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Chelsea have to adapt to Torres strength

Frank Lampard, the midfielder, likes to get the ball wide and get himself in the box. That does not help the Spanish forward, who is also being asked to play a deeper role than before.

Fernando Torres spoke his mind this week, describing his Chelsea team as slow and old. Which they are. I don't think Frank Lampard will object to being called old, nor Obi Mikel not being called quick. It would take a player with a huge ego to be upset by that.

Torres's made legitimate observations about the lack of mobility in the Chelsea midfield, but they were exaggerated by the media and it looks like his manager had a word with him for being honest.

Torres will think twice about being honest next time knowing that his words will be blown up out of proportion - then he'll be criticised for being another boring footballer who says nothing. He can't win.

Torres is struggling and you can't pretend otherwise. He's not scoring, he's short on confidence and that record 50 million (Dh288m) price tag from Liverpool in January isn't helping.

He was brought to help Chelsea win the European Cup. That is the obsession of Roman Abramovich, the owner, and has been since Chelsea first won the league, yet Torres looks like he'll be lucky to stay in the side given his current form.

I've heard some people question his quality and talent but I refuse to accept that he's not a top class player. You only have to look at his past performances.

I sympathise with Torres. I've always rated him highly and still do. I can't think of many better centre forwards in world football. He proved his class with Atletico Madrid, where he was made captain at just 19, Liverpool and Spain.

The problem is that he's not being played to his strengths. At Liverpool, Steven Gerrard - and to a lesser extent Dirk Kuyt - would supply him with regular balls from midfield which he converted into goals. Lots of them, many important, match-winning goals. So many that people who called Liverpool a two man team had a point.

Torres would make great runs all the time and he got his rewards. He's still making those runs, the ones where he turns off the shoulder of the defender or when he runs at defenders with the ball, but he's not getting the service he deserves.

He's also playing in a team which has played the same way for five or six years, whose players know each others' instincts. It's hard for a new player to fit into that. Every player needs time to settle in at a new club. Florent Malouda took time at Chelsea, as did Lampard.

Lampard plays in a more advanced role to Gerrard and doesn't enjoy the same understanding with Torres. Maybe that will come, but Lampard likes to get the ball wide and get himself in the box. That doesn't help Torres, who is also being asked to play a deeper role than before. That's not Torres, he's a goalscoring No 9.

Juan Mata's arrival from Valencia may help Torres and the pair have linked up well for Spain, but something needs to change and change quickly.

Chelsea bought Torres on the strength of what he did at Liverpool, just as they brought Didier Drogba after what they'd seen at Marseille. With Drogba, they soon realised that they had to play to suit his strengths of pace and power. When they did he became one of the best strikers in the league as he burned past defenders. Chelsea won trophies.

Torres scores either by being played in or by producing a bit of individual skill because he's quick and strong, but Chelsea play a totally different way to Liverpool and I'm sure Andre Villas-Boas is looking at the situation.

On one hand he has got a brilliant striker. There isn't a striker who could do a better job than Torres in that Chelsea side given the way they play.

On the other hand it is not working. For me, the most immediate challenge for Villas-Boas as the new manager is to find a solution.

Chelsea should persevere with Torres and help him. Trust me, every striker goes through bad patches when they need help.

I had a few and when I played at clubs full of quality players like Manchester United, they were good enough to tee me up a few tap ins which boosted my confidence. Chelsea can do that with Torres, but I don't see it happening at the moment.

It would not do any harm to allow him to take a penalty or two either. Lampard takes penalties at the moment, and he probably has a number of goals in his mind which he wants to reach each season.

All goalscorers are selfish, but Lampard has to put the team first. Villas-Boas needs to emphasise that everything is secondary to the main striker scoring because if Torres is on fire then Chelsea could finally push for that European Cup.

Before that happens, Torres needs to start feeling good about himself. Then he'll be off to a flyer. Finally.

Andrew Cole's column is written with the assistance of European football correspondent Andy Mitten.

sports@thenational.ae

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