Fernando Torres returns to English Premier League action this weekend following his three game suspension for the red card he earned in Chelsea’s 4-1 win over Swansea City. Building on two earlier posts by itsaballnotabomb and Omar Chaudhuri, here we’re examining all of Torres’ individual stats over the past four seasons. Interestingly, for the discussion of Torres losing his spark there is little statistical evidence that points to a marked decrease in overall production. Of course, everyone will immediately point to the drastic reduction in his goals scored in the final six months at Anfield and that evidence is compelling. However, it may be that Torres simply ran into bad luck, low confidence and ‘poor form’ and not that he is a significantly lesser player than he was just a few short seasons ago.
Below we’ve included Torres’ numbers for his defensive contributions, his passing and his scoring. Interestingly his other numbers – all those numbers but the strike rate – point to him being more involved in the Chelsea attack than he was at Liverpool.
You may be a bit surprised to see the difference between the half season Torres spent with Liverpool and the half season at Chelsea. He created more chances per minute than in each of his past three years with the Reds. Additionally, both his total pass completion % and his open play pass completion % are substantially better with Chelsea. While Torres has made some comments that he feels Chelsea does not play to his strengths, he is more involved in the passing game. Using just Open Play Passes (OPP) we can see that Torres averaged an OPP every 4:30 in his last three years at Liverpool. In the first 12 months with Chelsea he has average an OPP every 3:30. That one minute differential equates to six more passes per game, every game. Given that Torres averaged just 20 OPP per game in this time frame at Anfield, the additional 6 passes equates to a 30% increase in his passing. This has not resulted in less completed passes, as his completion % has risen from around 65% to over 75%.
Similarly, Torres has been nearly as aggressive without the ball. He has continued to win more than 1/3rd of his ground 50/50′s and this season is back to winning more than 40% of his aerial 50/50′s. It is a case where he is making fewer challengers per minute, but still making a solid contribution to the teams play.
While his proficiency at tackling was lower following the transfer, Torres made up for winning a lower percentage of challenges by attempting them nearly twice as frequently. This season he has both slowed his pace and been winning fewer challenges, though this does not appear to have impacted the other facets of his game. Of course, Torres’ transfer was predicated on the notion of Nando being a dominant force scoring the ball with a Premier League track record to support the presumption.
Despite already trebling his EPL total for Chelsea, Torres sits at just 2 goals this season. He is on pace for just 12-13 goals in 2500′ (the total minutes he played for both clubs last season, pro-rated to include the 3 game suspension). This is interesting because it is in line with his scoring numbers from Liverpool based on total shots and minutes per shot on target. This season Torres has returned to his Liverpool form conversion %, sitting at 18% for this season. However, within the Chelsea system Torres is not solely responsible for goal scoring. In fact, looking at the below chart we can see that Chelsea are more proficient than Liverpool per minutes while relying on Torres less.
We’ve removed last season because using team numbers when Torres wasn’t on either team for the full season doesn’t present a clear picture, but the above chart clearly illustrates that his new club has no problem scoring when Torres displays less than lethal form. However, in his time at Liverpool Torres was responsible for providing a full 1/4th of all the goals scored inside the box (30 out of 112 in two seasons).
Despite his continued presence on the pitch and his relative lack of goals, Chelsea has maintained a better scoring rate this season than Liverpool did in either 2008/09 or 2009/10 – Torres last two full seasons at the club. Despite the lower returns Torres shooting accuracy has actually been in line with, or better than, his time at Anfield. This points to Torres getting a bit unlucky as shots on target were not converted into goals last season. However, Chelsea simply do not require a volume of either shots or goals from El Nino. In his last two full seasons at Liverpool Nando took more than 10% of the total shots on goal for the team, 13.8% and 16.9% respectively as LFC scored every 46′ and 59′. This despite Torres playing less than 1800′ of the 3420′. This season he has just 5 of Chelsea’s 58 shots on goal (8%) while CFC have scored a goal every 43′.
With his form looking to be on the rise following his recent Champions League brace, Torres will return to Premier League action against Arsenal, Blackburn and Liverpool. These sides have conceded liberally this season and Torres will be hoping that he is able to build on that brace against Racing Genk as Chelsea chase down the two clubs from Manchester. With a bit of patience, and a bit of understanding that the club can flourish without El Nino providing the final touch, Torres should be able to maintain his current production within Andre Villas-Boas 4-3-3 system.
- Good Read