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The curious case of Chelsea strikers


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It’s weird. Chelsea strikers are actually scoring. It’s been a long time since that’s happened (regularly). Diego Costa, Didier Drogba and Loic Remy – between them have scored 21 goals already this season and it’s not even January. Around this time (mid December) last season, Samuel Eto’o, Demba Ba and Fernando Torres had combined to score 11. In the same stage in 2012-13, Fernando Torres and Daniel Sturridge combined to score 10 goals between them. The 2011-12 season, the one that is now fondly remembered by Chelsea fans everywhere, also saw a distinct problem when it came to the strikers actually scoring. Three strikers in the squad then – Torres, Drogba and Anelka – and by this stage they had combined to score just 10. (Not counting Sturridge, because he played predominantly on the right side)

In 2011-12, the strikers eventually contributed a paltry 25 goals. Numbers don’t tell the whole story but they give you a fair picture here. Fernando Torres had a wretched season highlighted by his open-goal miss in September at Old Trafford. The goal in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona and the subsequent hat-trick at home to QPR, gave fans false hope that he was finally beginning to shine at Chelsea. Didier Drogba was quiet for the most part but in typical fashion, roared to life when it mattered with crucial goals towards end of the season. None more crucial than the header in the Champions League final, which is now part of Chelsea folklore, yet it was not much of a surprise to see him leave at the end of the season

In 2012-13, pretty much the same story continued, with Torres having a comparatively better season, especially in the Europa League, but still struggling to get the goals consistently. The strikers combined for 31 goals. Torres, amazingly, scored 23 of them but it’s important to note that Chelsea played a ridiculously high number of games in this particular season due to involvement in seven competitions and Torres, more or less, struggled to score when it mattered – scoring just 8 in the Premier League. Whose idea was it anyway to go into the season with just 2 strikers with one of them being Torres?

In 2013-14, the strikers once again combined for 31 goals, almost evenly shared between the trio of Torres(11), Eto’o(12) and Ba(8) but none of them seemed to grab the mantle of first choice striker. The strikers were heavily rotated and while each striker had a burst of goals at one point of the season or the other, none of them came close to cementing the first choice striker slot. Mourinho went as far as publicly bemoaning the strikers, off camera in a press conference.

Maybe that’s why he opted to completely reshuffle the strike-force bringing in Diego Costa from Atletico for 32 million, Loic Remy from QPR for 10.5 million and Didier Drogba back to the club for free. And so far it’s working. Costa exploded at the start of the season and already has 12 goals (all in the Premier League) while Drogba, after an alarming start at home to Schalke, has settled in well on his return to Stamford Bridge and Remy has chipped in with a couple of well taken goals.

Chelsea do not depend on goals from strikers, not as much as other teams anyway. The midfield has always contributed with a fair chunk of the goals - Frank Lampard in particular scored 20+ goals for six consecutive seasons. Then there were others like Joe Cole, Malouda, Juan Mata, Eden Hazard chipping in with goals. In addition, Chelsea's defenders have a good reputation for goalscoring. Cahill, Terry and Ivanovic have all found the net this season. But strikers (barring Drogba and few others like Gudjohnsen, Anelka) have historically failed in the last 10 years. Hernan Crespo, Mateja Kezman, Claudio Pizarro, Andriy Shevchencko, Demba Ba and the elephant in the room – Fernando Torres – all arrived with varying degrees of hype but failed to translate that on the pitch in Chelsea blue. Crespo, Shevchencko and Torres in particular arrived at the club for big money and with international reputation. Demba Ba joined in the middle of a prolific season for Newcastle but none of them had the impact that was close to what was expected of them.

The last time Chelsea had free scoring strikers was under Ancelotti in 2009-10. The double winning season. The three strikers then – Drogba, Anelka and Kalou – had combined to score 32 goals by this stage of the season and went on to score a staggering 64 in total. Drogba was the clear main man contributing 37 of them on his way to the golden boot and Anelka worked well as second fiddle to Drogba, helping himself to 15 goals with Kalou scoring 12.

While the current crop will probably not come close to those figures, it’s refreshing to see the strikers performing well after the dreary years of Fernando Torres. Sure, Sturridge and Lukaku did not make it at the club and are flourishing elsewhere. That has to go down as a failure particularly when the two of them were scoring freely in Merseyside, Chelsea were struggling for goals from their strikers. But this season has amended that. Diego Costa is already beloved by the fans. Loic Remy has shown flashes of brilliance and Didier Drogba is playing like he did few years ago. Long may it continue.

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