Trip to Japan could do Chelsea good
Club World Cup could give Blues a chance to reflect on their season and refocus their ambitions for what is left of it
There's nothing like a long-haul flight to concentrate the mind and reflect with cabin-pressurised clarity on what is past is done. The beleaguered Chelsea squad will take full advantage of being suspended amid the troposphere, blissfully detached from all the Premier League and Champion League woes.
Straight after their fixture against Sunderland today, the Blues fly to Japan to take part in the Fifa Club World Cub, an otherwise non-event if it weren't for the marketing opportunity and pot of money.
Ahead of the embarrassing Champions League exit on Wednesday night, Fernando Torres talked up the positives of Chelsea's expected group stage departure. According to the 28-year-old Spaniard, travelling 6,000 miles to play against the likes of Ulsan Hyundai constitutes a realistic (and perhaps only) opportunity to win honours this season.
"We will hopefully arrive [in Japan] with enough time to adapt and be focused to win this tournament and take it seriously, as we should. I think it's one of the main targets we should have this season," he said. "In my first full season [at Chelsea], we won the FA Cup and Champions League. What more can you ask? We have a chance now to win the Fifa Club World Cup," he said.
What more can you ask? Is he kidding? The crazy cup talk did not end there, however.
"I have four more years on my contract so hopefully I can win many more things - the Premier League would be amazing. The Capital One Cup and the Community Shield also," he added, ticking off the silverware wish-list like a child penning his annual "must-have" letter to Santa.
Granted, Torres was speaking before the Blues were dumped out of the Champions league. He did not mention his desire to win the Europa League, the first time in the Roman Abramovich era that Chelsea have been consigned to the continent's second-tier competition.
If Torres' words mirror the club's recalibrated ambitions just 203 days after the greatest night they had ever known, then the rot inside the Bridge is worse than imagined.
Some time ago, then Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon claimed his big-spending club had to win the European Cup at least twice before they could be considered to be among the elite. During these dreadful past few weeks, what has become crystal clear is that there is more to greatness than just money and a £50 million (HK$623.4 million) Spaniard talking up - qué? What cup was it again? - an obscure trophy.
One must assume Torres was merely following the vapid PR line issued by the panicked Stamford Bridge communications department. If the Chelsea board believes victory in Japan can appease Blues fans and neutrals, they are surely deluded and flying straight to la-la land today. Winning a far-flung final against Corinthians in a lowly off-the-radar competition just does not scythe the mustard in London SW11.
There was more Looney Tunes Torres talk this week. Benitez revealed his striker couldn't stop scoring - but only in training. He also said Torres was now getting pretty good at defending, especially clearing corners.
There was the first inkling that Benitez may be the man to get the best from the troubled striker, and help prove that form is temporary and greatness permanent. Torres finally scored, twice in fact, as Chelsea hit six against Nordsjaelland - his first strikes in a competitive match in two months. The winner of the Golden Boot at Euro 2012 could have had a hat-trick and there were flashes of his former pace and visionary runs.
Chelsea's most valuable asset is scoring again, which is a relief. It's just a shame his goals didn't matter - plus they were against the group's whipping boys. The result flattered Torres and the Blues.
It still stands that Torres has failed to score in the Premier League for almost two months, while Chelsea have not won in the league for seven matches - their worst run for 15 years.
The club's prized asset has not so much as misplaced his mojo, he is struggling to recall if he ever possessed it. Worryingly, it is now reasonable to suggest Chelsea bought El Niño past his sell-by date.
Among the more sane suggestions this week was the offer of help from Darren Campbell, the Olympic gold medal-winning sprinter who worked with Torres towards the end of the 2010-11 season. He said he could solve the Spaniard's problems with just two weeks of intensive sprint training.
"It's something that is best done in pre-season but I think Fernando just needs two weeks when he hasn't got to worry about playing on the Saturday, and put in a nice two-week training programme that I think would definitely bring the majority of his speed back," he said.