When Torres scored that 4th goal last Saturday it somehow felt different to the other (few) goals he has scored for us. It wasn’t “lucky”, it wasn’t laid on a plate, it wasn’t hesitant – it was instinctive and that’s why for me it looked like the goal that will finally ignite his Chelsea career. As many pointed out, the Torres of even a month ago would have looked to a team mate to take the shot, but his confidence was evident as we saw the kind of goal that we had witnessed many a time when he wore the Liverpool red. I should also say here that the Chelsea of a month ago would have completely capitulated at the surrender of a two goal lead and certainly would not have fought back to win the game.
I think Torres too felt that this wasn’t just another false dawn as he looked absolutely delighted and gladly accepted his team-mates’ cheers and acknowledged the delirium from the travelling support. Some of you may think I am making too much of this goal, but I and many other Chelsea fans have never stopped believing in this player and have never questioned his commitment to the team (rather than an ego trip for himself). A decent end to the season, followed by a full pre-season could herald the re-emergence of one of a very select group of natural prolific goal-scorers and should that happen, the Chelsea supporters can give themselves a well-earned pat on the back.
Fans can often make or break a player going through a poor run of form. When that player is as high profile a signing as Torres, signed for such an eye-watering sum, fans, managers, the press can all identify them as a scape goat of an under-achieving season. But Blues fans kept the faith with him and indeed backed him ahead of an obviously unconvinced manager and taunting press and he is beginning to repay that faith.
The Benfica result surprised a few and hopefully we can finish the job this evening. The general consensus was that we weren’t going to win in Lisbon and instead we produced a controlled, disciplined display which although only yielding one goal, was a demonstration of a combination of applied tactics and carefully thought out team selection. I must admit to utter consternation when I heard the starting eleven, but credit to RDM – he got it spot on – another reminder should I ever need one that my knowledge can best be described as superficial – as is the case with the majority of fans – after all, we don’t see what goes on at the training ground, the recovery periods for individual players – even personalities.
As the weeks go by, it is becoming more and more evident that getting rid of AVB was the correct course of action. The little snippet revealed by Kalou gave us further insight into Villas Boas mind set and once again we are served a demonstration of how our former manager was liable to cut his nose off to spite his face. Now anyone that reads this column regularly will tell you that I am not Kalou’s biggest fan – however, when you have a limited squad, the results are not going your way and your future is being questioned, one thing you do not do, is ostracise a perfectly acceptable squad player. Yet that is exactly what AVB did when Kalou was unsure about signing a new contract. One thing that Kalou has always been is a model professional – never moaned, always ready to face the cameras, played where he was told etc so for him to come out and reveal the rift was quite telling.
RDM obviously learnt from Villas Boas’ mistakes. He is very demonstrative on the touchline – every goal is met with interaction with the players on the bench – he is very visible at the final whistle – reaching out to the team – ensuring they all get an appreciative gesture or word. It is evidently what was needed following the seemingly tyrannical Portuguese manager.
Whether he was tyrannical or just trying to break a well-established dressing room hierarchy is neither here nor there anymore as he failed – in nearly all aspects, but the players involved hopefully have realised that it was a battle won but the war they will ultimately lose as the changes AVB was trying to make will still need to be made.
Di Matteo’s best mate/older brother approach is right, right now – but I still believe that certain players have had their cards marked. Perhaps, if they land the ultimate prize, Abramovich’s heart’s desire, they will have a dignified exit – possibly on their terms, or even stay in a reduced capacity (should they so wish) – but the closed season will bear witness to a “night of the long knives” as it were. I think the majority of those that could see themselves involved are aware of that and are equally aware that the way they finish this season will have a direct impact on where they will be plying their trade next season – so I expect to see an acceptable end to the campaign at the very least. …and quite possibly something significantly better than that!