Torres & Costa: Can the former Atletico Madrid strikers play together at Chelsea?

Diego Costa

On Sunday afternoon Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho once again started with Fernando Torres and Diego Costa as he tried to form a partnership between his two Spanish strikers.

In Chelsea’s 3-1 victory over Vitesse previously there were some encouraging signs but against Werder Bremen on Sunday it appeared as if the pair had gone backwards.

On paper it appeared as if Mourinho lined up with a 4-2-3-1 with Costa up front and then Torres, Cesc Fabregas and Mohammed Salah behind him. However regularly during the match Torres was up alongside Costa in a strange 4-4-2, almost replicating the system that Real Madrid used last season. It will be concerning for the Portuguese manager to see that the pair didn’t really link too well together and that they weren’t on the same wavelengths.

How Chelsea lined-up in a 4-2-3-1

Of course, this will come with time but Mourinho will have wanted more of a connection between his two players during pre-season. The question for the manager is how to get the best out of both strikers, and to use their differing strengths to the club’s advantage.

Last season the Chelsea manager rotated his strikers quite a lot as he couldn’t settle on who should be the first choice out of Torres, Samuel Eto’o and Demba Ba. The latter two have left the club this summer after disappointing seasons but despite Torres’ own poor form Mourinho has been adamant that the Spaniard is staying telling Sky Sports News.

“No. Three strikers is fundamental in a squad and we have three strikers – Fernando, Didier and Diego, so one of them is not [going] for sure.”

This is a strong message of support for Torres but it is unknown whether the reason Torres isn’t leaving is because there isn’t a club out there that can match the huge wage that Chelsea pay him at the moment. Regardless he will play with Chelsea for the 2014-15 season and Mourinho has to figure out the best way to use him and Costa together.

How Chelsea looked when Torres was pushed higher up.

The Torres of old is now long gone, even the most positive of Chelsea fans would accept that the forward simply isn’t going to recreate his Liverpool form anytime soon. What he has done, to his eternal credit, is reshape his game to become more of a support striker, making use of his surprising creativity for a forward. Last season Torres created 1.68 chances per 90 minutes, higher than Costa’s 1.37 and he always acted selflessly when going forward, perhaps too selflessly in Mourinho’s eyes.

Torres often linked up well with Chelsea’s attacking trio of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian but too often he did convert his own chances, finishing the season with a conversion rate of just 13.5%. Compare that with Costa’s 28.7% – over double – and it is easy to see why Mourinho has moved to bring Costa in. However that doesn’t mean that there is no place for Torres because whilst he was the support for the midfielders last year perhaps he can be the support for Costa this year. He did put in one brilliant cross against Bremen that Costa just couldn’t get through and perhaps the wing will be his best position. He still has that infamous burst of acceleration and he can get past players as well.

Costa will bring more of a goal threat than Torres and he will also bring a lot more physicality. Torres is nowhere near as strong as Costa and recently Mourinho told Sky Sports News.

“He’s [Costa] so strong physically and gives so much effort during matches. He’s a great addition for us. He’s a fantastic player. When somebody sees him play the first thing that gets into their eyes is exactly that, the capacity to work hard for the team.”

However when Hazard and Andre Schurrle are playing regularly it is hard to see Torres getting a look in on the left of Chelsea’s midfield. He could offer some viable competition for Willian and Oscar on the right but ultimately it looks as if he will be a back-up to Diego Costa and nothing more.

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Pete Sharland
Pete Sharland
Pete is the editor of our new Ball Ctrl section and is a Chelsea fan from London. He is an advocate of Ligue 1 football and is being converted to MLS week by week. He thinks few things are better than a well timed slide tackle.
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