YouTube is littered with overdramatic Liverpudlian tributes to Torres. To add to the buildup for today’s Chelsea-Liverpool match (kicking off at Stamford Bridge at the top of the hour), here’s one that is a highlight reel of El Niño when he was at the top of his game, in 2008-09–primarily Liverpool highlights, followed by a coda of Spain national team clips (set to an Akon soundtrack):
Meanwhile, the teams are in, according to the Guardian’s liveblog:
The teams are in:
The Team With Torres: Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Mikel; Essien, Lampard; Torres, Drogba, Anelka. Subs: Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, David Luiz, McEachran, Sala, Malouda, Kalou.
The Team Without Torres: Reina; Carragher, Skrtel, Agger, Kelly; Johnson, Gerrard, Lucas, Maxi; Meireles; Kuyt. Subs: Gulacsi, Aurelio, Suarez, Jovanovic, Kyrgiakos, Ngog, Poulsen.
So Suárez isn’t considered ready to start despite impressing in midweek. Torres, as expected, starts for the Team With Torres. Very, very interesting to see how those two line-ups dovetail.
Worth reading in preparation for the game is ZonalMarking’s note on “Nicolas Anelka as a trequartista?” (trequartista, which means “three-quarters” in Italian, refers to a withdrawn forward/attacking midfielder–a player who drops deep to receive the ball from his defenders and defending midfielders and serves as a playmaker in attack):
It was assumed that Fernando Torres’ arrival would mean a place on the bench for Nicolas Anelka, but Tuesday’s 4-2 victory over Sunderland showed that Carlo Ancelotti might have a different role in mind for the Frenchman.
So far this season, Chelsea have generally lined up in a 4-3-3 shape, with Anelka and Florent Malouda either side of Didier Drogba. In the long term, Torres might not be competing with Anelka and Drogba, who will be 32 and 33 respectively by the end of this campaign, but for the final months of the season, Ancelotti has somewhat of a selection dilemma, with three top-class strikers.
It’s difficult to see how Ancelotti could not play with two central strikers, likely to be a Drogba-Torres combination. Rather than turning to a standard 4-4-2 shape, something Ancelotti has never been a fan of, it’s likely he’ll revert to a diamond, similar to the 4-3-1-2 he favoured at Milan, and the same shape he started his tenure at Chelsea with.
ZonalMarking portrays this 4-3-1-2 formation, with Anelka in that withdrawn striker role:
Also of interest are ZM’s closing notes on “false nines” vs true number tens:
False nine becomes a number ten?
It is also worth considering that for last season’s trip to Old Trafford, Ancelotti preferred Anelka over Drogba for his link-up play. There, Anelka essentially played a false nine role – as Robin van Persie has for Arsenal, as Carlos Tevez has for Manchester City, asWayne Rooney has for Manchester United. But interestingly, van Persie, Tevez and Rooney are naturally ‘withdrawn’ forwards (“number tens”) – Anelka was perhaps the first false nine who played that role despite being a recognised ‘out-and-out’ striker (a “number nine”), suggesting that his game has changed as he’s got older.
He wouldn’t be the first pacey striker to turn into a link player towards the end of his career – Michael Owen played behind the front two towards the end of his stay at Newcastle, and played the same role for Manchester United last weekend quite well, because he is now a more intelligent forward than he is a clinical forward. Thierry Henry often spoke of the idea that as he lost his pace, he would drop deeper and use his vision to become more like his old teammate Dennis Bergkamp. Henry’s alarmingly sudden drop in ability meant this didn’t happen on a permanent basis, but Barcelona’s game against Valencia last season – when he came on in a link role and turned a 0-1 into a 3-1 – showed he definitely had the characteristics to play there.
A lot depends on how attack-minded Ancelotti wants to be. A front three of Anelka, Drogba and Torres is very offensive, but then let’s remember that Ancelotti was happy to go to Anfield last season with a front six of Drogba, Anelka, Malouda, Kalou, Lampard and Ballack. When the time is right, he’s quite capable of going gung ho, and therefore Anelka-Drogba-Torres is an option for the remainder of this season.