In January of last year, two transfers rocked the English football scene. A record breaking £50 million for Fernando Torres to leave Liverpool and join Chelsea, whereas his immediate replacement was £35 million man Andy Carroll to leave his boyhood club Newcastle United and join Liverpool. A combined transfer fee of £85 million for both players. So much was expected from both of them and one year on, they haven’t lived up to the hype. Why?
Let’s start with Fernando Torres. It’s a combination of things that have haltered his game. Thinking back of his time at Liverpool, and I’m sure most Kop fans would agree, Torres used to drag the defenders that were marking him high up the pitch and then use his pace and explode past them (evidence here), that was one of his major assets. However, he’s been unable to do that at Chelsea, as he's lost that yard of pace since his knee injury. That has been, in my opinion, the major downfall of Fernando Torres. Some will say that all players recover from injuries and what not – but with Torres, his injury damaged his most potent attribute. His speed was his major strength. A knee injury alters that speed. If it’s not a physical thing that has hindered his performances, then it must also be a mental thing, as the fear of the injury returning must be playing a role as well, especially as he doesn't take players on anymore in the same way he did at Anfield. Despite some saying he needed a run of games, which he’s now been getting that at Chelsea, the goals still haven’t been coming. Some say it’s Chelsea’s tactics that must be changed and they should play to his strengths – but are his strengths of today the same as at Liverpool? His major strengths were his acceleration and pace. He's lost that, or so it seems at least. His form has dropped, he’s lost what that made him the most feared striker in the league, and with the talent at his disposal with Chelsea and Spain, there can be no complains about the productivity and creativity of the supply from midfield. It could all be bad luck (click here), but the man is a shadow of his former self at Liverpool. However it’d be foolish to write him off just yet. So far, he has been a failure at Chelsea, but a return to his goalscoring habits could be just around the corner.
January 2010 – January 2011: 40 games, 5 goals
Andy Carroll took over the number 9 jersey that was vacated by Torres. A number worn by Liverpool legends such as Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler - among others - men who have all scored goals for fun at Anfield, so now the expectations were firmly on Carroll’s shoulders to deliver and continue the trend of Liverpool’s number 9. So far, it’s fair to say that like Torres, he’s been a flop. The big difference between both, is that fact that Carroll’s record for Newcastle was good while they were in the Championship (42 games, 19 goals) and then when they promoted back to the Premier League, he had half a decent season. Things were going well for him there. But what is half a season in the career of a Premier League footballer? When he signed, I'd say he wasn’t yet an established Premier League footballer, Torres was. In 4 Premier League seasons he had as a Newcastle United player, he played 41 games and scored 14 goals (06-07, 07-08, 08-09, 2010-11). He’s had his own problems to deal with; as Fabio Capello pointed out, for example, Carroll likes beer…a lot. That’s a part of his lifestyle he is probably changing under Daglish. But when you’re at a club like Liverpool, the pressure is always on to deliver. You can’t expect (nowadays at least) to be drinking and performing at the highest level. His purchase was a gamble. A panic buy after Torres had departed. Carroll joined without having the temperament of a top class professional player. He's probably maturing at Liverpool and could still become a great striker if given the time whilst remaining injury-free. But for the moment, when we look at Andy Carroll, it’s no surprise that some people say this is what you get when you take a young footballer away from his natural habitat and stick a hefty price tag on his head in an evolving team.
January 2010 – January 2011: 31 games, 6 goals
The general consensus is that both strikers need time, need a run free of injury and need games. But that shouldn’t be an excuse for their poor performances over the past year. Their transfers fees were both huge! Torres' price tag might have been justified one year ago, but now it seems like a crazy transfer fee given the return on investment that he's provided. Both Chelsea and Liverpool are teams that, regardless of the systems they play, always score goals. They create a lot of chances. They dominate games over their opponents most times. So both players have got everything at their disposal to succeed. My personal feeling is that Torres will bounce back; whether it’s at Chelsea or not is a different matter, but he’s one of those strikers who has always been a class apart, until he joined Chelsea, and he should adjust his game to suit his current physical condition. With that price tag, and Torres' past record, Chelsea have every reason to give him the time he deserves to prove himself as he's still only 27. As for Carroll, knowing that he's young and Liverpool are rebuilding their side at the moment, he's also got time and could be one for the future. However, if he doesn't find his form soon enough, there’s no reason why Liverpool won’t shell out the cash on another, much more reliable, striker. His price tag was huge for someone who hadn't done much for a sustained period in the Premier League before his move, but for a number of circumstances, it was a high fee. Time for him to buckle up or risk becoming considered as a Premier League flop, as opposed to Fernando Torres who, regardless of his current form, is already associated with goals during his successful time at Liverpool beforehand. Time for both to step up.