20 April 2010

No Torres, No Party?

It's somewhat moot after yesterday's match, with Liverpool having no problems against West Ham despite the absence of Fernando Torres, but the sentiment still remains. Liverpool's become far too much of a one-man team this season, and that one man isn't Gerrard for a change.

Torres goals, League goals:
'07-08: 67 league goals, 24 Torres = 36% of league goals
'08-09: 77 league, 14 Torres = 18%
'09-10: 57 league, 18 Torres = 32%

League Record with/without Torres starting:
   With: 18W-7D-4L (2.1 pts per game)
   Without: 3W-6D-0L (1.67 pts per game)
   With: 13W-7D-0L (2.3 pts per game)
   Without: 12W-4D-2L (2.22 pts per game)
   With: 11W-1D-8L (1.7 pts per game)
   Without: 6W-7D-2L (1.67 pts per game)

Funny how Liverpool's best season under Benitez came during the year that Torres was least productive. That's not coincidence. Liverpool were best last season because Liverpool had other players besides Torres scoring consistently.

Torres accounted for around a third of Liverpool's goals in '07-08 and '09-10. It's little surprise to see the disparity in Liverpool's records with and without the striker during those years, even if it's closer this campaign (yesterday's result added .1 to Liverpool's points per game without Torres). Of course, he started 29 league matches in '07-08 compared to 20 so far this season, which makes a difference when the player tallies almost 1 in 3 goals scored.

But Torres only accounted for 18% of Liverpool's Premiership strikes in '08-09, out injured for nearly half of the league campaign, and Liverpool finished second, with their highest point total more than in two decades. Gerrard and Kuyt had double-digit league tallies that season, while Benayoun chipped in eight of his own. That year, Liverpool wasn't a one or two man team. This year, Kuyt has 9 in the league, Gerrard 7, and Benayoun 6. That's 14 fewer goals than the three totaled last season.

As I've written multiple times during this annus horribilis, Liverpool's form isn't down to one factor, no matter how important that factor is. For example, take this year's record with and without Torres. Surprisingly, Liverpool has far more losses with Torres in the starting XI than without. When Torres has been missing in the last few months, Liverpool usually ends matches level, yesterday notwithstanding. That can be explained by another of my 'excuses' this season: the backline.

Liverpool lost against the likes of Spurs, Villa, and Fulham despite having El Niño in the line-up primarily because the defense was so awful in those matches. Now that the defense has firmed up (relatively speaking), Liverpool's often drawing matches when Torres is out. They're not conceding stupid goals, but few are scoring in the striker's absence either. Nil-nils against Blackburn, Wolves, and City are prime examples of this.

Five of Liverpool's six wins without Torres came at Anfield. The sides Liverpool beat were Everton (twice), Tottenham, Bolton, Wigan, West Ham; only Everton and Spurs are in the top-half, and those three games couldn't have been tighter. It's not as if Liverpool have laid waste to a murderer's row without El Niño.

This isn't to say Liverpool can't win without Torres – demonstrably incorrect as of less than 24 hours ago – or that Liverpool has to change the formation/buy another top-level striker. I only have to reference last season and Robbie Keane to warn how new blood can alter an excellent dynamic. Don't get me wrong; everyone's aware Liverpool needs to make signings this summer. But, as we saw yesterday, it's more important that the other piano players – Gerrard, Benayoun, Maxi, etc. – step up when Torres is out.


CSD said...

Do you think some of players tend to try to get Torres the ball instead of looking for other chances? I hope we don't get into an Arsenal situation where everyone's looking for Henry as the only scoring possibility when he's on the pitch.

Anonymous said...

Try? In fact they ARE out to get Torres. What do you do to your opponent's most dangerous player who always has his back on goal when receiving the ball?

The thing is Liverpool has other potential goalscorers who seem to be missing their composure this season.