There was an incident in the Merseyside derby this weekend that had many Liverpool supporters discussing post-match.
It occurred in the opening minutes when Jamie Carragher and Fernando Torres had an exchange following a Carra pass which the defender wasn’t happy the Spaniard hadn’t made the run down the channel to receive. Carra expressed his annoyance at Torres and he returned by putting his finger to his lips to signal for him to be quiet.
There’s several interpretations of this. The one that some have adopted is this seemingly common belief that Torres’ workrate is now poor and this is just another instance of such.
I take grievance with this belief for numerous reasons. Not least because Carra’s distribution from the back has never been the strongest part of his game so who could blame Torres for not expecting his pass to get where he wants it.
Joking aside, the criticism of Torres is very, very unfair.
The over-reliance on the Spaniard – again no backup was signed this summer despite every single one of us knowing that was required – is one of the major factors in this saga. We’re talking about a player who has struggled with injuries for the best part of the last two years but as soon as he’s fit again is thrown straight back in there, just as he was against Everton. Because we have nobody else.
Torres is rightly regarded as one of the best forwards in the world. He was persuaded to stay this summer, given more false promises from the club when a host of top clubs around Europe were sniffing around and offering Champions League football.
Now he finds himself playing under a manager who is no longer playing to his strengths, as Benitez did with Torres, but instead playing completely opposite. Under Rafa we pressed high up the pitch, played a high tempo game (where possible) and looked to regain possession further forward in order to release Torres early and give him one-on-one situations. Under Hodgson we sit a lot, lot deeper, preferring to defend and maintain shape than press the opposition. Subsequently our attacks are slow and easy to defend against. The opposition get numbers behind the ball and Torres’ strengths are isolated.
The lack of support for Torres is fatal to our whole team and it shows. Not just in terms of results but our performances and the number of chances he gets. Thesedays the best Torres can hope for is a half-chance, like the header in the first half. Nobody should be expecting him to put them away, rightly so. That’s the best he’s getting though, the odd half-chance per game. No forward can return on that. Christ, Andy Cole would score 1 every decade with that service.
Continuing to play Torres up front on his own but changing our style of play has led to him being completely isolated in attack, becoming frustrated and having to drop deeper or wider to get into the game. Therefore when he does get on the ball he’s easily marked, by more than one defender, and is forced into trying to create something himself. No wonder it doesn’t happen.
If Hodgson is going to persist with his 1980’s tactics he has to at least change the balance of the team by giving Torres more support. You cannot change the style but keep the same formation, it’s not working, clearly.
But that for me isn’t the answer. The answer is to play to the strengths of a player who, on his day, is the best forward in World football. That means the manager changing his ways (not likely) or the manager changing (here’s hoping).
Hodgson’s use of Torres has been disgraceful. As somebody on an LFC forum said this week, it’s like paying Gordon Ramsey 100k a week to be your personal chef when all you want to eat is beans on toast.
Torres is frustrated – just like the rest of us. Give him the support he needs.