Hodgson dismisses Torres speculation

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The Independent Football

Liverpool manager Roy Hodgson has dismissed speculation about Fernando Torres' state of mind after the striker was criticised on his last outing for the club.

The Spain international had very few chances in Sunday's goalless draw at Birmingham.

And despite scoring three times in his previous two matches for club and country, that did not stop wild theories being spouted about the 26-year-old being unhappy and regretting his decision to remain at Anfield this summer.

Former Liverpool captain Jamie Redknapp labelled Torres' performance at Birmingham "diabolical" and claimed the player looked frustrated, but Hodgson was quick to reject that assessment out of hand.

"He certainly isn't fed up. Criticism is something we have to live with," said Hodgson.

"We bear strong expectations at this club and everyone is interested in us.

"We fill newspapers and airtime and of course everything that happens at the club is put under the microscope and that includes players' performances.

"Fernando Torres has no problem with that. He is an excellent player. He is very much committed and focused on this season.

"I think it is very wrong for people to read someone's state of mind from watching them play 90 minutes' football.

"You have to be some wonder psychologist to be able to do that.

"I can't watch a player play and tell you what state of mind he is in."

Despite his backing for Torres there is a chance he - and captain Steven Gerrard - may not start against Steaua Bucharest in the Europa League tomorrow as Hodgson admits he is looking to utilise his squad, especially with a trip to face Manchester United at Old Trafford looming on Sunday.

Having learned his lessons from his run to the Europa League final last season with Fulham, the Liverpool boss is keen to avoid the pitfalls of over-playing people too early in the campaign.

"It is up to me to try to choose a team tomorrow which will win the game and possibly give some of the players [who are] needed to play against Manchester United a well-deserved break," he said.

"I will use games in Europa League and Carling Cup in order to try to get a better knowledge of he players to make certain, as time goes on, I have no doubts what our best XI is.

"Dirk Kuyt (shoulder) is out and Fabio Aurelio (Achilles) we have to wait for but we are not picking up injuries so I have quite a big squad to choose from.

"Everyone in the country understands that to play the number of games we and teams like ourselves have to play you have to change the team.

"What I don't really understand is how every time you change the team and they do not win the selection is criticised."

Criticism is something which has dogged Hodgson almost from the moment he took over from Rafael Benitez on July 1 and has started to intensify after Liverpool failed to get off to a flying start in the Barclays Premier League.

The manager pointed to a number of factors which are contributing to making it a difficult period for him and his players but insisted they would get better given time.

"We've played eight, won five, drawn two and lost one (in all competitions) - I don't think that is a bad start to the season by any stretch of the imagination," said the 62-year-old.

"It is a new team and it has been a tough start to the season in terms of the programme.

"Like many teams at the moment we have fewer points that we would have liked and are firmly stuck in a group of teams between six and four points, which takes into account 90% of the league.

"Of course, it is a time of transition which is always difficult - even if there is no change in the club itself.

"Even if you move to a club where things have gone very well and all the players are in place there is still a period of transition.

"When you move and a lot of players have left or have been in danger of leaving and there are new players coming in; when you have the documented problem we have off the field in regards to ownership and a World Cup year it all adds up.

"It is going to take time - we are aware of that - but the most important thing is to keep working, keep trying to play the right way and hopefully become a better team as the season goes on."

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