Before we get started I’d just like to get my disclaimer out of the way.
This opinion piece is not a spurious personal attack on Liverpool Football Club and/or the many supporters thereof – it is a potted critique of one man, Fernando Torres, and the circumstances in which he currently finds himself, i.e. an exhausted husk of the player he once was. Clear? Clear.
As Liverpool’s exasperating stalemate with Birmingham chugged on yesterday, a certain Spanish striker was doing an exceptionally poor job of keeping his mopey frustrations hidden.
Repeatedly isolated by a resolutely unadventurous midfield unit and seemingly somewhat off the pace in terms of, well…pace, Torres’ ire swelled visibly as the game ticked away. Many took this to be a diva’s turn on the Spaniard’s part but, to me at least, it looked fairly apparent that the chagrin and deprecation on display were being turned inward rather than outward.
Of course, fatigue after his 14,000 mile midweek round-trip to Buenos Aires with the Spanish national side could well have also been a factor – Barcelona certainly suffered as a direct result – but his performances at the tale end of last season (before dropping out in April to undergo long-overdue knee surgery) and at the World Cup this summer suggest a deeper-lying issue.
Torres has never been particularly prissy during his time at Anfield and, his outspoken echo of many supporters’ fervent wish for a change of ownership aside, has rarely courted controversy for his personal conduct – therefore I am fairly sure that his sullen, dejected demeanour of late must be the direct result of the restrictions placed on him by his deteriorating physical condition.
Now, I’m no doctor, but we already have it on good authority that Torres won’t reach full fitness for at least another month (if at all), with Liverpool’s head of sports science Peter Brukner telling the club’s official website last week;
“He’s still not at his physical peak, that will take another three or four weeks, but I think you can see in every game he’s played he’s improving. I don’t think it will be too long before the old Fernando Torres is back – and I’m looking forward to that.”
Which, taken at face value, is good news for all involved. However, when you consider that this may just be the latest in a long line of misplaced optimism regarding Torres’ convalescence, you begin to ponder the very real possibility that his best days may already be behind him at the grand old age of 26.
The overriding problem is that, for the last three seasons, Torres has basically been Liverpool’s sole goal threat.
Certainly there have been other bit-part players that have served alongside him, all with varying degrees of ineptitude, but Rafa Bentinez‘ myopic insistence on deploying his overly-cautious 4-5-1 formation meant that Torres had to play – often regardless of outstanding ailments – in almost every game, due directly to the paucity of alternatives.
The resultant over-reliance (on the international front as well as the domestic) created an almost cyclical repetition of injuries from which Torres wasn’t afforded adequate time to heal properly (the supply simply couldn’t physically satisfy the demand) and now he is left with a lower body riddled with inherent weaknesses.
This inability to fully recover has seemingly served to reduce his vigour, speed off the line and reaction time (at least, if his recent displays are anything to go by), three attributes that such an athletic player would certainly find extremely frustrating to find on the decline – which may explain his dour displays of late.
I know this prognosis may seem a little over-dramatic, considering that Torres may just be passing through a twelve-month ‘trough’ as a precursor to an inevitable ‘peak’, but there’s now an evident shift in his disposition that just seems to me to suggest otherwise – I really think he may be teetering on the verge of becoming a ‘spent force’ if the constant pressure on him isn’t alleviated with immediate effect.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this one. I concede that there will be Liverpool fans out there that see Torres play first-hand on a much more regular basis than me, and can therefore offer a much more informed opinion.
Regardless of his past glories, do you think that – due to his now seemingly ingrained injury problems – there is a real danger that Torres could be a once-great striker on the wain?