Liverpool: Don’t be afraid of selling Suarez

Image available under Creative Commons (c) Ruaraidh Gillies

Image available under Creative Commons (c) Ruaraidh Gillies

It seems inevitable that the Kop’s love-affair with controversial striker Luis Suarez will come to an end over the course of this summer. On a superficial level, the Uruguayan is seemingly discontent with his treatment by the English media and Football Association. On a deeper level, Liverpool’s inability to crack the top four coupled with rumoured overtures from Real Madrid have caused the player’s head to turn.

Liverpool fans can understandably feel let down – indeed, there have been reports that some fans have taken the news so badly that Suarez shirts have been defaced and burnt. Without wanting to cover old ground this is a player who, for all of his unquestionable talent with the ball, has seriously tested the patience of the most ardent Liverpool fans with his antics off the ball. Some loyalty in return would no doubt have been welcomed.

However, with Liverpool understood to be demanding in excess of £40 million for their star striker, could the sale of Luis Suarez actually be the catalyst the club needs to help close the gap on the teams above them?

Spending it wisely

Liverpool fans could be forgiven for thinking they have been here before, of course. In January 2011 they sold Suarez’s predecessor, Fernando Torres, for a club-record £50 million. That that money was not invested wisely and to the wider benefit of the club is undeniable. While the Suarez signing has been a success, the £35 million that the club paid Newcastle United for Andy Carroll has not proven to be value for money. Liverpool would do well to learn the lessons from this opportunity squandered.

Indeed, good lessons could be learned from Arsenal. Last summer they sold Robin van Persie to Manchester United for £24 million. Despite the blow of losing their only truly world class player, Arsene Wenger invested wisely in the wider team, including bringing in Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski to help re-balance the offensive dimension of the team. The result? Arsenal finished the 2012/13 season three points better off than the season before. No doubt retaining and building a team around the league’s top goal scorer would have been more palatable to Arsenal fans, but this example does demonstrate that investing wisely to replace an irreplaceable and improve the team’s results is possible.

Liverpool are in the more fortunate position of having a player who is far from nearing the end of his contract and so being able to generate a fee more commensurate with his value to the club.

In Rodgers we trust?

Since joining from Swansea City last summer, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has set about transforming the way that the club plays. An attacking team with a playing style predicated on short passing and retaining possession to create chances, Liverpool actually finished the season as the league’s fourth highest scorers with 71 goals (Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal all scoring more). Thirty-two percent of these goals (23 in total) were scored by Luis Suarez – becoming only the third Liverpool player after Robbie Fowler and Fernando Torres to score over 20 premier league goals in a season for the Anfield club – with the striker chipping in with five more assists.

That the Uruguayan’s ability to score goals and create chances will need replacing is obvious. It is perhaps still too early to tell whether Brendan Rodgers is the man to identify the right players. However, early signs suggest that Rodgers oversaw good business in January, and indicate that the Liverpool Board should back Rodgers this summer. There is also evidence to suggest that in making these astute signings during the last window, Liverpool have already begun to address and diversify their perceived over-reliance on Suarez.

– Goals

In January 2013 Rodgers returned to one of his former clubs to seal the signature of the young man many believe could be the spearhead of England’s attack in the years to come. Daniel Sturridge’s impact at Liverpool was impressive. Denied the central role he coveted at Chelsea, since his move to Liverpool Sturridge netted an impressive 10 goals in 14 appearances (11 starts), including a hat-trick against a sorry Newcastle United side in the first game post the Suarez biting incident. Indeed, his minutes per goal ratio (109 minutes per goal) is better than Luis Suarez’s (128 minutes per goal), despite averaging the same number of minutes per shot as his teammate (one shot every 21 minutes).

Furthermore, in the final four games of the season when Sturridge was required to lead the line in the place of the suspended Suarez, the England striker scored 5 goals and was credited with 1 assist as his team picked up 10 points from a possible 12 (three wins against Newcastle, Fulham and QPR, and a draw in the Merseyside derby. If the striker and his teammates are able to deliver this kind of form consistently, the blow of losing of Suarez might readily be softened.

