Club Focus – Liverpool – Florence, and the goal machine

E. M. Forster’s classic 1908 novel ‘A Room with a View’ tells of typical English reserve and formality set against the stunning backdrop of Florence, one of the most beautiful cities in the world and a fitting setting for a tale of love, loss and desperation. The story – in which a young Englishwoman struggles with her feelings for ‘the wrong sort’ of man – is a cautionary tale, one that instructs you to take your chances and to not let opportunities pass you by. Right now Florence will be housing some more visitors from the British Isles, as supporters from Liverpool – that most ‘un-English’ of the English clubs in the Champions League – descend on northern Italy for tonight’s intriguing looking Champions League tie and there’s no doubt who they love right now.

When Fernando Torres left the field after 66 minutes of Saturday’s clash with Hull City at Anfield, the entire stadium – including the Hull fans – rose to applaud him. The Spanish striker had displayed such a willingness to run at players and a sheer quality with the ball at his feet during the previous hour and six minutes, the fact that he scored three goals was almost irrelevant. He was electric. There were scorch marks all over the Anfield turf. Pity poor eighteen-year-old Liam Cooper, the centre-half ridiculously thrown in by his boss Phil Brown for a league debut against the best striker in the world. Hopefully Cooper can recover and go on to have a good career, but even if wins 100 England caps he’ll never forget this particular Saturday afternoon.

There is such a calmness and coolness about Torres when he’s faced with a chance that you wonder if there really is ice in his veins. When the ball is at his feet in the penalty area everybody else seems to become insignificant, just shadows that he can slip past on his route to another goal. It is easy to criticise the defenders, but it’s hard to know what else they could do. All three of Torres’ goals on Saturday saw him beat at least one defender before finding the net. Throw in those strikes alongside his first of the double at West Ham last Saturday – and a multitude of others during his two-and-a-bit seasons on Merseyside – as perfect examples of him at his unplayable best.

Saturday’s treble was his fourth for Liverpool, taking his tally to eight for the season. He has 46 in 64 league matches for the club; 33 in his last 34 at Anfield. The stats keep coming, but the most impressive thing about Torres is that none, not one, of those goals listed above has come from a penalty or free kick. All of them have come in open play, with a great many of them spectacular.

If the £20m spent on the Spaniard seemed a gamble back in the summer of 2007, it looks nothing if not a wise investment now. Liverpool have gone through so many forwards in the Premier League era – a brief look at the teams in the current table and you can reel off four from the three other teams in the Champions League places – but they have now surely arrived at the best striker around. Defenders shrink when Torres gets the ball. His display on Saturday brought back memories of his debut season in 2007/08, when he broke Ruud van Nistelrooy’s record for the most goals by a foreigner in his first season in the Premier League; with 33 in all competitions. Back then it seemed inevitable that he would score almost every time he played at Anfield. Had he been fit enough to repeat the trick last season then Liverpool would surely have been champions.

His three goals on Saturday are being used as further evidence to claim that Liverpool are ‘too reliant’ on their Spanish hitman, who this week once again takes over headliner status from Steven Gerrard. Maybe they are – after all, claiming that the Reds are simply a very good team collectively went out of fashion long ago – but if you are going to rely on someone then it might as well be the best at doing what he does. There were others on the pitch on Saturday. Hull were routinely opened up by the combinations down the Liverpool left where Albert Riera and Emiliano Insua (deservedly taking his first call from his national team boss Diego Maradona last week) created half of their team’s goals. They didn’t get the headlines though, Torres did, and he’ll be getting many more during his time in a Red shirt. To the joy of his supporters, theirs is a love affair that will never end.

Liverpool Club Focus

The People of Thailand & Singapore vs. Xabi Alonso – July 29
Should nobody expect a Spanish acquisition? – August 5
High hopes – August 12
False start – August 18
Plenty of bets, but no slip – August 21
Three games, two defeats and one big problem – August 25
It gets no easier – August 27
Smells like team spirit – September 1
Babel crows for return to homeland – September 4
Into the Twilight Zone – September 8
Settling the score – September 11
Benayoun defies hs critics – September 15
Probably not the best performance in the world – September 18
Darren Potter and the Cup of Youthful Dreams – September 21
David Ngog, following the leader – September 25
Florence, and the goal machine – September 29

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