Football

Torres absence costs Liverpool more than goals

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Liverpool paid the price for a lack of firepower at the Emirates as the Reds failed to take an opportunity at Arsenal.

In a relatively scrappy contest, Liverpool managed to squeeze out a handful of chances without genuinely threatening Manuel Almunia. A late strike from Ryan Babel was as close as the visitors came, with the keeper tipping the Dutchman's strike onto the bar.

"It was just quality in final third that made the big difference," said Rafael Benitez after the game.

The continuing loss of Fernando Torres holds more than the obvious problem for Liverpool though.

With the Spaniard in the side, Torres and Steven Gerrard form a dynamic partnership up-front for the Reds. The England international is undoubtedly at his best when playing just behind his teammate and helping link the play.

Without him, the Reds skipper becomes a holding midfielder on the peripheral for large chunks of the game.

At the Emirates, Gerrard produced a few fleeting glimpses of his quality with some wonderful long passing. However, he rarely provided an attacking threat and found himself playing with scraps around the half-way line area.

It is no coincidence that the Anfield side have only scored two goals in a game just once in 2010, and one of those was an own goal in the win against Bolton. More alarmingly, the talismanic Gerrard scored his last Premier League goal for the Reds on Boxing Day against Wolves.

Whilst David N'Gog is a 20-year-old with potential, it would be impossible to compare him with one of the great strikers in World football. The fastest player to score 50 league goals in Liverpool history (72 games), any side would miss a striker like Torres.

However, Chelsea proved during the absence of Didier Drogba that they can cope without their talisman. If Manchester United lost Wayne Rooney, they could turn to Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Owen and some promising young talent in Federico Macheda and Danny Welbeck.

It is difficult to find such young talent getting any opportunities at Anfield.

Kristian Nemeth is highly rated by the fans at least, but he is yet to get a serious look at some first team action despite receiving a senior call-up for Hungary. Nabil El Zhar, David Amoo and Daniel Pacheco are all thought to have bright futures, but unlike United's youngsters they are yet to make any impact.

It's possible to point to a case of bad luck with the run of injuries suffered by Torres, but more perceptive people will notice that the club were under prepared for such a situation. The impact of the absence on Gerrard has merely served as an additional problem to add onto the plate of Benitez.

The striker addition of Milan Jovanovic is all but assured for the summer, but that doesn't solve any immediate problems with Torres not expected to return until around March.

A couple of big game performances have hidden a deeper problem at Anfield, and the Reds will need to hang tough until the return of their goal-scoring hero.

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Topics:
Football
Premier League
Fernando Torres
Liverpool

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