Who are Liverpool better off without ?
Published 18/04/2011 | 05:00
When West Brom beat Liverpool a fortnight ago, the simple narrative was that it gave Roy Hodgson some sort of revenge against a club, players and supporters, who, at varying levels, had turned their back on him during his six months in charge at Anfield.
Like most stories of football vengeance, its importance was exaggerated and, as you would expect from somebody who is regularly damned with the faint praise of being the nicest man in football, Hodgson had no interest in stoking the flames.
But as he looked across at the opposition bench on Saturday, Hodgson could have been forgiven a wry smile as he watched the body language of Fernando Torres whose sour puss, flouncing around and lack of effort for most of this season at Liverpool was laid at the door of their former manager.
Hodgson couldn't have enjoyed Saturday's result, although not allowing Torres to end the 'minutes without a goal' number which is giving mathematicians a headache might have provided a little solace.
With the game won and Torres coming on for a sympathetic cameo, it seemed the task of his Chelsea team-mates who had already secured the points, was to give Torres a chance that even he, in his current form, couldn't miss.
Perhaps Roman Abramovich has offered an assist reward to the person who finally succeeds.
There's no doubt that Liverpool are in a better position since Hodgson's departure -- as are West Brom, who have surged up the league since his arrival. But while his role at Anfield was untenable, once the new owners took over and Kenny Dalglish hung around like Banquo's ghost, events at Stamford Bridge have provided Hodgson with a degree of vindication.
Had he taken over last summer and decided to sell Torres to Chelsea for £50m and use £35m of the bounty on Andy Carroll, the outcry probably would have seen Hodgson sacked before the first game.
With such an imbalanced squad, Hodgson might have thought the idea of having one great striker and a long line of distinctly average ones behind him wasn't the best way to get success, but he didn't have the power to do anything about it. Dalglish and the new owners, quite rightly, had the authority to do what they thought was best for the club.
When Torres was not scoring and not trying -- except against Chelsea -- his apologists wondered what people expected, given the lack of creativity of his Liverpool team-mates, as well as the tactics of the manager.
Yet there's something refreshing about watching a player so full of his own importance that he can engineer a move away from a club with an 'it's not me, it's you' abdication of responsibility, only to find himself toiling somewhere that he expected the grass to be greener.
To his supporters, there were always plausible reasons for his demise and very few of them came down to a problem with Torres himself. At Liverpool, we were told, there wasn't enough creativity to provide him with chances, which is why, when Jamie Carragher shouted at him for not chasing a long pass earlier this season, Torres was defended in some quarters for his dismissive reaction.
A few months and a £50m transfer fee later, Torres now finds himself playing in front of a midfield whose main idea for creating a goal seems to come from trying to get a shot to take a deflection.
The spin put out from Torres' side suggested a manager at Anfield who was out of his depth at that level and whose playing experience was minimal. But, at Chelsea, Carlo Ancelotti has three Serie A titles and four European Cups to throw on the table if somebody ever asks the 'show us your medals' question.
On a human level, it's never nice to see somebody struggling to get back what they once took for granted, but, in Torres' case, every excuse that was being put forward for his struggles in the latter period of his Liverpool career is being undermined by what is happening to him at Chelsea.
The goals might have dried up while Wayne Rooney was deciding whether or not Manchester United matched his ambition, but his effort level remained so high that, when his unhappiness at the club was revealed, it showed how easy it was to fool some of the people some of the time.
Torres isn't the type of player who will end up in the full-back position of his own team, yet by looking at himself and his commitment to the cause rather than laying the blame at everyone else around him, it might be easier to convince fearful Chelsea supporters that he's not simply the owner's plaything.
Meanwhile, at Liverpool, teenage full-backs are able to handle the best that Arsenal can throw at them, Carroll and Luis Suarez are providing a threat even without the presence of Steven Gerrard and nobody has to worry about keeping somebody happy who clearly doesn't want to to look in the mirror.
Dalglish's arrival has certainly lifted the mood of depression, but, in the long run, it might have been more important for Liverpool to get rid of Torres than Hodgson.