Chelsea: Torres Is Finished But Ba Is The New Drogba
The abundance of goals scored over the Christmas period flattered Chelsea. When facing a defence that holds firmer than a soggy piece of toilet paper, they continue to struggle. The creativity of Mata, Hazard et al is a potent attacking force but Fernando Torres still looks as though he is one step behind the Blues’ midfield.
When teams back off and leave gaps for Chelsea to break through, the goals come thick and fast. However, against a defensive midfield and a rigid, structured back four, they have been obviously lacking. They need a physically strong player who will make the runs and find the space that Didier Drogba used to penetrate so effectively.
This is where new signing Demba Ba comes in.
His debut against Southampton in the FA Cup provided a couple of fine goals against the type of defence that Chelsea regularly destroy, but the real challenge was only going to come against the kind of tight, organised side that they have found more difficult to break down – a team such as Swansea, Chelsea's opponents in the midweek League Cup semi-final first leg.
Let's put aside for one moment that Chelsea were beaten by a defensive masterclass reminiscent of their own path to Champions League glory in 2012. Swansea deserve all the plaudits for their display.
Ba’s cameo was extremely encouraging. Despite being the victim of two poor refereeing decisions – receiving a ridiculous yellow card for an alleged dive and having a goal disallowed in one of the tightest offside calls you will ever see – the Senegalese striker provided more of an attacking threat in the ten minutes that he played than Torres was able to provide in the previous eighty. His physical threat and confidence provided a stark contrast to the disheartened and limp display of his Spanish colleague.
A defence as well drilled as Swansea's never looked threatened by the £50m man, with the always impressive Ashley Williams standing out. These days, Torres gives up on a run before he has even got into his stride. One misplaced touch is enough to make him pull up and hang his head in disgust. Since joining Chelsea, we have yet to see the Torres of old, but perhaps even the oddly dedicated (given his wanton disregard for stable management) Roman Abramovich may be forced to admit that it is time to give up on the dream of Torres' return to peak form.
As soon as Ba entered the game, things changed. He drifted away from defenders into space and his quick movement gave him that extra fraction of a second that his midfield colleagues needed to find the required killer ball.
Ba was a great player for Newcastle, but placed at the spearhead of a team displaying the attacking prowess of Chelsea, he could become a magnificent one. Signing him is a remarkable piece of business considering his price tag. If he is given the game time that his first two performances suggest that he deserves, it seems likely that Demba Ba could be the springboard Chelsea needed to bridge the gap to Manchester, giving us a thrilling three-horse race for the title.