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Benitez blasts back at Torres critics

INTERIM Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez accused Fernando Torres' statistics-obsessed critics of being clueless after the striker's dry January continued against Arsenal.

Torres failed to score for the seventh successive match -- his longest barren run of the season -- in yesterday's 2-1 win at snowy Stamford Bridge.

Once again, the effort was there from the £50million enigma but there was little sign of improvement in front of goal, with the reaction of supporters to his 81st-minute substitution for Demba Ba once again telling.

The pair's respective goalscoring records reflect poorly on Torres, who was arguably defended more staunchly yesterday by Benitez than ever before.

"Fernando was doing a great job," he said.

"Afterwards, Demba gave us something we didn't have before.

"These people who like to quote stats and stats, they don't have any clue about what is going on.

"When you have one striker for a month and a half and cannot change, it's more difficult for the striker.

"When you have now two strikers, you can manage."

Fatigue could certainly be one factor hampering Torres' performances and Benitez admitted the striker was not the only Chelsea player running on empty by full-time yesterday.

Juan Mata was another, while Frank Lampard and Ramires were both forced to play 90 minutes due to an ankle knock picked up by David Luiz and John Obi Mikel's African Nations Cup absence.

Luiz's injury also meant fewer options in defence but Benitez resisted the urge to hand captain John Terry his first start since November.

Benitez said: "He has to play, but you cannot play him in these kinds of games because, obviously, you have to play at home and you play high and it's more difficult for him if he has not this match fitness."


Benitez admitted Terry would also have a fight on his hands to reclaim his place, adding: "Every player here has to compete for his position and that is the good thing for the team and for me as a manager."

Yesterday's win helped Chelsea cut the gap at the top of the Premier League to 11 points.

Benitez has already written off a title challenge but winger Mata, who opened the scoring yesterday, refused to be drawn on the issue.

The 24-year-old insisted his only focus was on overturning a 2-0 deficit against Swansea in Wednesday's League Cup semi-final second leg.

"The clever thought is just thinking step by step," he said.

"We have to be focused just on the next game, which is now Swansea away.

"We have to score three goals at least to get through to the final and that's our aim now."