Fernando Torres Goal Streak: Did Rafael Benitez's Rotation Work?
Supporters were ready to strike. Strikers were supportive. The boss didn't spend much time defending himself. This season, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez's striker rotation policy has been in question.
After signing Atletico Madrid striker Fernando Torres for £26.5m, Benitez calmly kept him on the bench enough for Reds supporters to get fidgety. Through the revolving striker door with Torres were Peter Crouch, Dirk Kuyt, and Adriy Voronin.
Rafa's reasoning? Rotation keeps his strikers fresh late into the season. It also probably inspired them to give extra effort to earn more pitch time.
Whatever his motivations, one started to get the feeling that Rafa was changing strikers so often that they were forgetting whom they were playing next to. No duo had enough pitch time together to gel.
Benching Torres also seemed like a waist of cash.
While Rafa's rotation has been under fire as recently as their February 16th FA Cup loss to Barnsley, Liverpool's revolving striker door seems to have come to a halt. Saturday's one-goal performance against Reading was Torres' seventh consecutive start. Kuyt is starting consistently enough for us to notice (eight out of the last nine matches) and is earning a reputation for getting the job done.
Voronin has been injured. Crouchie has been coming in for Torres at the end of matches.
Here in the later part of the season, Fernando Torres is as fresh as ever, scoring in his last 4 matches, netting 9 goals in the last 6 matches, and adding 2 hat tricks in 3 matches.
Lead by Torres' barrage of goals, Liverpool have outscored their opponents 18-4 in his last seven starts. The Merseyside outfit are on a hot streak that could carry them solidly into European qualification in the EPL and volley them into the semi-finals of the Champions League.
We're left scratching our heads and asking questions:
Can anyone stop Torres? Is the hot streak a product of the rotation policy? Did Benitez know exactly what he was doing the whole time?
There's no way to be sure right now. But there will be plenty more evidence to examine in the next three weeks, as Liverpool takes on Man United at Old Trafford, 5th placed Everton at Anfield, and Arsenal three times in a row.
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