Roy Hodgson believes Fernando Torres can maintain the form that devastated Chelsea but has warned that Liverpool may remain reliant upon the striker should the club’s new owners decide not to spend seriously in January.
Liverpool head to Wigan tonight seeking a fourth consecutive league win and with their manager adamant he cannot afford to rest the club’s record signing despite recent injuries and the demands ahead.
Torres’s brace against the champions on Sunday took his Premier League total to a remarkable 60 goals in 90 appearances for Liverpool, with 44 coming in 47 games at Anfield compared with 16 in 43 matches away. “That’s still not bad,” said Hodgson on the disparity.
The Liverpool manager claimed Torres was “back to his best” on Sunday and, with trips to Wigan and Stoke City to come, believes there is no reason that level cannot continue. “I have seen nothing in my working with him that he can only play in the top matches and if it isn’t a top match he doesn’t ‘turn up’,” Hodgson said. “That doesn’t seem to me to be the man I work with every day.
“I believe Torres will play well in all of our games between now and the end of the season. I know he wants to. I know he realises how much we believe in him. I think he is the type of person and character who won’t want to let anyone down. I would also add that as a front player you are under enormous scrutiny and sometimes people might say you didn’t do your job and you didn’t play well when in actual fact you haven’t done that badly. A midfield player will have a much bigger margin of protection.”
Hodgson believes Torres has overcome the injury problems that have plagued him throughout 2010 but that quality support for the Liverpool striker must be a priority when the transfer window reopens in January. The Liverpool manager, who will again be without Sotirios Kyrgiakos (tonsillitis) and Joe Cole (hamstring) tonight, said: “I believe in David Ngog but it is difficult to put him in ahead of Fernando in a league game when he is fit. It is one of the things we really need to address in the January transfer window.
“In the middle of the field we have a top table squad, but up front we are definitely short of players and as you saw on Sunday we are very short at the back as well. When Soto and Glen [Johnson] go down we are throwing a 20-year-old [Martin Kelly] in at the deep end against Chelsea for his senior debut, which you shouldn’t be doing when you have aspirations to be in the top four.”
While the weaknesses in the Liverpool squad are evident, however, Hodgson admits January may not be the right opportunity for New England Sports Ventures to demonstrate their largesse in the transfer market. He added: “I don’t know what we will be able to do in January. We could even find a situation where the owners, because we know it’s a bad market to buy in, would prefer just to see this season out and then make a really big effort in the summer.”