Rafa`s Torres conundrum;
As expected Rafa got a very vocal tongue lashing for starting El Nino against Swansea and we see how it all turned out. Many on the forum were aghast as to why he even started El Nino at all. I am not Rafa`s agent but I like to think that I have always been able to give even the devil his due. As I think about the situation Rafa finds himself in I cannot but be sympathetic to his plight and so I wrote this to give the VC audience a picture of the Torres situation from Rafa`s view point so it can be better appreciated what a bind he is in. I also offer for what it is worth the best solution I see for him out of this conundrum.
Few at this point will doubt that our owner Roman loves El nino. The amount he paid to get him speaks for itself and I was one of those who said when we were getting him from Liverpool that this was not a good idea for many reasons. Roman like many very wealthy men is very stubborn and opinionated. While virtually everyone else has figured out that the El Nino Hail mary is a bust he persists and insists he was right. So far three coaches have paid with their jobs for not being able to prove Roman right and the facts of reality wrong. I don`t know exactly what the details of the conversation between Rafa and Roman were before he got offered the interim position but doubtless the matter of El Nino came up. Roman probably asked him whether he could get El Nino back to his Liverpool form..whatever Rafa said I am certain it was not "Sorry Roman..that ship has sailed the guy is finished!" I am sure if he said that he would not have gotten the job.
The point is part of what got Rafa this interim job was a belief by Roman (and maybe also an assurance/promise by Rafa) that he could fix El Nino. Initially things looked promising and many were quick to jump on the bandwagon..i again advised caution and measured responses..it did not take long for El Nino to slump into his usual funk. Worse still previously El Nino was basking in a situation where his position in the team was guaranteed no matter his form..his only competition Danny Sturridge was either always injured or otherwise frozen out of the squad seemingly as punishment for daring not to sign the contract extension he had been offered by us. Everything however changed and radically too the moment Danny left for Liverpool because suddenly the board and Roman who had steadfastly refused all requests for additional striker support from RDM in the summer (including a request for Falcao when Atletico were actually willing to sell) now had to get a replacement for Danny and for El Nino they could not have gotten a worse option. In comes Demba ba a slightly younger player than him, in form , hungry, eager, scoring goals for fun with head and both feets, on PKs and free kicks and probably reminding him of the huge shadow of one Didier Drogba now departed. Ba had a debut game that was a dream start, scoring twice and very nearly bagging a hat trick. While the whole team was celebrating poor El Nino could not even pretend to look happy for the guy or the team.
Now with this scenario if you were Rafa how would you have handled the situation especially since we had a BPL game against the very physical Stoke side the Saturday after the Swansea game? Rafa more than anyone else knows El Ninos very fragile psyche..he was probably thinking..if I start Ba in this game and he gets a hat trick..El Nino will go bananas, involute and Roman may be coming for my head next and branding me a liar for saying I could get the guy going. He was probably hoping and praying that the guy could steal one goal along the way of us winning against the Swans to boost his confidence so that he could then subsequently justify rotating ba and El nino..picking the easier competition for El Nino and the tough nuts for Ba.
Contrary to what some people were saying that Rafa by selecting El Nino against Swansea was showing ethnic based favoritism over merit I actually feel it is the exact opposite..he was saving Ba for what he knows would be the way greater challenge against a very physical and stubborn Stoke team at their own home stadium. Unfortunately the gamble misfired badly. He hung on for way too long desperately hoping against hope that El nino would find a lucky goal to lift his spirits and keep away the coming inquest from Roman. When by the 80th minute it was clear it wasn`t going to happen he finally brought Ba on for a salvage project and the guy nearly pulled one back for us but for another questionable ref call. The irony of it will not have lost on poor El Nino that in 10 minutes Ba did more than he did in 80 and very nearly got us a goal. The point I am trying to make ..and I know it is hard for many of us who are baying for blood right now is that Rafa was well intentioned in his choices and when you look at it from his view point it was not irrational.
Sadly Rafa now has a crises on his hand..I am certain after being booed of the pitch for the first time in his Chelsea career El nino is now a basket case. Roman will not be happy and we all know who pays when Roman is unhappy. Rafa will now be watching his back like a former mafia mob accountant seeking to squeal to the feds. He is between the devil and the deep blue sea. Does he throw in the towel on El Nino and by so doing admit to Roman that he was wrong in suggesting that he could salvage the guy? That admission would also mean to Roman..that sorry Boss you were wrong all along..you made the mistake blowing 50 million on this guy and then compounded it be sacking 3 good coaches in succession because they couldn`t make the guy perform.
We all know the truth but I seriously doubt Roman wants to hear it. On the other hand after the swansea debacle Rafa would be crazy to play El Nino as a lone striker ever again for us in any match of import..So it is like he is damned if he does and damned if he dosent.
If Rafa reads this I offer the only compromise I see that can help him save face and maybe his job till summer time when he can escape this nightmare; He needs to change the team formation from this 4-2-3-1 that has been such a problem for us in big games this season. It is time he show his reputed tactical nous and make a big time gamble. Take a clue from the Manchester teams and change to a multiple striker formation be it 4-3-3, 4-4-2 or even 4-4-1-1. Point is to safe guard Torres`s sanity and possibly his job Rafa needs to play the guy ..just don`t play him as the only striker or lead striker..Pair him with Ba..put Ba up front and have El Nino play behind him or one of the flanks (preferably right which is where the guy prefers to drift to anyway). This way the guy is on the pitch..he can feel involved and may actually contribute something and not be pouting on the bench. Roman is happy and if the results pick up he can actually survive till May. At this point seriously it is worth a try...literally everything else has been tried and failed.
I know what the majority on VC will say though..they want El Nino on the bench and want him sold post haste. By now you guys should know that what we want really does not count for much..it is really what Roman wants that counts and goes right now and Rafa knows that. Besides I seriously doubt that there is any club out there..even Anzhi who would pay us even half of what we paid Liverpool for El Nino not to mention the albatross of his bloated wages. We are stuck with him till and until Roman decides he has had enough, repents and pays penance by selling him on the cheap (somewhere like 10-15mill) to some team where he will also have to be willing to take a massive pay cut. Till that miracle happens we might as well do the best we can to see if we can help him contribute to the team and earn a little of his wages.
I feel for Rafa …I really do..he is probably regretting taking this job now and may even be perversely praying that El Nino just picks up a season ending injury to take both of them out of their collective misery.