Last season, Gerrard and Torres missed substantial chunks of play. And Liverpool suffered for it. When they were both fit, Liverpool hit some astounding results: v. Real Madrid: 4-0; v. Chelsea 2-0; v. Villa 5-0; and @ United 4-1!!! They even managed strong results against big sides with one or the other missing from the starting lineup. Prior to the above results, they beat United, Madrid and Chelsea by slimmer, yet equally satisfying, margins. But few Liverpool supporters could cling to sanity with Gerrard or Torres out for too long. The real nausia was when, without one or both, Liverpool crashed upon the wall of smaller teams who were playing for a draw. In those moments the lack of Gerrard and/or Torres were as missed as the empty space left in one’s chest after you’ve been shot… by a bazooka.
At this point, Gerrard might be the easier one to cover. (Yes, it feels blasphemous to say this, but since no red streak of lighting has come from the heavens to strike me dead, I’ll keep typing). Say Stevie G needs time off due to injury or he sees a straight red card after he shows Drogba what it really takes to go down just outside the box. (And yes, I’m still bitter about the Olympic-quality diving in the last Champions League quarter-finals). Rafa can feasibly put Kuyt, Benayoun or even El Zhar behind Torres. If he needs to. Not ideal, but manageable.
The real problem at this point, would be losing Torres for any amount of time again. In the favored (and effective) 4231 formation, who goes up front? Kuyt alone? N’Gog alone? Bring back Voronin? (Can you smell that? That’s a writer putting on the breaks. Sorry about that). Babel can do it if absolutely needed, but I am almost certain he’ll be sold before the transfer window ends.
Rafa should bring on a talented striker to cover for Torres. But who would come to play off the bench? If Rafa finds someone as good as he needs, that player is already too good to be a squad player. If N’Gog picked this season to really blossom into greatness, that’d be perfect. He’s young enough to be content come off the bench for a season. Willing to live in El Niño’s shadow for a while. Getting the job done as needed. That’s wishful thinking to the extreme. I know.
What Liverpool needs is one more attacking player with proven goalscoring ability. Rafa has always loved versatile attackers. Luis Garcia. Dirk Kuyt. Ryan Babel. Harry Kewell—whoa, hear me out…
A pre-injury-marathon Kewell would be perfect right now. Rafa inherited Kewell from Gerrard Houllier, but Kewell’s fitness and productivity were apparrently relegated along with Leeds United. Kewell stayed up in the Prem. His footballing went down to the Championship and later League One. It was stashed in a locker at Elland Road for years.
But the potential of Kewell was spectacular. If he’d played for Liverpool like he had at Leeds, he would have been devastating in two or three different positions. Liverpool need to find someone along those lines. Only fit. Ryan Babel came with that potential, but since Riera arrived, Babel just can’t get enough pitch time to flourish.