x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Chelsea's Fernando Torres has lost his shooting boots

One of the Premier League's most accurate sharpshooters in his first three seasons, Chelsea's Fernando Torres has suddenly lost his way.

The Blackpool game was Fernando Torres's fourth without a goal.
The Blackpool game was Fernando Torres's fourth without a goal.

What is the matter with Fernando Torres? That is the question on the lips of Chelsea fans and was an issue that bothered the Liverpool faithful earlier in the season before the Spaniard joined the champions in a £50 million (Dh297.5m) deal in January.

Chelsea's title challenge has kick started since the arrival of Torres, but it is no thanks to him.

The striker has started four Premier League games, yet has managed just one shot on target - not what Roman Abramovich, the owner, was expecting from his investment.

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More

. Carlo Ancelotti thrilled with his Chelsea strikers
. Hairy Luiz retains focus despite Sideshow Bob tag
. Fernando Torres gets his Chelsea manager's backing
. Lampard and Terry strike in Chelsea's win at Blackpool

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Of course it takes time to fit in to a new club and a new formation, but his poor form should come as no surprise. Torres was hardly setting the world alight at Liverpool and his on-pitch demeanour had become a talking point, with his attitude seeming to reflect his below-par performances.

It is not just in the pure statistic of goals where Torres was failing, but in his all round play.

The forward's shooting accuracy and shots per goal ratio have nosedived this season after being relatively consistent - and impressive - in his first three Premier League campaigns.

For example, in his first season with Liverpool after signing from the Spanish side Atletico Madrid in 2007, Torres scored a goal every 3.9 shots and got 61 per cent of his efforts on target.

This season, he has a goal every 11 shots and his accuracy is just 31 per cent. That is some decline.

Torres has gone five league games in a row without a goal for the third time this season. That only happened once in his first three Premier League campaigns.

Form, as they say, is temporary and there is no denying that Torres has quality in abundance. But make no mistake, Torres has been bought solely to score goals - he doesn't play in the same style as say Carlos Tevez or Wayne Rooney, for whom assists are a big part of their game. Torres has managed just three assists in each of his Premier League seasons.

Therefore, if his shot accuracy and scoring ratio do not improve, it will be a worrying matter for Carlo Ancelotti, the Chelsea manager, particularly with so much money and hope invested.

Torres's troubles are evidenced by his international performances. At Euro 2008, which Spain won, he scored twice in five games and hit 45 per cent of his shots on target. At the 2010 World Cup, which Spain won, he failed to score and managed just two of 13 efforts on target (15 per cent).

Injuries may be the cause of the slump - he started only 20 league games in each of the past two seasons, due to knee and hamstring troubles.

He also played in an underperforming side this season (at Liverpool) and then in several different formations (at Chelsea).

Given time to settle in London, Torres is surely bound to rediscover the accuracy that made him the Premier League's most feared striker.

Cups and downs for Birmingham

Birmingham City's recent stumbles sent them tumbling into the relegation zone, before Wednesday night's trip to Everton, and towards an unwanted statistic.

Alex McLeish's side were the surprise winners of the Carling Cup, otherwise known as the League Cup, with a 2-1 win over Arsenal two weeks ago.

If they were to be relegated this season, Birmingham would join Norwich City as the only team to win one of English football's major cup competitions and go down in the same season. Norwich won the League Cup in 1985, but were relegated, along with finalists Sunderland.

Reading won the Simod Cup in 1988 - also called the Full Members Cup - a tournament held for teams from the top two divisions between 1985 and 1992 when English clubs were banned from European Competition. They were relegated from to the third tier the same season.

Five teams have appeared in an FA Cup or League Cup final and been relegated. Middlesbrough, the last side to do it, reached both finals (and lost) in 1997.