary of many Chelsea fans. 

They're spoiled by a rich Russian owner (never mind how he got his billions), used to winning, and think it's their right to win forever. Sheer fantasy and Torres is impeding the fantasy. 

Should he start to score key game-winning goals, these same fans would fall all over themselves to praise Nando.

Me, I don't give a flying fig what fickle, spoiled fans think. Chelsea is one of the truly great teams of English football. 

I wish all Chelsea fans had half  the integrity that the Champions of Europe deserve. And half the humanity that truly nice guy, decent human being, exemplary family man, and remarkable footballer Fernando Torres deserves.Thankfully, some do.

These two iconic songs by Freddie Mercury are often sung at Canadian hockey games, ironic given the uber-macho nature of hockey. Gotta love it!  
  • We will rock you 
  • We are the champions