The Luis Suarez racism saga has been a huge cloud overshadowing not just the player and Liverpool FC, but arguably the Premier League too.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of the case – there has been plenty enough written about that already – not a lot has been said about the actual footballing impact on the club. Well, aside from some typical rumour mongering involving Darren Bent and numerous other less superior strikers.
The question is, could Suarez’s suspension turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Liverpool and the player?
Games Suarez misses: Man City (lost), Oldham (won), Man City (a, League Cup), Stoke (h), Bolton (a), Man City (h, League Cup), FA Cup (TBA, fourth round), Wolves (a)
With Andy Carroll ending his goal drought against Oldham on Friday night, and Stewart Downing opening his account for the club, what we will hopefully see now is a huge surge in confidence of both players. Add in the return to fitness of Steven Gerrard and all of a sudden Carroll could be a player transformed with assists from Stevie G and Downing. Here’s hoping.
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Not to mention the current form of Craig Bellamy, who is almost acting as a direct replacement for Luis at present and has certainly stepped up to the plate.
The Man City League Cup semi-final games aside, the rest of the fixtures Suarez misses are very “winnable” – mind, there’s been plenty of them already this season that we’ve not taken three points from. If the rest of the attackers step up the plate in Luis’ absence, we should easily cope.
Meanwhile, Suarez will be able to take what is a much-needed break. Remember, since arriving last January he has no time away from football having been part of the Uruguay team which won the Copa America in the summer. The tournament ended on July 24th, and Luis was back playing for Liverpool on the opening day of the season against Sunderland on August 13th – despite Kenny Dalglish saying at the time he would ease him back into action.
Liverpool’s over-reliance on Suarez meant he even played League Cup games against Exeter and Brighton, and even with missing the last three games through suspension he remains fifth in playing time for LFC this season so far.
By having Suarez taken away, it will offer an opportunity for others and hopefully they will step up to the challenge, thus removing the over-reliance on Suarez.
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With the Reds having safely seen off Oldham in the FA Cup, Suarez will now be eligible to face Tottenham on February 6th, then Man United at Old Trafford a week later. A fully rested, fully fit Suarez eager to show his talents on the pitch for two massive games could work in our favour.
Could the timing of Suarez’s return be the silver lining at the end of the storm? Let’s hope so.