As Chelsea progress through this season, something is becoming very apparent if it hasn't been made abundantly clear already. Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge are not the answer for the Blues as attacking options.
Today's loss to West Brom puts the Blues in a difficult predicament. They are trying to juggle competitions (Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup) and cannot find the scoring to consistently produce good results.
Some may say that I am panicking. Others may look at the beginning of the season and claim that Chelsea was in better form offensively and that seasons have their ebbs and flows. If you gazed at the lineup that Di Matteo threw out on the pitch today, some will excuse this game as Chelsea resting vital players for the away fixture on Tuesday at Juventus in Turin, Italy.
Bottom line is this: The day's we need Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge to show up, they have not. Today was one of those days. Torres was mostly non-existent. He floats in and out of dangerous positions, but does not execute clinical finishes like he did when he was at Liverpool. When he has the ball, he looks dangerous until he has to make the final move or touch, and he consistently performs poorly, more so than brilliantly.
Torres has scored four goals in 11 EPL games this season. For a team with such ambitions that Chelsea aspires to, this is not good enough. He knows it, Roman Abramovich knows it, Di Matteo knows it and all Chelsea fans know it. He has had more than a year to fully adapt, and the results are not good. It may be time to close the book on Torres as soon as the January transfer window.
Sturridge is selfish. Always has been, always will be. Some will argue this point saying that in the past, he has played out of position (on the wing) and has not said much about it. It's not where he plays, it's how he plays. In the "got to get mine" era of professional sports, he embodies all that is wrong with the "me first" approach that some have in today's game. He takes ridiculous shots from ridiculous angles with very little success. He takes on multiple players instead of looking for the open man to continue the fluidity of an offensive move. He complains every time he doesn't get the ball, but also gets mad when others get angry at him when they are open and he doesn't feel the need to pass.
I know, I know. Proficient strikers need to be selfish to be good. But there comes a time when you can see that all the player cares about is his individual success, and every time Sturridge appears on the pitch, you can't help but notice that he does not play within the team's fundamental strategy. Add to that that you can forgive selfishness if it leads to success, but Sturridge has not had the success that comes with his style of play. He is not proficient.
Sturridge has played in seven games this season in the EPL and has one goal to his name. Many of those appearances are as a substitute, but you have to earn your playing time. It is not given to you, and if Di Matteo sees fit to run a sub-par Torres out ahead of you on a nightly basis, what does your future with the club look like?
Ok, so what does Chelsea do moving forward? First, they must move on in the Champions League and beating Juventus on Tuesday will accomplish that for them. The three amigos (Mata, Hazard and Oscar) will have to be superb to get a result in Italy. Juventus is a quality team, and getting any result there will be extremely difficult.
They can then refocus on getting some quality results in the Premier League as they combat Manchester City next weekend in a pivotal game for two of the top contenders at Stamford Bridge.
Personnel wise, they have to consider recalling Romelu Lukaku from his loan at West Brom. They need another striking option, and he has performed admirably at West Brom when he has been included in the lineup.
They need to explore the transfer window in January and need to bring in multiple attacking players. Obviously, all eyes are on Radamel Falcao. The uber-talented Colombian striker is scoring goals for Atletico Madrid like they are going out of style. He has collected 10 goals in 10 La Liga games, but 19 goals in 19 games in all the competitions this season.
If the Blues could acquire him, it would help solve some issues. But you are then probably going to have to ship out Sturridge, as he will be unhappy as he plummets down the depth chart.
Wilfried Bony is another option, as the young Ivory Coast forward continues to excel in the Dutch Eredivisie for Vitesse Arnhem. The 23-year-old striker has bagged 12 goals in 11 games but admits that the Premier League is a step up in competition. While he would be a nice addition, he will take time to adjust to the physicality and pressure of the EPL.
Next week is huge for Chelsea for the entire season. It is a pressure cooker, and Di Matteo has got to be feeling the heat. But one thing he and the team has shown over the time Di Matteo has been in control, is that they can get quality results when they really need to. Hopefully that trend continues this week.