"It's not a case of Fernando... you saw how they defended, with a lot of bodies there," said Rafa Benitez after Chelsea's 0-0 draw against Fulham on Wednesday. "It wasn't easy for him, or Eden Hazard or Oscar."
It never is, these days. The plight of Torres, the £50million ghost who used to be a footballer, goes on. There is a sense that the next few weeks might represent his final chance at the highest level.
For those outside the fraternity of Chelsea fans - those who weren't mortally offended by an offhand comment about plastic flags made in 2007 - Benitez brings two clear attributes: he has shown again and again his ability to organise a defence (and, over time, to blend that with an attacking style) and at Liverpool he got the best out of Fernando Torres.
The decline of Torres is one of the great sadnesses and mysteries of the modern game. In his last five seasons at Atletico Madrid he went from being a player of outstanding promise to one of proven ability. His first three seasons at Liverpool, although hamstring injuries hampered him in the second and third, were exceptional. He was quick, explosive, finished well and had a capacity to generate chances almost from nothing.
The problems began in early 2010 when the suspicion was that Torres, struggling with a knee injury, perhaps deferred surgery too long. He eventually had the operation in the April and was fit enough to take his place in Spain's World Cup squad. He had a disappointing tournament even as Spain won the tournament, but he has never been the same player since.
There were flickers of the old form at the beginning of the 2010-11 season at Anfield - a double against Chelsea in the November - but the feeling was that his record of nine goals in 22 games rather masked how fitfully he was playing. He wasn't the Torres of old, the player who kept on destroying Nemanja Vidic with his speed and energy but there did seem to be mitigating factors. Benitez had gone and the more direct approach favoured by Roy Hodgson seemed ill-suited to getting the best out of Torres. Chasing long aerial balls is not his strength.
The move to Chelsea offered the chance for a fresh start but 33 league starts in 18 months have yielded just 10 goals. There is petulance alongside the industry and, while Torres's movement remains intelligent, there is often a sense that he doesn't really want the ball. When teed up by an Eden Hazard flick in Sunday's draw against Manchester City, there was an inevitability about him snatching at the shot and firing over the bar.
"He's not exactly the same player now, because he was at maximum level [at Liverpool]," Benitez said. "But I think he can come back. How close? I don't know. I'm sure he can improve, but the team has to help him. We can see Fernando as a striker, but we have to create more chances for him. If, afterwards, he's not scoring I will analyse why."
He dismissed theories that Torres, at 28, has simply pushed his body too far and that the grind of games and regular injuries have diminished him. "Fernando had real pace," he said. "He has to train in a way that suits him. You have to work in the gym on strength. Maybe he needs to do that again. It's a question of time, but we know we have to change the movements we're working. The first thing is to give him some confidence, instructions as to how he can do things in a different way, improve him a little bit physically. You need to be stronger in defence, regain the ball easier and then you can create your own chances. That will benefit Torres. Players with mobility, quality... we can improve all these things."
That suggests that he believes the issue is tactical and it is certainly true that since Benitez left Liverpool, Torres has not played under a coach who has played quick, counter-attacking football - the second leg of the Champions League semi-final, in fact, gave an extreme example of how effective Torres can still be in that role, as he galloped clear of a non-existent Barcelona defence and rounded Victor Valdes to wrap up the win.
But if Torres can't cope with the reasonably direct approach used by Roberto Di Matteo last season or the quick angled passes of the Eden Hazard - Oscar - Juan Mata trio employed this (and he never looks entirely at home amid Spain's tiki-taka), then it's hard to see how he will ever fit in at Chelsea. A team should, of course, adapt to individual players up to a point, but it's absurd to think that one player's demands should alter fundamentally how an entire team plays.
Torres may be at his best when there are quick, vertical balls played in front of him to attack space, but is playing that way really best for Chelsea as a whole? Besides, if his pace has gone, as Benitez seemed to accept it has, how effective would Torres be even playing like that?
The first thing, though, as Benitez said, is to try to get Torres playing with confidence again. It may not be fair to cast him as some kind of Torres-whisperer who can somehow reach deep into the forward's soul and rediscover the player of old but if he could do so that, more than almost anything else, might reconcile Chelsea fans to him. It's early days, of course, and the effects of a new training regime could take weeks to become apparent, but after two scoreless games, there is little sign that much has changed.