Posted: Monday September 19, 2011 9:24AM ; Updated: Tuesday September 20, 2011 3:02PM
Jen Chang
Jen Chang>INSIDE SOCCER

Despite miss, Fernando Torres shows glimpses of former self

Story Highlights

Despite an extraordinary miss against United, Fernando Torres' form is improving

German champion Borussia Dortmund has yet to find a replacement for Nuri Sahin

Liverpool needs more production from Andy Carroll and Jordan Henderson

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Fernando Torres
Chelsea's Fernando Torres missed an open goal late in the game against Man United.
Peter Byrne/AP

Five thoughts from the weekend's action around the world:

1. The miss of the century? I think not. In some quarters, Fernando Torres' miss of an open goal against Man United has been the main focal point and take-away of Chelsea's 3-1 loss at Old Trafford. Granted it was a horrible miss -- one that Torres will undoubtedly replay in his head -- but surely one whose magnitude is overblown at this point. Was it really any worse than say Carlos Tevez' miss for Man City last season against Sunderland? If one's talking in context about the magnitude, how about Yakubu's miss which eliminated Nigeria from the 2010 World Cup?

It's a pity that the miss takes away from a second consecutive strong performance by Torres which suggests that the Spaniard is rediscovering some of the form that once made him the arguably the world's most feared striker. While Torres took some heated criticism for his recent comments that the Chelsea midfield needed to play with a faster pace, the addition of Raul Meireles and especially Juan Mata means that Chelsea is now far better equipped to play the type of probing passes into space behind the back line that Torres likes to run onto. The real issue is that Torres has yet to fully regain the explosive pace he had before knee surgery, which appears to have diminished his ability to create something out of nothing. However, Torres can still flourish with the right service and a tactical approach that suits him -- as his sublime finish for Chelsea's first goal showed.

2. Liverpool duo need to improve. After consecutive losses, the gloss has come off Liverpool's start to the season. Despite the defeats, Liverpool is still well-placed to make a strong run at a top-four finish but the intermittent form of two of Kenny Dalglish's big-money signings must be worrying. Of primary concern has to be how best to utilize £35 million ($55M) striker Andy Carroll. Granted, Carroll has had fitness issues since his move from Newcastle, and he's not helped by his teammates' tendency to resort to hoofing the ball to him at times. However, so far he has failed to make the expected impact, and not just on the scoresheet where he's only scored 3 goals in 14 appearances. From what we've seen of him, Carroll tends to cut a static figure, with poor movement off the ball, which makes him a bad fit as a foil to Luis Suarez and Dalglish's pass and move philosophy in general. Given his youth (he's only 22) and his strength in the air, it's far to early to write Carroll off -- especially as an alternative option when a more direct approach is needed. However, it does make you wonder how long Dalglish will persevere with Carroll, or if he'll seek a more mobile, fluid option in the January transfer window.

The other question mark at this point has to be whether or not midfielder Jordan Henderson is ready to be a game-in, game-out starter at this juncture for a team with Champions League aspirations. Henderson, bought for around £16M ($25M) is considered a rising young English talent and is certainly one for the future, but so far has struggled to impose himself on a consistent basis in games. While his versatility and work rate are commendable, Henderson still appears to be too passive at times. He's prone to holding the ball too long in possession, often circling around and passing backward too often when a more direct, vertical approach would be more beneficial. Aside from the issue of whether or not that money would have been more wisely spent on more polished midfielders (the likes of Juan Mata, Santi Cazorla, Arda Turan and Marko Marin spring to mind), it appears that for now, veterans such as Dirk Kuyt and Maxi might be the wiser choice over Henderson in the starting lineup on the right.

3. Midfield general. Almost lost among the throes of transfer deadline day transactions was Spurs' signing of Scott Parker from West Ham for £5 million ($8M). Parker, last season's Football Writer's Player Of The Year in the Premier League, is proving to be a perfect partner for Luka Modric in central midfield, providing the consistent bite and energy in the holding role that neither Wilson Palacios (since sold to Stoke) or Tom Huddlestone had previously been able to provide. If Spurs' manager Harry Redknapp can coax Luka Modric's head back into the game after his move to Chelsea was denied -- and Sunday's strike against Liverpool would certainly suggest that -- then Spurs could well find themselves back in the Champions League next season riding the midfield axis of Parker-Modric.

4. Midfield general 2.0. As midfielder Nuri Sahin sits kicking his heels for Real Madrid after picking up a knee injury in preseason training, one team that certainly misses him is his former outfit, reigning Bundesliga champion Borussia Dortmund. Sunday, Dortmund suffered a 2-1 reversal to Hannover, its third defeat of the season in six games (the team had only five total in the 2010-11 season). With target forward Lucas Barrios injured and Japanese playmaker Shinji Kagawa yet to fully regain the form hs showed before the broken foot he suffered in the Asian Cup, Dortmund's problems have been varied. However, the most striking drop off has been in central midfield where Dortmund misses the fluency and linkup play that Sahin provided. Sahin's €4 million ($5.5M) replacement and summer addition, Ilkay GŁndogan, has faltered in his bid to fill the void. His struggles make you wonder why Dortmund didn't make a play instead for Standard Liege's midfield Steven Defour, when the Belgian international joined Porto in the summer for a bargain €6 million ($8.2M) euros.

5. Beckham still in demand. With the Galaxy flying high with MLS' best record, David Beckham shows no sign of slowing down -- in fact he's provided a league-leading 14 assists. He's also in the final year of his contract though and indications are the Galaxy will face more competition than previously expected in terms of re-signing him. With both QPR and Spurs already having made public overtures in recent weeks, high-spending Paris St-Germain became the latest team to express its interest. PSG sporting director Leonardo, who worked with Beckham during his loan stint at AC Milan said, "the door is open. He is more than a football player -- he's a brand, a pop star. I would always consider him." As for Beckham? He's obviously going to keep his options open, but for now, he's been moonlighting on the side to keep busy.

Jen Chang is the soccer editor for SI.com. He can be reached on armchairsweeper@gmail.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at Jenchang88 or Facebook.

 
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