Will he stay, will he go, who is he lining up for dessert? Amy Eustace says Liverpool should just rid themselves of their pesky striker Luis Suarez and let the Rodgers Revolution kick-on this season.
Remember the days when Brendan Rodgers’ Swansea shook fear into the hearts of sides the length and breadth of the Premier League? Those Welsh pretenders to the throne winning the affections of neutrals with their exciting, possession-driven game, spearheaded by the Northern Irishman who knew how football should be played? Do you ever wonder where exactly that man went?
Swansea are still the darlings of the league, led now by Danish legend Michael Laudrup – a man who arguably has a better football pedigree and certainly has a sharper eye for a suit. Meanwhile, at Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers’ patented philosophy has been lost in a sea of scandal, most of which revolves around Luis Suarez.
His reputation has stagnated in the David Brent zone. He’s no longer the harbinger of Spanish-style possession football in England. To some, he’s just a spoofer, drawing blanks and filling in the gaps with meaningless motivational quotes, clichés and mysterious envelope exercises.
Liverpool aren’t lauded for style the way Swansea were (and still are), but perhaps they should be.
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Rodgers has to his credit made significant improvements on Liverpool’s passing, and the returns his approach brought at his former club. Liverpool’s passing accuracy jumped from 80.9 per cent under Kenny Dalglish the previous season to 86.1 per cent, surpassing Rodgers’ Swansea average of 85.7 per cent. They scored 71 goals; an increase of over 20 on both Liverpool and Rodgers’ totals in 2011/12.
With a net transfer spend nearly four times the amount he had at his disposal at Swansea, Rodgers would be burnt at the stake for anything less. The bottom line is that Liverpool still failed to achieve their only sizeable objective: qualifying for the Champions League. It’s an aim that remains distressingly far beyond the Reds’ grasp.
Looking ahead to the coming season, despite the gains Rodgers made in his first year on Merseyside, it won’t be ‘Liverpool’s year’ come at last; more like an extension on the transition period that the club has been stuck in for the past four years. If the impending departure of Luis Suarez is anything to go by, the Reds have taken two steps forward and one step back. Suarez was a blessing after Liverpool lost Fernando Torres to Chelsea. He has proven to be more of a curse.
Having earlier claimed to have been chased out by the pitchfork wielding media, the papers have become his soapbox as his desperation for a move grows. Speaking to The Telegraph, Suarez claimed Liverpool broke a promise to let him move if they failed in their bid for Champions League qualification. He, for reasons unknown, begged to join Arsenal, whose £40,000,001 bid for him two weeks ago was deemed laughable and classless by Rodgers, and owner John W. Henry, but now, according to reports, he plans to stay.
Banned already for 13 games, with 6 more of a 10 game ban left to serve, Suarez has dragged the club and its storied name through the proverbial mud since his arrival in 2011. The club didn’t exactly help itself, wheeling out the cavalry for a man with the social awareness of a baboon every time he was ‘victimised’ by the FA or the English press.
For all the holes in Liverpool’s defence of the striker, though, Suarez owes them even more. Any club with less of an abandonment complex would have told him where to stick his Rioplatense Spanish and taste for human flesh. The least he could do is show a scrap of allegiance to the administration and fans that showed him far, far too much.
Expecting fidelity is like hugging a shark…
But it’s always the same. Fans trade loyalty like currency, when the only tender professional footballers accept are medals and money. Expecting fidelity from a truant like Suarez is like cuddling a shark and expecting it to hug right back.
Keeping Suarez might not be an improvement off the pitch, though it probably would be on it. Who do the Reds have lined up if Suarez has, yet another, change of heart.
Leading the line in his absence has been Daniel Sturridge, who has been perhaps Brendan Rodgers’ best signing but doesn’t quite possess Suarez’s flair for twisting and turning opposition defenders inside out.
Iago Aspas looks like a Bond villain’s hapless henchman, but could provide the creative bite (!) that Liverpool will now be without. 13 goals for a low-table La Liga side is a more than remarkable return, and Aspas also provided 7 assists last season at Celta Vigo.
Luis Alberto, the 20-year old ex-Barcelona and Sevilla prodigy, has plenty of time to adapt to life at Liverpool and he too shown a hunger for goals. He scored 11 for Barcelona B last season, only beaten in the team’s scoring charts by new Everton signing Gerard Deulofeu. Alberto more than significantly contributed to Deulofeu’s goal tally, for the record, chipping in with a huge 17 assists for his teammates.
Aspas and Alberto together cost a total of around £15m. That’s still less than one Stewart Downing.
Suarez isn’t worth the hassle…
Liverpool have been better without Suarez, winning over 20 per cent more games while he was unavailable due to suspension than when he was playing. They have scored more goals and earn almost half a point more without him in the side. In fact, without his goals this season, Liverpool would still have finished seventh in the table. More trouble than he’s worth? Absolutely.
If I were Rodgers, while not without attempting to squeeze a few more pounds out of Arsene Wenger’s stapled-shut pockets, I would say good riddance to bad rubbish. Let Arsenal deal with his moments of madness because even weighed against his many moments of brilliance, the books just don’t balance out.
- With or without him Liverpool are aiming for a top four finish, and you can find out their latest odds for the new season here