A Suarez-less Liverpool
By Alex Fairchild
Liverpool say Luis Suarez is not for sale, but the Uruguayan all but left, after admitting that he wants out of Anfield. This brings about an age old dilemma - to keep an unhappy player, who scores 32% of the team's goals, or sell him.
In this case, Liverpool must do all they can to retain the contributions of their No. 7. His work ethic is excellent and his skill level is extraordinarily. He is the best player on the turn, the game of football has ever seen. However, Suarez is keen to get out of town.
So just what would Brendan Rodgers do each week?
He could follow the path which he so did in the team's final matches. In those last four games of the season, the team beat the opposition's keeper 9 times, though they failed to earn all three points against Everton.
One round after the striker's dismissal, the team trekked to Newcastle and walked away with an emphatic 6-0 victory. Braces from Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge bolstered the team, who strutted onto St. James' park in a 4-2-3-1, with the latter mentioned Englishman alone up top. While Henderson was listed as an outside midfielder that day, he quickly drifted towards the center of the pitch, where he played alongside Lucas Leiva, who dropped back, and Steven Gerrard, who stayed level, position-wise, with his emerging protege.
The same front 6 was deployed a week later, though in their must-win match against Everton, the Reds drew a blank. Sturridge was left to fend for himself however, Jordan Henderson was pushed out to the left side. This left the former Sunderland player in an uncomfortable position. A week previous, he and Lucas linked up 22 times. Against Everton, they found each other on four occasions. Perhaps that is because Everton drew out an effective barricade in the middle, as Fellaini, Osman, Gibson, and Mirallas plugged the center of the pitch, pushing Hendo to the flank, though against Newcastle, the same was done by Sissoko and Cabaye. The starlet found a way through, fighting the tide in order to link up with Lucas. Whether it was strong tactical judgment by David Moyes or a job poorly done by Rodgers.
In their face off with Everton, Liverpool were clearly missing their star man, who had done so well against the Toffies in preceding matches. In fact, Suarez had the winner buried in their October meeting, but a botched offside call saw the goal revoked from the forward's name.
Without him in their spring meeting, the Reds lacked the creativity and spark necessary to topple a strong Everton back line. Rodgers attempted to mix things up coming off the Everton draw. He opened with 3 at the back against Fulham. At the half, with the match in 1-1 stalemate, Jose Enrique was introduced and Order was restored, as the Red men returned to positions from their previous matches. They went home victorious on the back of an additional two goals from Sturridge.
The aforementioned signing proved a decent replacement for his suspended comrade. Suarez averaged just under six shots per game this term and his English counterpart only had one less in those final four matches. In his entire half-season at Liverpool, the England international had one half less attempts each game than in that stretch - nearly one shot off Suarez.
In style, the two are similar. Both enjoy having the ball at their feet. Suarez is far more adept on the ball though, as his mazy dribbles and deft touches see him leave defenders mesmerized. Sturridge is a solid footballer, but no where near as tricky as his teammate. Just days ago, he showed off his technical ability in the midst of creating Frank Lampard's goal against the Republic of Ireland. The ex-Chelsea man cut in from the left, throwing a step over at the Irish, before looping the ball to Lamps to level the match.
Thus it seems that playing a 4-2-3-1 with Sturridge as the lone forward is Rodgers' best option.
Liverpool may be okay without Suarez. Fabio Borini will be fully fit come pre-season and should slide into the team as a decent substitute, while Jordan Henderson and Lucas will make up a strong midfield, with a still strong Stevie G there to assist to the cause. That is not to say that Liverpool should simply give up the Uruguayan. The Reds front office must fight with tooth and nail to keep the Premier League's most formidable forward force. They must make up with Suarez, who has stated that he resents their treatment of him.
While the cash from the striker's sale would do, it may not be worth it to integrate a new player into the team. Gerard Deulofeu, who has starred for Barcelona B, is a loan target for the team (note that he has been for some time now), though he carries quite the price tag for what would be a short term fix, and rightfully so - some say he is the next Messi. But another creative player may bring more flair into the fold, which is not necessary. The team may already have enough, with Coutinho and Sterling.
The bottom line is that Liverpool must build for the long term. Suarez is an integral part of Brendan Rodger's project. He is the type of player that a team can be built around, and that process has certainly commenced. Whether or not Suarez departs, his decision will significantly alter the path on which Liverpool walk however, only time will tell. All stats from Whoscored.com & FourFourTwo Stats Zone.