The stage was set for Fernando Torres. A Chelsea debut at Stamford Bridge against former club Liverpool presented the Spaniard with an early chance to prove his worth and revive his new club’s title ambitions after slip-ups from both Manchester United and Arsenal.

But if that was the script, a rejuvenated Liverpool had not read it. As the £50M man laboured, Kenny Dalglish’s men earned a deserved victory. It was the most significant result of Dalglish’s spell at the helm thus far and the clearest sign that the gloom on Merseyside is lifting. At Stamford Bridge, the same cannot be said as the Blues stayed ten points behind the leaders and just six ahead of Liverpool.

For Chelsea, the most obvious conclusion is that there is plenty of work ahead on the training ground to incorporate Torres into the side and make the most of the striker’s considerable talent. His 66-minute performance included just one decent opening and few link-ups with his new team-mates.

Of course, Torres has had limited time to develop an understanding with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka – and so expectations should be kept in check at this stage. Carlo Ancelotti opted for the three-pronged attack at the weekend and insists that he will give the trio time to gel – however, the clock is ticking in the title race and the Champions League will return shortly.


The fact remains that all three have been at their best as lone strikers, feeding off wingers and attacking midfielders. Drogba has been Chelsea’s focal point since the Jose Mourinho era, with Anelka slotting into the 4-3-3 formation in a wide role. But the Frenchman, himself, has thrived as a lone striker elsewhere, namely at Bolton and Manchester City. And Torres, of course, played in Rafael Benitez’s 4-4-1-1 formation that featured Steven Gerrard in an attacking midfield role behind the Spaniard.

Suddenly, all three are being asked to adjust their games and work on partnerships. This may prove harder than it sounds. Torres is too talented not to succeed at Chelsea, but sacrifices will need to be made all-round if the Blues are to prise open stubborn defences such as Jamie Carragher and company. In particular, the Spaniard will need to find a wavelength to which both he and Drogba are receptive.

The situation at Chelsea is reminiscent of the conundrum facing Sir Alex Ferguson when he completed the big-money deal to bring Bulgarian hitman Dimitar Berbatov to Old Trafford. He had the luxury of Berbatov, Wayne Rooney and Carlos Tevez to spearhead his Manchester United attack but, after a disappointing loss at Anfield and other setbacks, Ferguson soon realised that forcing all three into the starting line-up simply did not work. None of the trio seemed to enjoy playing in a wide role and it also complicated Cristiano Ronaldo’s role.

The other issue with picking all three front men in the starting line-up is that Ancelotti is forced to deploy a conservative midfield trio of John Obi Mikel, Frank Lampard and Michael Essien to protect the back four. The lack of width was apparent in the Blues’ struggles against Liverpool as Ancelotti left out the likes of Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou. It is a decision he regretted in all likelihood, given the subpar displays from Essien and Mikel in particular.

At Stamford Bridge, 4-3-3 has been the favoured formation since Mourinho steered the club back to prominence. A packed, industrious midfield has been key in retaining possession and disrupting their opponents’ rhythm while an array of stars have provided the ammunition down the flanks, from Damien Duff and Arjen Robben to Joe Cole and Malouda. Drogba has been the constant, afforded the freedom to lead the line and cause mayhem.

But Ancelotti is rightly unwilling to draw too many hasty conclusions. He relied on a 4-1-3-2 formation at AC Milan en route to three Champions League finals and can point to that success. For Torres, Drogba and Anelka read Filippo Inzaghi, Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka. The Italian is unlikely to abandon his plans until the outcome is conclusive. "I have to try to use them together and I’ll try everything to put them together", the Italian explained. "We have to give Fernando time to adjust to the shape, but I think he will do it quickly."

After the disappointment against Liverpool, Torres is likely to be fired up to prove the doubters wrong and quash the suggestion that he was overpriced at £50M. Fulham are next in line to tackle the new look Chelsea and, by then, the Spaniard will have had longer to settle into the Blues’ system. More will be expected from him and his fellow strikers – and fast.

Ancelotti has not given up on the title race just yet however, unless his strikeforce responds over the coming weeks, Chelsea could be looking down nervously at Tottenham and Liverpool rather than chasing the top three.