After injuring them on four separate occasions last season and only starting 20 Premier League games for Liverpool as a result, there is no getting away from the fact that Fernando Torres’ hamstrings are delicate.
Once a muscle has been damaged that many times it becomes much weaker and easily susceptible to further injury woe. And if Liverpool and Spain do not take utmost care with Torres next season, the woe will be theirs as well.
Spain clearly did not protect the Spaniard enough last campaign, as the majority of his hamstring injuries occurred during the minority of the time when he was away on international duty. Liverpool, however, were the prime sufferers.
Torres is the focal point to Liverpool’s attack, leading the line and using his quick change of pace to get in behind opposition defences and cause havoc, but when on the sidelines Benitez has nobody who can replicate any of those qualities to good effect. Torres has already become an Anfield hero for the mountain of goals he has netted in his short time at the club, and when he is on the pitch Liverpool’s offensive threat intensifies dramatically.
The Spaniard’s hamstrings meant he only appeared on the pitch for half of Liverpool’s league games last season though, diminishing Liverpool’s offensive threat significantly. Steven Gerrard may have been lifting the Premier League trophy last May if Torres had started more games. His presence guarantees goals.
Liverpool can blame bad luck all they like for Torres’ injuries, but they should be looking at themselves also for not having a backup striker ready to come in and score goals.
With Peter Crouch sold to Portsmouth, and Robbie Keane returning to Spurs in the second-half of last season, Dirk Kuyt, Ryan Babel, and David N’Gog were the only personnel who could attempt to fill-in Torres’ boots when the Spaniard was on the sidelines. The two Dutchman look more accomplished on the wings and N’Gog is clearly not good enough yet so trouble spelled.
Liverpool must be ready when Torres pulls up this time around—there must be someone ready to come in and do a good job, meaning a new striker must be purchased this summer. The new frontman doesn’t have to be a big-money signing, just someone who knows the Premier League and who can put the ball in the net as well as holding it up for Gerrard and co to join attacks.
Torres has been fantastic at Liverpool but even he has bad games sometimes, so the new striker would be someone who could provide a Plan B as well, someone who could influence a game coming off the bench as a substitute.
It really depends on how much money Liverpool have to spend that will dictate how good the signing can be. With Glen Johnson set to arrive at Anfield in the next week or so for around £17m (though it appears Portsmouth still owe Liverpool money for Peter Crouch, so Liverpool should only lose £7-£8m) it seems that Benitez may have to sell before he buys further.
Someone like John Carew or Emile Heskey could be a possibility; physical forwards who can strike and head a ball adeptly, as well as being very good at bringing others into play. This signing doesn’t have to be long-term if the price is not too high, so either of the Aston Villa strikers could make a good acquisition.
Whoever comes to Anfield this summer, one of the signings needs to be a proven striker who will not take time to settle into Premier League life. Torres is likely to get inured at some point during next season and when he does there needs to be an accomplished forward who can fit straight into on Benitez’s system and play up front his own, offering goals as well as hold-up play.