We are now six weeks into the English Premier League season and Fernando Torres is hitting his stride and looking as dominant as any other striker in the league. He already has 8 goals in the premier league which is more than half of the goals he had all last season (14). Granted, last season was somewhat a disappointment for Torres. After being traded to Liverpool from Atletico Madrid, he had a stellar debut season for Liverpool in 07/08 by netting 24 goals. He was the sexy young spaniard, El Nino, and he made a quick impact on the EPL. He then capped that off with a European Cup win with Spain in the summer. Granted, David Villa was the striker who really shined for Spain in that cup, but its hard to forget about Torres' goal in the final. He just abuses the defender and muscles his way into position to get the perfect touch before the goalie gets there.
Which is why he is scary good again this season. He is just abusing defenders. He's not like some forwards that know exactly where to be at the right time and they just 'pick up the scraps' and tap in all of the deflections. Think Raul or Ruuuuud van Nistelroy. Brilliant strikers that just have a knack for being in the right place at the right time. Rarely will they 'create their own shot' or hit a rocket from 25 yards out. I'm not even sure if Raul can kick the ball 25 yards. But somehow, he is in the right place at the right time and he scores goals, hence the reason he's still on the pitch after all these years.
Torres is more like a basketball player where he literally heads in the 18 yard box and 'posts-up' and waits for Gerrard, or Kuyt, or Benayoun to feed him the ball. And he has so many turn around and one-on-one moves that it doesn't matter how he gets the ball, he can and does abuse defenders all game long. Take the game two weeks ago against West Ham. Torres' first goal when he gets the ball and is facing the defender and just goes at him one-on-one, beats him in the space of about 8 yards and uses a nice toe punch over the goalies head. (Here are the highlights from the game. The goal comes at the 2:30 mark). The goal is remarkable not just because you rarely see the toe punch anymore, a lost soccer skill and art form, but also because his speed and ease of getting around defenders and getting to the goal.
Torres has the same speed and ease when his back is to the goal and he turns and shoots. Its not like he's playing pick up in the park with some slow 40 year olds. He's up against premier defenders (well, as premier as you can get with Hull) and he is making them look slow. Once any player turns, if they can get the defender to freeze, they have maybe half a second to get their shot off before the defender is back in position or at least can get a leg to block the shot. And Torres is able to get that shot off with such little time. Here is his first goal against Hull City. His move is good, but its more that he makes his move and gets the shot off before the defenders can get back in front of the ball.
Liverpool was looking shaky at the beginning of the season. They had an opening day loss to Tottenham. That loss looked bad until people started realizing that it might be the year of the cock and that the Spurs are somewhat legit. Will they finish in the top 4? Probably not, but they are by no means a push over. Liverpool really just looked lost for the first couple of games and like they didn't have an offensive game plan and no magic or inspiration to their play. Things are really coming together in the last couple of weeks. They still have pretty serious defensive issues which will be discussed in another post, but their offense is firing on all cylinders. Gerrard is a rock and the foundation and Kuyt and Benayoun are legit playmakers that can come at you from all angles. They are coming together and starting to create magic because they have someone to create it with. A nice pass or through ball only looks as good as the guy receiving it. When that guy can put the ball in the back of the net, then the pass is that much better and amazing. Liverpool seemed lost and without a plan, but now their game plan is simple: feed The Kid the rock. Simple, yet pretty effective.
The real test will come on Sunday when Liverpool travels to Samford Bridge to take on Chelsea. Chelsea is coming off a bad loss to Wigan and won't want to lose two games in a row, especially at home. Look, I said Torres' is bringing sexy back, but he's pretty much already proven in the first six games that the sexiness is already back. But if he and Liverpool can go into Samford Bridge and knock off Chelsea, then not only is the sexiness back, it might also be your best bet for how to lift the Trophy at the end of the season.