Lay off Torres! Arteta puts London rivalry aside to defend misfiring Chelsea striker
12:29 GMT, 28 September 2012
Arsenal midfielder Mikel Arteta has defended his Spanish compatriot Fernando Torres ahead of his side's derby match against Chelsea on Saturday.
The 50million Blues striker has never been able to reach his best in a Chelsea shirt but Arteta is appalled by some of the criticism which has come his way.
Arteta has known Torres for a long time, playing through the Spanish youth ranks together and they were even neighbours when at Everton and Liverpool respectively.
Flop: Fernando Torres has rarely looked like a 50m striker
'I don’t like the way he has been treated because I have known him since we were 16 years old and I really appreciate him,' Arteta told the Evening Standard.
'He is a friend of mine. Football is like that — it doesn’t matter what you have done in the past, it is only what you have done in the last few weeks and he has been criticised.
'Mentally he is really strong, even if someone doubts him, because he has been dealing with pressure since he was 17. At Atletico, he was captain by that age.
'Hopefully, he is going to get over that and it is going to become a better situation because it is not nice.
'I talk to him a lot. When we were in Liverpool, we used to live next to each other and he is a really nice guy. Everyone would tell you the same.
'Even if he plays for Chelsea, I don’t want something bad to happen to him. Obviously when it comes to the game tomorrow, we are not friends.'
Many thought Torres would come to the fore with Chelsea legend Didier Drogba now playing for Shanghai Shenhua in China, but bar occasional moments of brilliance he has still seemed out of sorts.
Arteta continued: 'When you play as a striker and they pay 50million for you, you are under huge pressure.
Leave him alone: Mikel Arteta defended his friend
'And when the ball isn’t going in, it is
even more difficult because people always look at that. For a striker,
sometimes it is not fair. For a midfielder or a defender it is easier to
adapt. For a striker it is tough.'
Regardless of Torres' form, Arteta knows the derby will be a hard game for his team becuse of Chelsea's other attacking players.
'I knew Oscar from Brazil and Eden from France,' explained Arteta. 'They have Mata as well — tricky players who are creative in the final third. They can cause you trouble.
'Chelsea are top of the league so that means they are the best and we know it is a tough game.'