– Chance creation

While chances can be created from a range of players and positions, Liverpool’s stand-out playmaker in the second half of the season was another of Rodgers’ January signings. Since his move from Inter Milan for a reported fee of £8.5 million, Philippe Coutinho has mesmerised fans with some wonderful displays. Much like Sturridge, it is still too early to draw firm conclusions about the ability of the player to deliver on a consistent basis, but having created twenty chances for his teammates, including five assists, in his thirteen appearances for the club to date (12 starts, 1 as a substitute) and chipped in with three goals, Liverpool fans are understandably excited about the young Brazilian’s potential.

That Suarez created a chance for his teammates every 33 minutes compared to Coutinho’s one every 47 minutes should not be overlooked, it is important to acknowledge that Coutinho was far more effective at picking out teammates with clear-cut goal-scoring opportunities (one every 104 minutes, compared to Suarez’s one every 197 minutes). This no doubt reflects the different positions that each plays and is not necessarily fair as a like-for-like comparison. However, on the assumption that Rodgers recognises the need to build a more well-rounded and balanced team, it seems that Coutinho could have a key role to play in helping the club move forward.

Verdict

There is no doubting that Luis Suarez is an incredible talent and will leave big shoes to fill at Anfield. However, selling him now for £40 million plus will provide the Anfield club with some serious firepower in the transfer market. Arsene Wenger has proven that you can take a star-player out of your team and still continue to progress. Brendan Rodgers’ track-record in the transfer market this season suggests that not only does he too recognise the need to create a team that is not too reliant on one individual, but that in two of his more recent signings, he has already started this process with a degree of success and should be trusted to further develop the squad in a mould consistent with his attacking principles.

That Rodgers will add a striker this summer seems obvious – not only will it provide Sturridge with competition but it will also allow the club to avoid falling into similar over-reliance on one player for the goals. So, Liverpool fans, who would you like to see replace Suarez at your club this summer? Could Sturridge be the man, and what would he need to do to fill his teammate’s shoes?

All stats included via Opta

Comments

  1. The ghost of Tony Ford says:

    I linked to another article of yours (20 goals per season) from a post on BBC football – this about Suarez, that about goalscorers and your other writing are infinitely (1) more informative, (2) more relevant, (3) less biased, (4) less crammed with second-hand hearsay, speculation and bigged-up guff than anything I’ve read for ages on BBC. Keep it up! I will revisit this page in ensuing days to enjoy more. A thought for an article: strikers who have most consistently hit row Z… Could it really be Bobby Zamora?
    All the best, a Grimsby Town fan

    • Hi mate – obviously I’m not the author of this, but I will bask in James’ reflected glory for a moment!

      Thanks so much for the feedback. We’re just getting started with the site, and trying to engage with as many fans as we can, while maintaining a high level of quality and interest in the articles that we write. We’ve got lots more exciting ideas with the season approaching.

      It really does give the three of us a boost to get comments like this, so thanks again!

      Re. your article suggestion – It could be Bobby. Newcastle’s (the other magpies) own Shola Ameobi could also be in with a shout…

      Best,

      Ben

  2. Toby Satch says:

    Wonderful early promise for your new website with excellent articles. Keep this up and it’ll become my ‘home page’. Nice to read stuff without any bias

    • Thanks Toby – we really appreciate the feedback. It is early days as you say, but we are trying to do something a bit different which is interesting and engaging, and knocks down some of the “conventional wisdom” of the game, but is accessible to the masses.

      Lot’s more to come in the pipeline as the season gets going. Please do keep visiting, commenting, sharing etc!

Trackbacks

  1. […] Also by James Bailey: Why Liverpool should not be frightened of letting Luis Suarez go […]

  2. […] Also from James Bailey, read why Liverpool should not be frightened of losing Luis Suarez. […]

  3. […] do have a concern for Liverpool though. Not because they’ll be losing their star man – I actually think they’ve brought in some good players that can lessen the blow – but largely because despite this they’ll need to reinvest in the quality of the wider […]

  4. […] In other transfer news, read why Liverpool should not fear losing Suarez. […]

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