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“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A life without Suarez

Luis Suarez - El Pistolero
There’s probably no way back for Luis Suarez at Liverpool.

With the Uruguayan adamant he wants leave the English Premiership, public discourse has turned to the price tag Liverpool should slap on the 26 year-old’s head and justifications that he’s expendable to the Anfield cause.

While there are always several layers to any story, Suarez’s value as a footballer is undoubted, even with his occasional disciplinary lapses.

He is, unquestionably, one of world football’s finest acts.

Last season in 33 league appearances Suarez registered 23 goals and five assists, a splendid return by any measure but even more impressive on a team that often lacked seasoned offensive quality (apart from Daniel Sturridge, with 10 goals, no other Liverpool player reached double figures in the league).

But, what’s most unique about Suarez is his ability as a game-breaker and a relentless creator of chances both for himself and his teammates.

Consider this: in 2012-13 Suarez not only topped the charts for shots per game, but he also had the most successful dribbles while only two players – Manchester’s City David Silva (3.3) and Everton’s Leighton Baines (3.1) – completed more key passes per match than Suarez (2.7).

The upshot of this creativity was an incredible 90 goal-scoring chances created by Suarez over the season, almost three a game, and more than any striker in Europe.

A picture of inefficiency, instead, has been painted of Suarez. For example, that he was joint-second in both turnovers conceded and number of times dispossessed per game but leaving out that Suarez also ranked second for the number of times a player won possession in the attacking third.

The greater on-field consideration from Liverpool’s perspective, rather, when it comes to selling Suarez is the direction manager Brendan Rodgers wishes to take as he seeks to implement his vision and identity.

Rodgers’ template for Liverpool is of a team that dominates through possession while playing his preferred 4-3-3 formation.

Rodgers, thus, prefers versatile attacking players who have a tactical appreciation of several positions. This has been illustrated by his signings of Fabio Borini, Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and most recently Iago Aspas.

Suarez’s free-spirited, roaming, gunslinger mentality is a nightmare for any coach whose aim is to establish a stable, methodical and lasting system of play.

Liverpool with Suarez, Sturridge and Coutinho

Example of tactical dilemma caused

Example of Rodgers’ preferred 4-3-3 shape

So, yes, in this sense Suarez’s reported £40 million fee may be useful in acquiring players who will improve Liverpool’s squad and Rodgers’ system. However, if the mission is to return Liverpool to the Champions League, then losing Suarez would be a considerable blow.

There is no substitute for a proven match-winner, no matter how enigmatic.

Indeed, when genius is in the midst, a manager’s greatest achievement is to build a system – like Arsenal did with Thierry Henry or Manchester United with Cristiano Ronaldo – that brings the best out of everyone.

Suarez is a special player with the ability to create something out of nothing for himself, and for those around him. Liverpool will be losing a diamond, one that is entering his prime.

Luis Suarez’s improvement

Minutes per goal
Minutes per shot
Chance conversion
Chances created (CC)
Minutes per CC
Pass accuracy

Stats and info-graphics courtesy of www.eplindex.com

Written: July 7, 2013


  1. Great article.Agree that he is almost irreplacable.Furthermore, at either Arsenal/ 'Pool lookout for Suarez to play football from another planet this season. Just as with Cristiano after the Rooney Incident, Suarez seems to be motivated by all the controversy & negativity aimed at him. elKotsinHo

  2. Great point! Very true. At this stage I see Suarez staying at Liverpool. And he will be great for them, as you say.

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