The Uruguayan’s latest indiscretion has earned him a 10-match ban giving Brendan Rodgers the chance to carefully consider his attacking options ahead of the summer transfer window
By Husmukh Kerai
Luis Suarez has once again embroiled himself in another media storm after attempting to take a chunk out of Branislav Ivanovic’s arm during Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Chelsea at Anfield last Sunday.
On Friday the striker accepted a 10-match ban handed out by the Football Association for the offence which sees him ruled out of Premier League action until October.
His suspension does present a silver lining for Brendan Rodgers, though, as he will at least now have a chance to see what his Liverpool squad offers without Suarez, and what he needs to do ahead of this summer’s transfer window.
|NO SUAREZ, NO PROBLEM?
|LIVERPOOL WITH SUAREZ 2012-13
POINTS PER GAME
|LIVERPOOL WITHOUT SUAREZ 2012-13
POINTS PER GAME
The Northern Irishman, along with the board, must come to a decision on whether this latest misdemeanour is the final straw for the Uruguayan’s Anfield career sooner rather than later, or it could turn into a long-winding saga which threatens to overshadow the club’s off-season preparations.
There is no doubting the former Ajax and Groningen striker’s ability – 23 goals and five assists in the league this season underline that.
But despite those impressive figures and performances, the calibre of which made him a front runner in the PFA Player of the Year awards before he decided to chew on Ivanovic, Liverpool have still had another mediocre season, even with Suarez a virtual ever-present.
Liverpool’s win percentage and average points per game with and without the controversial striker provides compelling evidence that they can indeed cope without him.
Since the Uruguayan arrived at Anfield from Ajax, Liverpool have averaged 1.47 points per game with him in the side, compared to 1.78 per game with him missing.
Meanwhile, Liverpool’s win percentage in all competitions with Suarez this season is just 37 per cent – that is just 16 wins in 43 games.
When the talismanic Uruguay international has not played this term, the Reds have actually fared relatively well – winning five out of their six fixtures – an 83% win percentage.
Sure, the majority of those five wins came in the Europa League, but a 3-2 victory away at West Ham should not be taken too lightly.
The numbers from the season before also tell the same story. Liverpool’s form actually improved during Suarez’s eight-match ban for racially abusing Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.
The Reds recorded seven wins out of 12 during that period, including an FA Cup victory over United, League Cup victories against Manchester City and Chelsea and a league win over high-flying Newcastle.
Suarez’s goals can be replaced, any team which loses 20+ goals is going to suffer but take the Uruguayan’s tally away from Liverpool’s performance this season and they would only be three places worse off.
But take away Suarez’s creative input, his combination of assists and key passes, and Brendan Rodgers’ side would struggle, they would sit just outside the bottom three.
Great sides often rely on great players, Robin van Persie almost singlehandedly firing Manchester United to the Premier League title this season is a clear example of this.
But when your key man is as controversial as Luis Suarez, it is time to consider whether hedging your bets on two or three key players could be wiser than leaving the fate of your club in the hands of someone as unpredictable as Suarez.
Who is to say Liverpool cannot sell Suarez and reinvest the expected €47.5 million into two or three players who could make them a better all-round team with multiple attacking options?
The arrivals of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in January coincided with a clear upturn in Liverpool’s form because the pair gave them more options in the final third.
Those two in particular have a chance to show Rodgers in Liverpool’s remaining games this season how they can collectively carry the burden so often placed solely on Suarez’s shoulders.
They have both shown glimpses of the talent which convinced Rodgers to bring them to Anfield and now it is time for the pair to take centre stage.
Goal.com has exclusively revealed that Liverpool are willing to offload Luis Suarez abroad if they receive a marquee offer from abroad this summer.
But with the creative midfielders such as Christian Eriksen, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Hatem Ben Arfa being linked with a move to Anfield, perhaps Liverpool are trying to give Suarez help rather than sell him.
Liverpool managing director Ian Ayre has stated the club “would love to see him” see out his four-year contract in the immediate aftermath of bite-gate but a transfer could happen if a “huge amount of money” is put on the table from a potential buyer.
Ultimately, Suarez is undoubtedly a world-class player, arguably the best player in the Premier League this season, but Liverpool could be a more complete side if they reinvest his potentially hefty fee back into the team.
Even if Suarez is not sold, it is the second season in a row that Liverpool are losing him to a lengthy ban – however this episode unfolds over the summer, the Reds can not go into next season being so utterly reliant on a player who is such a liability.
Follow Husmukh Kerai on
Statistics via whoscored.com and EPLindex