- Premier League
Benitez: Torres approaching his peak
Rafa Benitez has claimed that a much happier Fernando Torres is getting "closer" to his Liverpool peak and that Roman Abramovich is pleased with the striker's progress.
The Chelsea manager also put Torres' previous poor form down to a lack of confidence and being deployed in the wrong way. Interestingly, though, Benitez believes the Spanish striker would actually welcome competition, as he confirmed Chelsea will try and sign more strikers in January.
After a difficult first two years at Chelsea, Torres is currently enjoying his most prolific spell at the club with six goals in his last five games.
What's more, Benitez seems to have had the effect many anticipated on his former Liverpool employee as he has made specific alterations to the way the striker trains and plays. Most notably, he has stopped Torres dropping so deep.
"To be fair, I don't want to give too much information but [I do] little things which keep him high," Benitez said. "I told him to stay high because he goes deep sometimes to help the team, especially when we are in possession.
"We have [Juan] Mata, [Eden] Hazard, Oscar, players that can do this job so he can play higher. The other thing is trying to play simple if he can so that means we have to be closer so he can run behind defenders. So [we do] little things that he can understand.
"Normally, he is a player that can run behind defenders and in front of the keeper. It's always easier to score goals than when you have to receive and turn. "I was watching him before and he was trying hard. The question now is trying hard but in maybe the right position."
Benitez claims this has had a visible effect on Torres's confidence. "It's improving him every day," he said. "I was talking to him half an hour ago at the end of training. We can see he has this confidence.
"I think that Fernando was not doing well because lack of confidence but I think now he has confidence, the belief he can improve. He's scoring goals and he can still improve the fitness. He's playing a lot of games but still he can improve physically and that means he can be even better around the box."
If Torres is more assured, however, it has also made his ultimate boss more appreciative. When asked whether Abramovich had told him he was pleased with his striker's form, Benitez said: "Not directly but we have been talking with the people, with [technical director] Michael [Emenalo], watching every training session and we have been analysing, not just Fernando but the rest of the players. We talk about how they are getting and I think [Abramovich] is quite pleased."
Of course, in the meantime, speculation has only grown that the owner is set to sanction the purchase of another renowned centre-forward, this time Radamel Falcao. Even if the Colombian does not arrive this window, Benitez admitted the club are looking to sign reinforcements up front in order to ease the burden on Torres, who has played almost every minute of matches over the past few months.
"The question is that we know he needs that competition," Benitez said. "The problem in January always is which one, which player is available. It's not easy but I think it would be positive for everyone and Fernando is ready to fight for his position. He has a lot of confidence and is enjoying now his football.
"We know that he's playing a lot of games, a lot of minutes but he is doing well. Obviously, he can improve and we are trying to manage his situation. "Fernando is quite clever. He knows if we want to win trophies as a team, we need competition. Sometimes you say you want to play every game but, at the end of the day, you are so tired that you cannot perform at the level you can. I think it's important to have this competition and that means that you have more guarantees, more options to win trophies."