Lacklustre team-mates to blame for Torres woes, says Reina
The savage criticism directed at Fernando Torres for his sluggish start to the season would have been better levelled at his Liverpool team-mates for failing to provide the Spanish international with the sort of opportunities he craves, according to Pepe Reina.
Torres has found his body language under ever more intense scrutiny, his commitment to Anfield questioned and his manager, Roy Hodgson, forced to contend that the player was suffering from the "vilification" he received during the World Cup after starting the campaign looking a shadow of his former self.
Many of those doubts will have been erased by his winning goal against Blackburn on Sunday -- just his second of the season -- but while Reina admits both Torres and his international strike partner David Villa appear to be suffering from a post-World Cup malaise, he believes his troubles say more about how poorly Liverpool have played than the striker himself.
"What has happened to him is more or less what has happened to Villa at Barcelona (who has scored just twice this season). They are both great players but when strikers are not scoring, people are always disappointed in them. It is not fair.
"I do not think we have been assisting him like we should. He has not been able to do anything at all. We know he is the type of player that can win a game, but we cannot expect him to keep doing it on his own. We have to feed him in."
It is not just Torres who can look forward to a fresh start. Liverpool's second league win of the season was watched by Tom Werner, chairman of the club's new owners, NESV.
Reina says he is impressed with what he has heard and seen of NESV and believes their arrival -- and an injection of transfer funds in January -- can help Liverpool put their poor start to the season behind them.
"It was an important step," he said. "It has been a great moment for the club, a step forward. Let's see if we can build from here and maybe they can help us a little bit in the winter transfer window."
Before that, Liverpool must attempt to use the performance against Sam Allardyce's side as a springboard to get their campaign back on track, a task made easier without off-the-field worries.
"The last thing the players have done is hide behind the fact we have had an issue off the field," said Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. "We find ourselves where we are in the league because we have not been good enough. It is refreshing to know things are sorted (in terms of ownership) but now it is all about getting a sequence of results. Now we will find out if this team is capable of doing it."
Hodgson believes a new benchmark has been set for the players and he now expects them to maintain that standard. For the first 70 minutes of the 2-1 win against Blackburn, the team looked like one not dissimilar to their more successful predecessors.
Hodgson is keen for them to match the achievements of "the Liverpool of yore" but knows there is plenty of work still to do. Confidence has been boosted after only their second Premier League victory of the season and the manager believes things are starting to finally knit together after a difficult start to the campaign that has left them 18th in the table, although they are only six points behind fifth-placed Tottenham.
"I don't think we can play a lot better than we did against Blackburn," said the manager. "What could happen is we could get a lot more goals for that performance but I don't think we could play better.
"We conceded next to no goal chances, we pressurised the ball and won it back quickly, our passing and movement was good and it was only good goalkeeping, some goal-line saves and a few blocks which made the difference.
"It could have been a clear victory so I suppose for me it is much more a case of wanting the team to continue along these lines and, most importantly, continue to battle.
"We are still closer to the relegation zone than we are to the top of the table and, if we get beaten next week at Bolton, we are suddenly back to square one again. There is nothing to do other than keep working at it. We need to show a bit of humility and accept that, if we are not the Liverpool of yore, we will try to become it."
Asked whether he had underestimated the job ahead of him when he moved from Fulham, Hodgson replied: "I knew that everything was not as it should be, not least of all because of the worries hanging over the club in terms of who was going to own it and whether there would be money for new players and to reinvest.
"I also knew there were doubts about the size and the quality of the squad -- but you don't know if those doubts were correct until you come in and start working with the players.
"I came with my eyes open, but I did come in knowing the expectations on us could be greater than what we are capable of achieving immediately." (© Daily Telegraph, London)