As the news came in about Luis Suarez’s first potential Barcelona appearance being against Real Madrid at the end of October, I started to consider in earnest the massive chasm left by the Uruguayan at Anfield.
I’ll get this out of the way beforehand: I’m well aware that not many people like Suarez. I don’t know him, but from everything I’ve seen and heard, I don’t like him much either. However, it would be utter folly for anyone to say that Liverpool will not miss the striker’s talents.
Make no mistake, Suarez was the primary reason why Liverpool came so close to winning their first title in 24 years. The British press will no doubt have you believe that his influence was only comparable to fellow attackers Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling, but the reality is that Suarez’s goals and his brilliance were the primary factors in Liverpool’s success last year.
So, as we begin to contemplate Liverpool’s hopes without the little Uruguayan, it would be utterly foolish to suggest that his departure will not have an impact. The question is: how much?
Brendan Rodgers has been making all the right noises following the loss of Suarez, focusing on his new signings as well as his existing players. Liverpool have certainly recruited fast with Rickie Lambert, Emre Can, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic joining the Reds’ ranks, and Loic Remy likely to be added in the next couple of days.
When we take these signings into consideration, there are two questions that arise:
- Will these signings necessitate a change in style?
- Will these signings collectively make Liverpool as good as they were with Suarez?
Let’s deal with the first question.
For me, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Without wanting to discredit the way Rodgers set up Liverpool last season, we must be honest and say that a decent chunk of the points earned by Liverpool were earned as a direct result of Suarez’s brilliance. Now a player’s brilliance is not really something that can be planned for. It doesn’t feature on tactical whiteboards, it can’t really be turned on and off, and as such – with the genius now shorn from his side – Rodgers will have to ensure that his side can make up for the loss of Suarez in tactical ways.
The other issue is how the side will set up on the field of play. With Suarez ostensibly playing as a number ten but with complete freedom to roam, this allowed the rest of the side to stick to the positions that suited them best. With Suarez gone, things may have to change.
Should Remy join, Liverpool will have four strikers on their books: the Frenchman, Lambert, Daniel Sturridge and young Markovic.
Sturridge and Lambert are the only two of these four that has a consistent proven track record in the Premier League, with Remy blowing hot and cold in his time in England and Markovic something of an unknown quantity.
Given the Markovic is only 20, it seems unlikely that he will be expected to be a regular starter, which would leave Sturridge, Remy and Lambert to fight over the two spots in a regular strike partnership. This in turn may well necessitate a change in formation.
All three of them are out and out strikers, and this may force Rodgers to either only play one, or play two of them in 4-4-2 formation. Whether this will suit the Reds remains to be seen.
The other question is of whether the signings can collectively make up for the loss of Suarez. I suppose that Adam Lallana is the closest in style to Suarez, but the reality is that Liverpool is going to be a big step up for him. The former-Southampton captain was magnificent under Mauricio Pochettino, but it remains to be seen whether he can take the massive step up that comes as part and parcel of a move to Anfield.
In terms of the general team, it seems likely that they will have to adapt to a new style of play, a less Suarez-centric style of play. Given their exploits of last season one might have been tempted to give Liverpool a chance of competing for the title this season, but now that Suarez has gone, they realistically need to be thinking foremost of finishing in the top four. With United likely to be coming back strongly under van Gaal, even that is not certain.
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