Anfield Alive: Arsenal a Blueprint for Success Without Suarez?

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Updated: August 16, 2013
Luis Suarez

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” – Marcus Aurelius

It doesn’t take too much effort to know what the general public thinks about Liverpool’s Luis Suarez. Most fans likely feel that a word which defines his character starts with the letter ‘C’ (and the word is not cake or cute) and it rhymes with stunt. Therefore, forums and comment sections have been loaded with, “Luis Suarez is a disgrace” and “Suarez hates babies and cute puppies.”

Obviously, when an individual who is respected and loved by his followers and proceeds to openly back-bite them to a local newspaper, followed by pleading, “Let me leave the only fans in England that do not hate me”, it introduces a heightened amount of disappointment and anger. It is clear that the cloud generated by this toxic situation has cast a shadow on this entire organization, especially when all of the questions about preparations for the first match of the season were centred on an individual who is not even allowed to play.

So what are the options? Liverpool are forcing the enigmatic Uruguayan to stay. That may prove to be a large distraction to the rest of the squad and result in the passionless play Suarez has demonstrated thus far in pre-season. Or it may result in the same old Luis we know, bagging in goals perpetually. The hope would be that Suarez would be the centerpiece to bringing the glory of Europe back to Anfield, and leave the league for a more-than-generous fee. However, if Suarez demonstrates no form of interest (like he has so far this season), the fee Liverpool receive next year to cut him loose will be a shadow of what they had hoped, and he will probably leave anyways.

The other option is to let him leave now, retain 50 million quid and use it to strengthen other areas of the squad. Benefits of this scenario would be: no more distraction. Disadvantages? It’s not hard for everyone to point that out – “Suarez scored 30 goals last season and was the catalyst to an otherwise anemic offence. Without him, they can say goodbye to European qualification.” That statement brings you, my intelligent readers, to our topic today: Can Liverpool without Suarez still compete at a high level? I won’t say yes. But maybe they can. My friends, please step away from the ledge and think about these words.

Suarez is by far the most skilled player on the entire squad, and has proven this by bagging in goals weekly. It is very unlikely that anyone on the squad will reach a whisker of a 30-goal season this year. Logic says, if Suarez was the lone offence to this team, without Suarez there will be no offence. But if teams win based on logic, City would have been the FA cup champions this year instead of Championship side Wigan.

On a usual matchday for the last 2 seasons, Suarez would score a goal a game. As well as the goals he scored, he had missed at least 4 golden chances that match. Suarez’s style of play usually consists of getting the ball, jinking past 2 defenders and score or miss. He tends to create an island for himself on the 18 yard box and try to wreak havoc on opposing defenders, scoring but also dropping countless golden chances along the way. When you have a player who has so many goals and chances, a certain question can be raised. Perhaps, Suarez is the only offensive player because the team relies on him to score, and his style of play makes him inclined to work alone. The point can be raised that Suarez just isn’t all that great at involving his teammates in plays. Therefore, the Liverpool offence turned into a one-trick pony that is left alone on an island. In the last two seasons, either Suarez scored, or no one did. It is visible by looking at the goal scoring charts (of players who played at Anfield for the whole season). Suarez had 30 goals last season. In second place was Steven Gerrard with just 10. Huge margin.

Perhaps a Liverpool Football Club without Suarez will score just as much, if not more, when forced to score by committee?

Remember when Thierry Henry was in his last 2 seasons at Arsenal? This was before Cesc Fabregas and Robin Van Persie had propelled themselves into the upper echelons of football stardom. Henry scored 27 goals in 32 matches in his second-to-last season (last full season) and 10 goals in 17 matches in his final year. When Henry left, the world declared, “Arsenal is done, no one will score without Henry”. The next season, Arsenal finished tied for 3rd in points in the league. Alexander Hleb looked like a superstar. Not only that, Arsenal had 5 players with 9 or more goals (they had 3 in Henry’s second last season, and 5 in his last, but he was injured for a large portion). Fabregas, RVP, Hleb, Adebayor, Rosicky, Walcott and Bendtner looked good the year after Henry left. Alex Song was a player that started to come into his own in the next couple of seasons as well. After Henry left, Fabregas more than quadrupled his goal scoring output. RVP is definitely a great player, Fabregas is a great player as well but there had been talk of him leaving the Camp Nou (Barcelona said it was his choice, Cesc eventually decided to stay but Barca did not seem to fight hard to keep him). Are all the players that were an integral part of the Arsenal FC 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 teams great?

Alexander Hleb eventually joined Barcelona (seems to be THE goal for most Arsenal players along with 4th place finish) as part of a £17m deal which reportedly had a buy-out clause of £90m. Ninety million pounds! He made just 19 league appearances in one season and left on loan for the next 2 seasons. Hleb was a good player, but evidently, not great. Emmanuel Adebayor was impressive following the departure of Henry, scoring 30 goals in all competitions. He had continued this success for another season and then decided to join Oil-money rich Manchester City. He was unable to stay in the first team at City as he made just 45 appearances in two seasons. He then spent a season on loan at Real Madrid and Tottenham where he found reasonable but inconsistent success. While Adebayor is a wonderful striker, he was not great enough for Manchester City to hang on to him. Rosicky spent most of his time in the physiotherapist’s office or on the bench.  At first, he seemed like a sure star in London, but the lack of playtime and inconsistent success made him a rather ordinary name. Nicklas Bendtner? He is still an Arsenal player but he spent the last 2 seasons on loan. He has usually been a fringe player.  Alex Song eventually emerged as a strong player and eventually also engineered a move to Barcelona.  He has so far not found greener pastures there as he has struggled to enter the first team.

The point I am trying to make is, a number of decent (but not great players) along with two emerging stars brought success to Arsenal. Without their top scorer, Arsenal continued to score enough to be one of the top teams in England. Scoring was spread out among the entire team and Arsenal seemed to go from being a one-dimensional threat to being a team that had multiple offensive threats. The team clearly worked together to overcome the deficit left by their former talismanic striker.

It can be argued that forwards Daniel Sturridge and Iago Aspas are better at linking with teammates as well as nick in a few goals. After arriving from Chelsea, Daniel Sturridge scored 10 goals in 14 appearances. He showed glimpses of working well with Steven Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho. From the research I’ve done, Aspas is also a player who excels at distributing as well as finishing chances. Though they will likely never score as many as Suarez did, they are decent players. Liverpool did not seem to miss a beat offensively when Suarez was suspended towards the end of last season While still unproven, Liverpool have potential offensive threats in their squad. Coutinho, Raheem Sterling, Joe Allen, Luis Alberto, Jordon Ibe, Gerrard are names along with the earlier mentioned Sturridge, and Aspas, who have the chance to be strong offensive leaders on this team. With the focus being off Suarez, the need to fill the void left by him will fall upon these players and they will definitely be involved this time.

Now before you start tearing me to pieces and accusing me of lacking knowledge, I am NOT saying Liverpool will be a greater team without Suarez. However, can Liverpool pull off what Arsenal did after Henry left them? There are a few resemblances that may make you want to believe it.

 

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