WHEN I tipped Chelsea for the Premier League back in August, I did not for one moment think that the man to make the difference in the title race would be Fernando Torres.
Yet on Sunday, when the next best team in the division visited Stamford Bridge for an excellent contest, he did. And on recent form – he was superb against Schalke in midweek – he will continue to do so.
There have been a few false dawns in the Spaniard’s Blues career already. On occasions he has had goalscoring spells, even notching some important strikes too, but he has clearly lacked the zip, zest and freedom of his Liverpool days.
Now, though, he looks as good as ever and is playing like a man possessed. He is confident again, and that means his decision-making, which can suffer terribly in out-of-form players – look at Joe Hart – is back to its natural best.
Sometimes players just need a while to rediscover their touch, but in the case of Torres it has been absent for so long that the only possible cause of his resurgence in my mind can be Jose Mourinho.
The Chelsea manager deserves great credit for getting the best out of Torres, and the challenge now is to keep him fit, because Chelsea are still short in attack.
A while ago a £10m bid for the 29-year-old might have made Chelsea think, but now, with a World Cup place at the end of the season to fight for, he’s indispensable.
Mourinho will rotate his squad for tonight’s Capital One Cup trip to Arsenal, knowing that his opposite number, Arsene Wenger, is bound to select a young side.
Wenger does not have much choice. Although it is against a London rival and represents a chance to strike a psychological blow, it has to be seen in the context of other more important competitions. It simply isn’t a priority.
Both teams are flying high domestically but neither is assured of reaching the Champions League last 16, so it would not make sense to risk key players in this match.
Striker Sergio Aguero, who drew City level at Chelsea with his ninth goal in seven games, is on fire, while David Silva, pulling the strings behind the Argentinian, is prominent once again. I also like the look of the central midfield partnership being struck up by Yaya Toure and Fernandinho.
The problems are at the back, where England No1 Hart has made more mistakes already this season than you would expect from him in an entire campaign, and injured captain Vincent Kompany has been sorely missed.
His absence has exacerbated Hart’s struggles, and City desperately need the Belgian back from injury to complement fine work being done at the other end.
Trevor Steven is a former England footballer who played at two World Cups and two European Championships. He now works as a media commentator.