“Maybe if Torres had not been injured so much things would be different in terms of the Premier League,” said Rafael Benitez this week, explaining why Liverpool were so far behind United. Whilst they decreased that gap to just four points last night, United have the potential to go ten points ahead. Given that we’ve got all our toughest games to play at home (Liverpool, Aston Villa, Arsenal), whilst Liverpool still have to come to Old Trafford, the odds are stacked highly in our favour.
Were Benitez’s claims fact or just a load of rubbish again?
Whilst the injuries to Fernando Torres obviously will have had some impact, this impact might not have been great if they had a proven goalscorer to fill in for him. Say, someone like Robbie Keane, who scored 23 goals with Spurs last season. However, instead of giving the former Spurs man time to settle, as Sir Alex Ferguson did with Dimitar Berbatov, despite his weaker performances to begin with, Benitez subbed Keane off the pitch after an hour if he hadn’t scored, or worse, relegated him to the bench in the following games of when he had scored.
It is also important to remember that whilst Liverpool have been without Torres, they have had Gerrard at their disposal for the majority of the season. Gerrard (24) has played in more Premiership games than Wayne Rooney (20) or Cristiano Ronaldo (23) this season.
Whilst there isn’t much in it, The Daily Mail has looked at all the games where Torres has been playing and the games where he hasn’t, to conclude that Liverpool have achieved marginally better results when Torres has been out.
Saying that, you would imagine over the course of a season, Liverpool are better with Torres than they are without. Just as United would be better if they had a right-back (Neville, Brown and Rafael all injured for a period of months) or if they had a holding midfielder (Owen Hargreaves out all season) or with our starting centre backs playing (Rio Ferdinand out for a month in January) or with our most creative player (Paul Scholes out between September and December) etc.
Injuries happen, it’s how you deal with them that counts. We’ve had O’Shea to fill in for our three injured right-backs, Michael Carrick and Anderson to fill in for Hargreaves, Jonny Evans to fill in for Rio etc. Had Rafa given Keane time to settle and played him ahead of that useless work horse Dirk Kuyt, then Liverpool might have done even better in Torres’ absence than they already have.