The decline of Fernando Torres

Some five years ago Fernando Torres finished his first season in English football scoring 24 goals in 33 Premier League appearances for Liverpool.

Only Andrew Cole in 1993-94 (34 goals in 40 games) and Kevin Phillips in 1999-2000 (30 goals in 36 games) have scored more goals in their debut Premier League season.

Fernando Torres

Liverpool had found their new number 9. After successful times with Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler previously, Fernando Torres hit the road running at Anfield and was named in the PFA Team of the Year, alongside Emmanuel Adebayor up front for the 2007-08 season.

During that summer Fernando Torres would score the only goal in the Euro 2008 final as Spain beat Germany to lift their first major honour in 44 years.

There was an air of optimism around Anfield heading into the 2008-09 season. The previous year Liverpool had finished 11 points behind champions Manchester United – down from 21 the season before Fernando Torres’ arrival. 3 seasons earlier they had been crowned Champions of Europe.

The squad included the likes of Pepe Reina, Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard, Xabi Alonso and Javier Mascherano. They had faith in manager Rafa Benítez, whilst Arsenal were rebuilding and Chelsea were heading into the season with Luiz Felipe Scolari – a coach with no experience in European club football and whom had spent the past eight years in international management.

2008-09 would turn out to be the closest Liverpool would come to winning the Premier League title – finishing 4 points behind champions Manchester United (despite Liverpool fans staying behind at Craven Cottage after a late 1-0 win over Fulham on 4 April, celebrating like they had won the league).

Fernando Torres himself that season netted 14 goals in 24 Premier League appearances.

The following season would prove to be his final full season at Anfield and some of the best Torres was on display once more – scoring 18 goals in 22 Premier League appearances.

Torres then travelled to South Africa to help Spain win the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

He appeared tired the following Premier League season, on top of some knee injuries he’d previously suffered. This reflected in his goal tally, scoring just 9 in 23 Premier League games before he was bought by Chelsea for a staggering £50 million at the end of January 2011.

The Spaniard did not settle in comfortably at Stamford Bridge, going 903 minutes without a goal before a wet and muddy pitch aided him in netting his first during a 3-0 win over West Ham. That would be Torres’ only Premier League goal for Chelsea in his 14 league games for the Blues – taking his total to 10 league goals that season, combined with his efforts at Liverpool in the first half or so of the season.

That was eight successive league seasons in which Fernando Torres had scored double figures.

Following the arrival of André Villas-Boas at the start of the 2011-12 season and even under Roberto Di Matteo at the end of the season, Fernando Torres became a regular in the Chelsea team. However, he netted just 6 goals in 32 Premier League appearances.

Last season, following the departure of Didier Drogba, and even with Rafa Benítez being appointed in November, Torres only scored 8 goals in 36 Premier League games. His 23 in 64 games in all competitions for Chelsea isn’t overly impressive when you look at some of the opponents he scored against – remaining just a shadow of the player he once was.

Opponents Fernando Torres scored against in 2012-13:

Premier League
Reading (19th)
Newcastle United (16th)
Arsenal (4th)
Norwich City (11th)
Sunderland (2 goals – 17th)
Aston Villa (15th)
Everton (6th)

Champions League
Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine – eliminated at round of 16)
Nordsjaelland (2 goals – Denmark – 1 point in group stage)

Europa League
Steaua Bucharest (Romania – Liga I winners)
Rubin Kazan (3 goals – Russia – 6th in the Premier League)
FC Basel (Switzerland – Super League winners)
Benfica (Portugal – Primeira Liga runners-up)

FA Cup
Brentford (League 1)
Middlesbrough (Championship)

League Cup
Wolverhampton Wanderers (relegated from Championship)
Leeds United (Championship)

Community Shield
Manchester City

FIFA Club World Cup
Monterrey (Mexico – 7th in Liga MX and eliminated at quarter-finals of Liguilla Apertura)

Arsenal and Everton were the only top half finishing sides that Fernando Torres netted Premier League goals against last season. Sunderland, Nordsjaelland and Rubin Kazan were the only teams he scored 2 goals in a single game against.

Overall his goals per league game ratio has dropped significantly since moving to Chelsea, as depicted below:

Fernando Torres goals per season

During his time at Liverpool, Fernando Torres scored 65 goals in 102 Premier League games. So far at Chelsea, just 15 in 82 league games.

The arrival of José Mourinho this summer doesn’t bode well for the Spaniard. The Blues have been heavily linked to Edinson Cavani during the summer as they appear to be in the hunt for a first choice striker for the 2013-14 season.

Regardless of what people say about the Chelsea formation and the style not suiting Torres’ games, one cannot argue that he is not the player he was at Liverpool and isn’t even close. The Torres of old would have netted at least 8 in the recent match against Tahiti. The 4 goals in that match and the Golden Boot are just covering up the cracks. He was wasteful, both in trying to score and assist. The same could be said of his previous Premier League season.

Can José Mourinho get the best out of Fernando Torres? Or will the striker be out the door before he gets the chance?