Chelsea’s 5-1 FA Cup demolition of Southampton at St Mary’s on Saturday saw debutante Demba Ba score twice and in his post-match interview he insisted he was not in competition with Fernando Torres for his place in the team.
Asked in his post-match interview with ITV whether it was a dream debut, he replied,
“No, I had a weird dream by the way but I won’t tell you what it is. I was just hoping to put on the blue shirt and show what I can do.”
What Ba showed he can do – what he’s been showing he can do for all season for Newcastle – is score goals. 13 in the Premier League so far this season makes him the league’s third top scorer behind only Robin van Persie and Luis Suarez.
Chelsea’s other striker Fernando Torres has managed 7 – almost half the Senegalese’s tally. Ba spoke of his teammate in the same interview, insisting that he has come to Stamford Bridge knowing he will be the second choice frontman behind the Spaniard.
“It’s not about pressure. I’m just here to help the group and the team and it’s not about taking a position off someone. I know Fernando is the main man but I just come, I learn from people and I’m going to learn from him as well – his history is much bigger than me.”
To me this response reveals much more than he probably intended it to – firstly, of course it’s “not about pressure” for him. But one cannot deny the logic that if Demba Scores goals and Fernando Torres doesn’t, the latter will find himself under exactly that: pressure.
He insists he knows his place – behind the Spaniard in the pecking order – but will that remain if Torres continues to underwhelm in front of goal. Whilst the Spaniard’s form has undoubtedly improved this season, he’s still not the 20-goals-a-season striker Chelsea paid £50 million to Liverpool for.
His confidence is still recovering from two pretty abysmal seasons and I have serious reservations about whether he has the mental ability at this present and key moment in his career to rise to the challenge that Demba Ba is clearly going to give him, perhaps unintentionally, for his place in Chelsea’s first team.
We saw how he recoiled in the shadow Didier Drogba last season – if Chelsea play him first-choice and he doesn’t score and they’re losing a game with Ba on the bench I find it hard to believe Rafael Benitez will not substitute the Spaniard. How will he react to that?
The final note of Ba’s interview response is, to me, not all that far off a Freudian slip – he mentions Fernando Torres’ history. With the arrival of Demba Ba, I think it may not be very long before Fernando Torres is history.
image: © Ben Sutherland