So often Liverpool’s most potent attacking weapon, Luis Suarez strikes again. Latching onto a weighed chip from Enrique, he surged forward with menacing hunger. And as all seemed lost with Berra back on time, he turned, twisted, and left him for dead before crashing a supreme drive past helpless Hennessey. Suarez wheeled off, embracing his teammates. It was 2-0 against Wolves, and Liverpool were cruising.
Yet critics lurk, reminiscent to those prevalent back in the 2008/09 season. They claim that Liverpool rely too heavily on the likes of Suarez, for inspiration, creativity, and above all, goals. Parallels were drawn, as previously, it was the Gerrard-Torres axis which supplied the firepower.
While there is truth in saying that Liverpool do rely heavily on these players, it is vital to also consider our options, and why unpredictability will be Liverpool’s most potent weapon this season. Not Luis Suarez.
You may argue he is the focal point of Liverpool’s new-look attack. Having seemingly woven seamlessly into the art of Liverpool’s play, he has conjured up magic with his feet, dancing, toying, and waltzing through defences, scaring the living daylight out of established Premier League defenders. He has captured the imagination of all Liverpool supporters, and even attracted not ire, but utmost respect, from rival fans. Jamie Carragher was commenting just a few days ago about how he wouldn’t swap Suarez for any other player on Earth.
I agree. But Suarez is merely one player on the pitch. He won’t change every game. He won’t be our main asset. Something else will.
Unpredictability is something subjective, open to intepration, and debatable. It can also lay towards two extremes. Liverpool’s volatile future during the Hicks-Gillett era was something which bordered us on the brink. That was unpredictable. Thankfully, it didn’t happen, and the unpredictability we’re looking forward to today is a very mouth-watering prospect. It’s on the pitch.
With Liverpool’s flurry of summer activity, Dalglish’s team do look well stocked in every department. Strength in depth, they say. Two genuine contestants for every starting berth on the pitch. True. From the owner, to the journalists in the press box, to the fans, there is a fresh wave of optimism that Liverpool will stake a strong claim for a finish amongst the top four spots this season.
But something rarely discussed about the current side is the unique ability of many to play in a multitude of positions. Undeniably, this inevitably wrecks havoc on the opposition’s plans for the game, as they can never be certain and predict the side Dalglish will name.
For instance, Stewart Downing is left footed. He has started primarily as a left winger in most of Liverpool’s games. Yet, when asked to, he is able to integrate himself to play on the right, and is as equally effective as an inverted winger. He can also play in the ‘hole’, albeit not called into that role by Dalglish thus far.
The same goes for many Liverpool players, including the likes of Johnson, Henderson, Gerrard, Bellamy and Suarez.
All these create an unpredictable nature about Liverpool’s play. The rigidity of positions is reduced, the fluidity and the anticipation of play is emphasized. The ability of all these players to basically ‘swap’ positions promotes an interchangable style, harnessing the creative might and allowing the freedom of expression for the players while on the pitch.
Moreover, what one offers can differ from various positions. Downing might be superb with his distribution of pinpoint crosses from the left. However, he offers something uniquely different down the right, with ability to dribble, cut in and probe, amongst the key elements of his play down that flank.
All these, in layman’s terms, just means that you might witness Gerrard coming back from a 6 month lay-off, starring in the centre. And 20 minutes later, you realise he’s on the right, then suddenly, he’s on the left. And then he’s down the centre unleashing an unstoppable 25-yard drive into the roof of the net.
The scary, frightening thought that opposition managers have to embrace is that there is often a ‘spill-over’ effect. The ability of these players to interchange comfortably also means Liverpool can play a variety of formations, from the traditional 4-4-2, right up to the unorthodox 3-5-2, which was sparingly used by Dalglish to devastating effect last season.
Which rational being managing in the Premier League will remain sane trying to predict the starting XI, then the formation Dalglish decides to adopt? It is virtually impossible; with the array of options available, the unpredictability of this side has exponentially increased.
It is this nature inherent within the current crop which will stand out, not like a sore thumb, but like a shining light. It is this which will make up for whatever shortcomings that might plague the current side. And it is this – the unpredictability, which will be utilised to maximal effect this season.
And it is this, which will be Liverpool’s main asset. Not Luis Suarez.
This article also appeared on my Liverpool blog, which you can view here.
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