Luis Suarez is one of the greatest players to have graced the Anfield turf and definitely, one of the most prolific goalscorers to have played for the club. It has been close to a season since the mercurial Uruguayan left the Reds after notching 31 goals and 12 assists last season. In the aftermath of his departure, Liverpool has immensely struggled to replace the goals and genuine threat of Suarez. As a result, they have plummeted down the table and have scored only 31 goals from open play, the same number of goals Suarez scored in the entirety of last season.
Last season, Liverpool had one of their most successful seasons in a long time and were inches away from laying their hands on the elusive Premier League title. This season has undoubtedly been a marked contrast and many have attributed this to the loss of Suarez. Brendan Rodgers, so revered by everyone last season, has been castigated this season and all the success last season has been laid on the hands of Suarez. While last year, Rodgers was regarded as the next Bill Shankly, this season he has been viewed as nothing more than a charlatan.
Allegations of a ‘one-man team’ have been placed on Rodgers’ Liverpool side that achieved success and any success that others might have had has been attributed to the ‘Suarez’ factor. But, football is a team game and you can have the best players in the world but if there is no cohesion or chemistry, no success can be achieved.
I find these Suarez allegations a little bit misguided and they disregard the contributions of the entire Liverpool team last season to make it the season that it was. To just plainly attribute the achievements of an entire team on one player is not right, no matter who that player is. Suarez was a great player but you need a great team to achieve things and for that Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool players have to deserve credit. Was it really all Suarez last season?
Firstly, while Suarez might be a prolific marksman today, it should be remembered that Suarez was very wasteful when he first arrived at the club. The most prevalent example of this would be in Kenny Dalglish’s 2011-12 season where Suarez only notched up 11 goals and had a WhoScored rating 7.35 compared to 8.43 last season. He also had a record of hitting the woodwork the most number of times in that season.
It was only when Brendan Rodgers came in that Suarez became the clinical behemoth that he is today. Instead of shooting straight at the goalkeeper. Suarez would now aim for the sides and became accurate in both short range and long range shooting. Rodgers has to be given credit for making Suarez the player he is today by playing to his strengths and building the Liverpool team around him.
Until recently, Suarez was derided in the Spanish media as well for not being lethal enough. Till now, it is Brendan Rodgers who has gotten the best out of him. It must also be remembered that Rodgers played players like Fabio Borini and Stewart Downing out of position so that Suarez could revel in the striker role. It could be said that Liverpool contributed more to Suarez as a player than Suarez to Liverpool as a team.
Secondly, it is worth noting that the team in Brendan Rodgers’ first season where the team finished 7th was not very different than the team that finished second. Only Simon Mignolet and Mamadou Sakho were significant additions to the team. And, when the team finished seventh, Suarez was performing at the same level notching 23 goals despite being banned for biting. That suggests that it was the general improvement of the team that caused an upturn in results, as Suarez’s form was constant throughout the time of consideration. In scientific terms, Suarez was the constant factor as the team’s form improved with time. Obviously, Suarez played a huge part in how the team played but without the team, nothing would have been achieved.
The common saying throughout this season is that Suarez was responsible for the entire teams output last season because he scored a lot of goals (approximately 1/3rd of the entire team’s tally). But, the same can be said about Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid or Lionel Messi at Barcelona. But, that does not mean that Barcelona or Real Madrid are one-men teams. The best players always contribute the most regardless of the quality of players around them and Suarez’s output has no bearing on how good the team was. Suarez, being the talisman that he is, scored a few goals out of nothing but many of his goals were also created by his teammates.
Lastly, to say that it was ‘all Suarez’ last season is to undermine a lot of the good work done by the other Liverpool players and Brendan Rodgers . Daniel Sturridge got the second highest goal tally last season (after Suarez of course) despite being out with a length spell of injury, which can be tough for any player. Steven Gerrard got the most number of assists last season whereas Raheem Sterling and Phillipe Coutinho were two of the best young players. Sturridge’s chip and Steven Gerrard’s exquisite through ball last season are two examples of the caliber of talent outside Suarez.
And, then there is Brendan Rodgers who has taken a lot of flak this season but he did make a few game changing decisions last season. Be it implementing the diamond formation or bringing on Joao Carlos Texieira for his debut with the team needing a winner against Fulham, Rodgers made a lot of gutsy choices which won a lot of plaudits last season but have been discounted this season. He gave players like Jon Flannagan, Raheem Sterling and even Luis Suarez chances to flourish when many other managers like Sir Alex Ferguson (who asked Liverpool to sell Suarez) might not have made that choice.
Suarez’s departure this season has most definitely affected Liverpool’s performances and results because he was such a good player. But, in my opinion, the majority of the problems this season have resulted from poor team selection, inefficient tactics and ineptitude in the transfer market. Suarez gave Liverpool a platform last season and Liverpool have failed to taken an advantage of that. The debate that Suarez gave the other players face holds some merit but to just flat out attribute that to the results of an entire team is not right. The players have less space this season but have still achieved success when the tactics and selection have been right. In the end, Brendan Rodgers should most rightly take criticism for this season but deserves plaudits for last season.
Siddharth Raj Kapoor
Twitter – @KopChants
Link to My Blog – kopchants.blogspot.in