Torres sees three amigos at Anfield
Players like Silva, Mata and Villa can give Liverpool the imagination to turn home draws into wins
Sunday 28 June 2009
The timing, coming as it did in the week of Spain's surprising defeat to the USA, was perhaps a little curious, but Fernando Torres believes that if Liverpool are to win the Premier League next season, they must become more like his national side.
It is not hard to pinpoint where Liverpool lost ground on Manchester United last season. Although they beat the champions twice, and finished the season unbeaten in the League against the other members of the Big Four, their challenge was undermined by home draws against Stoke, Fulham, West Ham, Hull and Manchester City. Had just two of those been converted into victories, the title would have been theirs.
"We have to improve at home," Torres said. "We lost a lot of points at home against teams in the middle of the table. If we can get 10 more points at home I think at the end of the season we can win the Premier League. It was frustrating but football is difficult against these kinds of teams. We need players with quality to try to win these kinds of games and I hope Liverpool will bring in players like this. I hope Liverpool will bring in players like [David] Silva, [Juan Manuel] Mata or [David] Villa: small players with quality – like Manchester United had [Carlos] Tevez or [Paul] Scholes.
"It's players like this who can make the difference. These are clever players. Yossi Benayoun plays like this, and I hope we can bring more like that so we have different options."
Had he recommended his international team-mates to Rafa Benitez? "Of course," he said. "But I don't know if we have the money." He has mentioned Villa as a dream partner plenty of times before, while accepting that he is far more likely to join a Spanish club this summer. Silva and Mata, though, are more realistic targets as Valencia's ongoing financial problems force them to offload.
Mata, at 21, was used mainly as a left-winger last season, but can also operate as a second striker, meaning he would not merely provide competition for Albert Riera, but could also cover for Steven Gerrard in the central role behind Torres. The 23-year-old Silva, similarly, is versatile enough to play in any of the attacking midfield positions in a 4-2-3-1, and is known to be a favourite of other senior (and not necessarily Spanish) members of the Liverpool squad.
Both are under six feet tall and neither could be described as physically robust, but for Torres it is their imagination that makes them stand out. "English football is very difficult because it's very physical and at a high tempo," he said. "With Spain we play with quality, passing the ball, slow, don't lose the ball. And in England we play with more pace, we try to arrive in the opposition area as soon as possible. Liverpool have a fantastic team to play against the big teams; we are competitive. But maybe against those other kind of teams we are not good enough. We have to improve that."
The need for sides to have a Plan B was demonstrated on Wednesday, as Spain's 15-match winning run came to an end with a 2-0 defeat to the USA. "We had to lose sometime," Torres said, and given the balance of the game and the chances Spain missed, he is probably right not to be concerned.
That said, though, USA showed that by defending deep, and shutting off the space for Xavi to exploit, Spain are not invincible. "We decided we were going to keep it tight in the middle," explained the goalkeeper Tim Howard. "If they wanted to play wide, fine, we'll try and get guys out there and close down the crosses as much as we could but that wasn't the priority. We just said, 'Right, we're going to deal with as many crosses as you can swing in because we believe we're better at clearing these balls'."
With Watford's Jay DeMerit outstanding and Torres perhaps not quite at his best, the policy worked, with neither Riera nor Sergio Ramos able to provide the necessary quality of service. Spain, perhaps, could have done with being more direct, just as Liverpool sometimes need more imagination. Versatility, always, is vital.
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