Rotation, Rotation, Rotation has been the refrain from the press this week as the hacks on the Liverpool beat try to analysis (and understand) Rafa’s methods. I was disappointed that Torres was rotated out of the starting XI for the Birmingham game, but can understand the fact that the team he played (not just the front two) should have been good enough to win the game for us. If we had won, it would’ve been a great idea but as we lost it caused the reaction we’re seeing now.
Whatever the answer to the rotation, and we’ll know it at the end of the season, I thought I’d run through the six possible combinations (assuming a 4-4-2 formation using two of the four strikers) available to Rafa:
Torres and Kuyt – my favourite combination. The thoroughbred (Torres) has a workhorse (Kuyt) to get down and dirty in the trenches between midfield and the (opposition’s) defensive line. This combo works pretty well, as Derby will testify.
Torres and Crouch – from what I saw against Reading, there’s good potential here. Crouch just sucks in defenders who can’t deal with his height or touch while Torres scares the living piss out of people because of his sheer pace. My one caveat to this would be that it seems a little too conducive to the long ball as defenders try to hit Crouch rather than playing it through the mid-field or Stevie G tries one 60 yard through-ball after another to release Torres.
Torres and Voronin – clearly Torres is our number one striker and, like it or not, will have to play the lion’s share of the games. Voronin is very much like Kuyt – intelligent and hard-working but likes to play further forward than his Dutch counterpart. I know I have this combination at number three, but I don’t think I’d be unhappy to see any of the second choice strikers paired with El Nino.
Crouch and Voronin – these guys looked fairly decent against Toulouse with some nice combinations and good movement from both of them. I think there’s potential here and if Torres is to be rested then this would be my strike force – complemented by two wingers.
Voronin and Kuyt – my god did these two not work as well together as expected. Strange considering they both have good work-rates and are intelligent, unselfish players… Maybe over the season we’ll see these guys develop an understanding and flourish into a partnership.
Crouch and Kuyt – last season’s combination and a definite step backwards.
Now, all of this doesn’t take into account the fact we can count of Babel playing as a striker or just off a front man (Torres or Crouch). Gerrard is also pretty comfortable playing "in the hole", as is Benayoun so there are more combinations but I think Rafa is pretty comfortable with the 4-4-2 set-up so I think these are our choices – for now at least.