Early Doors

Torres plays the pundit

Early Doors

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With a grand total of one goal in 18 Premier League appearances since that £50 million British record move of his, Fernando Torres is hardly in a position of strength to criticise his team-mates at Chelsea.

But criticise them he apparently has, using an interview with the official webiste of La Liga to emulate Roy Keane's infamous Play the Pundit rant which never saw the light of day at MUTV. Well, if Keane were a rather reserved Spaniard, much less mad and his criticisms were more considered anyway.

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas confirmed in his press conference prior to Tuesday's Champions League fixture against Bayer Leverkusen that the club were launching an investigation into an interview conducted with Torres, sections of which were later featured on the striker's official website in English.

The offending passage was as follows: "When I changed club I knew it was going to be a slow process, although I didn't expect it to be so long. Chelsea is, [of] the English teams, maybe the least English. They have a slow way of playing; to always have the ball makes the rival fall back easily so they leave no holes [space behind the defence].

"That's because of the kind of player Chelsea has: an older player, who plays very slow, who has a lot of possession and that's what the club is trying to change now. The arrival of Mata is going to give another pace to the team. That's something Chelsea lacks nowadays."

Yeah, it's not exactly the following, from Keane in 2005, is it? "There is a shortage of characters in this team. It seems to be in this club that you have to play badly to be rewarded. Maybe that is what I should do when I come back. Play badly. They have let down the club, the manager and the fans. When they sign their contracts, they think they have made it. They owe it to the manager, the staff and the fans.

"The fact they are out should be enough incentive for those coming in to play better and give more. There is talk about putting this right in January and bringing new players in. We should be doing the opposite - we should be getting rid of people in January." 

How Early Doors years for Keane's brutal honesty. Instead Torres's take on Chelsea's issues with age is a fairly transparent attempt to excuse the striker's ineptitude in front of goal, the likes of which ED hasn't seen since Trevor Benjamin graced the Premier League.

But that does not mean his analysis is not without merit.

Sir Alex Ferguson was once heavily criticised for identifying that Chelsea were an ageing team who had plateaued, and though they went on to later win the Double under Carlo Ancelotti, he was broadly right.

A lack of graduates from Frank Arnesen's fruitless youth academy - which could now be more accurately described as Hamburg's finishing school - and an overreliance on those big dressing room personalities who proved too influential for Big Phil Scolari did see Chelsea become rather stale, a suspicion that was borne out last season.

Moreover, their midfield had become too pedestrian, and when Torres arrived at the end of January he found he was no longer being afforded the same sort of service upon which he thrived during his purple patches at Liverpool.

It even appeared as though Chelsea had no plan as to how to accommodate their new signing tactically. His first game against Liverpool saw him play alongside Didier Drogba, with Nicolas Anelka sitting in behind in the hole. Now ED is no tactical genius to rival Arrigo Sacchi, but even it knew that such an approach was deeply flawed.

None of this is to totally excuse the poor performances produced by the Spaniard, but it does help to explain his grievances.

But as Torres does actually point out in his offending interview, things are changing. An influx of young players and, in particular, the addition of his international colleague Juan Mata appear set to give Chelsea more vigour and impetus. Perhaps the deployment of Raul Meireles in a withdrawn role will see the ball moved forward quicker to the strikers.

Certainly the form of Daniel Sturridge is cause for great excitement, and helped contribute to Torres being relegated to the bench for the weekend's win over Sunderland. Villas-Boas admitted that the striker was displeased to learn of his exclusion from the starting XI.

"I didn't tell him he was part of the rotation," said the boss. "I just made the changes. Any top player who's not part of the squad, or the selected players, is not happy. I'm glad because maybe you can stimulate them to go one step further, or motivate them a bit more. When they come back into the first XI, they can still perform. Not that that was the case, but generally."

Torres must now await the results of Chelsea's internal enquiry, and though Villas-Boas says no stone will be left unturned as the club get to the bottom of the matter, ED suspects the club are finding this slightly less demanding than probing Ashley Cole's air rifle antics or John Terry's guided tours of the training ground.

"We are going in-depth to regain the tape of that interview," says Villas-Boas. "We'll see if things play exactly as they are in that interview. We want to go in-depth a bit more. Anyhow, it's one player's perspective. I don't think it's a perspective that the manager shares. I don't have to share my players' ideas sometimes."

He may be too cute to admit it in public, but the man who constructed such a quick, dangerous Porto side surely recognises that Torres is right. After all, reports on Tuesday morning suggest the ageing John Terry, Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka will all be rested for the Leverkusen tie.

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Who the f*** is Chelsea London?" - Bayer Leverkusen's Sidney Sam attempts to win friends and influence people ahead of Tuesday's game by having a pop at Chelsea on his Facebook page. Sam also posed for a photo giving a thumbs-down gesture next to a Chelsea shirt.

FOREIGN VIEW: "Unfortunately this morning at the end of training Ibra felt a twinge in his adductor and he has remained at home." - AC Milan coach Masimiliano Allegri disappoints millions by revealing that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be unable to take part in Tuesday's game against his former club Barcelona. Ibra left Camp Nou in stormy circumstances last summer after criticising Pep Guardiola and his return to Barca had been one of the most highly-awaited moments in the group stage of the Champions League.

COMING UP: We have live commentary on all eight games tonight as the group stage of the Champions League gets underway, with the highlights including Arsenal's trip to Borussia Dortmund, Chelsea's clash with Leverkusen and, of course, the game between Spanish champions Barcelona and Italian champions Milan at Camp Nou.

To get you in the mood, we will have Rafa Benitez and Arsene Wenger delivering their expert verdicts on the Champions League, while the latest edition of the Euro Club Index should provide some insight as to which sides are looking dangerous.

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