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Torres still a long way from his best

Fernando Torres scored twice in Chelsea's Champions League win over Schalke, but Pete Fraser says his all-round play was not that impressive.

Last Updated: 23/10/13 at 22:52 Post Comment

Fernando Torres: Scored his first Champions League away goals since early 2012

Fernando Torres: Scored his first Champions League away goals since early 2012

On the surface, when helping secure Tuesday's victory over Schalke, Fernando Torres enjoyed his best personal night in a Chelsea shirt since firing them to the Champions League final in 2012.

The Spaniard scored twice, with his first Champions League away goals since netting at Barcelona in the semi-finals two seasons ago, before Eden Hazard guaranteed the 3-0 win.

Defeating Schalke was a vital success and puts Chelsea back on track for winning this campaign's Group E following another away win having beaten Steaua Bucharest in the wake of the shock opening home loss to Basel.

It was a great night for Chelsea and Mourinho, who returned to the Gelsenkirchen scene of his 2004 European Cup win with Porto. But the statistics from the defeat of Schalke suggest there is still plenty to work on for Torres.

Selection

Gary Cahill replaced David Luiz, and Cesar Azpilicueta came in for Ryan Bertrand for Chelsea. The visitors were playing on German turf for the first time since winning the 2012 European Cup in Munich and also fielded Oscar, Torres and Andre Schurrle in a side showing five changes from Saturday's controversial defeat of Cardiff City in the Premier League.

To make two defensive changes against a Schalke side with a 100 per cent record entering the clash was unusual for Mourinho and came after mistakes from Luiz and an unimpressive display from Bertrand, who had been playing in place of the injured Ashley Cole, at the weekend.

Jens Keller's Schalke did not select a recognised striker and so the returning Kevin-Prince Boateng was their main attacker. Elsewhere, 20-year-old Julian Draxler and Max Meyer, 18, also started. Jermaine Jones replaced Marco Hoger, who joined key men Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Jefferson Farfan on the injured list.

Story of the game

Torres was Chelsea's hero. He opened the scoring in the fifth minute with a header from point-blank range at the back post before making sure of the points in the 69th minute after being played one-on-one with Schalke goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.

It was the first time Torres had scored twice away from home in the Champions League.

Combined with his impressive display at Tottenham Hotspur at the end of September in the Premier League before he was sent off, the suggestion now is that the £50million forward is enjoying a new lease of life under Mourinho. There does appear to be a new enthusiasm to the Spaniard after previous debate about his commitment.

But, although Torres seems to have a new-found zest, to suggest he is back to the player of pace and power, who created assists and scored 36 goals in 53 appearances for Liverpool and Spain in the 2007/08 season, would be getting carried away.

Apart from his goals against Schalke, Torres touched the ball just 44 times. That was the lowest number of any outfield player who played the full 90 minutes. He also lost nine of his 17 duels, at a success rate of just 47.1 per cent, and was Chelsea's second-worst in that respect behind only Oscar.

Torres also had the worst pass success rate of 54.2% from just 24 attempts of any player on either team, including goalkeepers, who played the full match. At the same time, he lost five out of seven aerial duels

Torres scored twice and hit the crossbar while his fourth shot was blocked

The 29-year-old was undoubtedly clinical, scoring from his two shots on target and hitting the post with another, while his other effort of the night was blocked. In terms of goalscoring it was his best away night in the Champions League. His early goal also meant he was forced to feed on scraps for most of the evening.

Indeed, Chelsea were sloppy, sacrificing possession too readily and giving Schalke a 59.7% dominance of the ball on the night. Schalke also played 676 passes to Chelsea's 461 in the match.

Sky Sports' Alan Smith had observed in the first half: "Chelsea need to use the ball better. They are giving it away. They are causing their own problems at times."

As the first half ended, Chelsea were also guilty of dropping too deep. That meant Torres was largely a spectator. In the first half, he touched the ball on just 15 occasions, a lower number than any other player on the pitch, and he succeeded with just five passes out of 10 in that time.

Chelsea were narrow and dropped deep in the first half (l) which meant Atsuto Uchida stayed incredibly wide (r)

Torres did receive more service in the second half, hence his greater activity with the ball (29 touches), and he struck the frame of the goal with a header shortly after the interval. He then scored his second of the night after a fast break involving Hazard and Oscar shortly after the hour.

There is no doubting Torres still has an eye for goal when given the correct service and freedom by defenders.

However, as the above statistics demonstrate regarding his build-up play, passing, strength and power in his ability to hold off defenders, there is still plenty of room for improvement.

The days of his link-up play with Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, when he used to terrorise defenders, are still a long way off. He has still scored only once in his last 25 Premier League games.

Perhaps the freedom of Torres' goals against Schalke says more about the disappointing defending of the injury-hit German club, who, as a team, had just a 44.1% success rate in duels and spent the majority of the game at the mercy of counter-attacks when chasing an equaliser.

Schalke, who conceded Torres's first at a corner, had the worst defensive record at set-pieces in the Bundesliga last season, while their young team containing the likes Draxler and teenager Meyer may have been unsure what to do when finally conceding a goal in Europe this season and faced with the experience of the likes of Frank Lampard.

Away from Torres, Chelsea tried to stay compact throughout the game in central areas.

Keller's Schalke therefore targeted the flanks and they produced 25 crosses to Chelsea's five throughout the game. Chelsea left-back Azpilicueta was also seemingly identified as the weak link. That meant Schalke right-back Atsuto Uchida was forward on the overlap at every opportunity, touching the ball 42 times before half-time. Uchida also stayed glued to the touchline.

Schalke had 25 crosses (l) on the night and Cesar Azpilicueta (r) was kept very busy all night

Azpilicueta, though, stood up to the challenge and finished the game with 75 touches of the ball - second only to Lampard (79) as Chelsea's highest total. Azpilicueta also won eight out of his nine duels, had a 100% success rate in his aerial duels and made a joint-high total of tackles for his club (four) along with Ramires.

The 24-year-old answered much of the debate which has centred around his ability since he moved to Stamford Bridge in 2012 from Marseille. Azpilicueta was as equally important to Chelsea's success as Torres.

Mourinho's view

"I told the players after the match against Basel we did garbage and we have to clean it. We did it in the best possible way - two away wins and leading the group. We now have two matches at home. We are in a good position to qualify."

Jamie Redknapp's view

"I do not think we can turn around and say Fernando Torres is back. He has scored one goal in his last 25 Premier League games. That does not suggest he is back to his best. But football is not rocket science. If you work hard, if you run around, if you show desire, you get rewarded and you get lucky. We have all been critical of Fernando Torres, because he has not showed that sort of thing in the past. His body language has been poor. But, at the moment, he is up for it."

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