Aaron Cutler lavishes praise on Luis Suarez and questions some of his team-mates.
Steven Gerrard this week became only the tenth player to make 600 appearances for Liverpool. An inspirational figure of astounding ability, the biggest compliment I can pay our captain is he was the closest thing I’ve seen to a one man team. That was, perhaps, until now. Because at this moment in time our football club is pinning all of its hopes on the genius of Luis Suarez. The mercurial Uruguayan is at the heart of every move, goal and point we deliver. Indeed, before yesterday El Pistolero had figured in 80% of his teams Premier League goals this term- whether that through an assist or individual strike. Put simply, if the reds are to stand any chance of winning Suarez needs to shine.
That is of course a heavy burden. Most would shrink under the weight of expectancy but for the time being at least, Suarez seems to feed off it. Against Newcastle he was, to quote Brendan Rodgers, ‘unplayable.’ Twisting and turning beyond defenders, darting in-behind, coming short, drifting wide – he was a constant menace. In fact, his sheer nuisance was enough to enrage Fabricio Collocini, whose red card was surely born out of frustration. That equaliser meanwhile was a thing of beauty. The irony behind it was the fact it stemmed from a seemingly outlawed approach – long ball. Jose Enrique lobbed a pass forward in speculative fashion. However, Suarez’s ingenuity and brilliance enabled him to evade the hapless Collocini before perfecting the art of chest control. To then round a despairing Tim Krul and notch in-front of The Kop was world class. His tenth goal in 15 games – not bad for a ‘poor’ finisher.
The worry for supporters and staff alike is the lack of assistance afforded to Suarez. Raheem Sterling has been a breath of fresh air this term and appears the only alternative when it comes to delivering goals. The seventeen year old was terrific yesterday but the fact we look towards him for inspiration is a sad incitement on the rest of the squad.
Playing deeper inhibits Gerrard tremendously. He may be given license to spray balls across the park but his goal threat becomes non-existent. The sooner Lucas returns to the fold and enables his skipper to roam forward the better. Alongside Gerrard the diminutive Joe Allen needs to offer more. Clearly excellent in possession, he recycles play and keeps things ticking over in the middle of park. However, control is only half of the battle. Before long, the Welshman needs to provide some killer balls or at least attempt to support the forward line with telling runs. The distance between Suarez and our three central midfielders was enormous in Sunday’s opening half. That chasm diminishes any goal threat further still.
Nuri Sahin meanwhile is a classy player but his form has dipped considerably in recent weeks. When on his game he can offer the guile needed to fashion chances but just now play seems to be passing him by. His direct rival is Jonjo Shelvey, who by general consensus endured a bit of a nightmare when introduced from the bench. Two big misses were ultimately the difference between one and three points. But at least Shelvey was available to squander. The combative midfielder has a great habit of wandering into goalscoring positions and a calmer head will surely result in a decent return.
Nevertheless right now Suarez is the sole reason we have points on the board. Everyone realises ours is a huge rebuild job and transition takes time. Unfortunately, the longer it takes the further we fall behind. In an ideal world Rodgers could introduce his methods whilst lurking within striking distance of the top six. Whilst still achievable, our lack of options mean we are likely to be cut adrift in mid-table.
Reinforcements are essential in January’s window. FSG completely shafted our boss with the refusal to fund a deal for Clint Dempsey and must surely realise the error of their ways. At 29 he was deemed too old to bring sufficient value to a long-term strategy. Manchester United have made a mockery of that thesis with their capture of Robin Van Persie. United forked out £20m for the Dutchman (himself 29) and are now reaping the rewards.
We can only hope Suarez props us up until the New Year, at which time John W Henry will need to prove his commitment to Liverpool by opening the cheque book.
It is unfair to expect Suarez to inspire us week-in-week-out, as it is to deny him Champions League football. Without meaning to sound like a doom-monger, our number 7 is far too good a player not to grace Europe’s elite tournament. His loyalty to LFC cannot be questioned. He signed a new deal in spite of interest from Juventus, while on the field he masks any frustrations by sweating blood for the cause – something Fernando Torres never bothered doing. In an ideal world he could achieve his ambitions at Anfield but we are some way off delivering on those goals.
Come the end of the season he may have a heartbreaking decision to make. Before then however his team must find a way of supplementing his artistry. One booking away from suspension, The Reds face the real prospect of lining-up without a recognised striker. In that instance others need to step-up as it is unrealistic to pin your hopes on a teenager.
Going forward we have certainly missed the outlet provided by Glen Johnson. In the form of his life, the England right-back consistently seeks to overlap and deliver on Rodgers preference to deploy wing-backs. Johnson is one of the few players prepared to run beyond the midfield and effect play in the final third. The fact he has been picked on the left of defence this season is in part a compliment to Andrew Wisdom but also a damning assessment on Enrique. It is hard to remember a player’s performances nose-diving so dramatically. Possibly John Arne Riise in 2007/08?
Initially looked upon as a great piece of business, the Spaniard is now firmly categorised amongst last season’s disastrous signings. Positionally he struggles, with his brute strength consistently bailing him out of danger in that respect. Moreover when on the ball he seems programmed to beat two or three players before popping-off a simple pass. This is infuriating at the best of times but particularly when counter-attacks are slowed because of it. In Being: Liverpool Brendan made a point of reminding Jon Flanagan he was not Cafu. He might be advised to wake Enrique up from the twelve month day-dream in which he’s been trying to emulate Messi.
Full-backs are essential in Rodgers system, both defensively and offensively and Enrique must rediscover his touch quickly if he is to have a future at LFC. That is something Joe Cole seemingly has no hope of. A pathetic display against Swansea in last week’s cup tie was the final nail in the playmaker’s coffin. His manager’s disappointment was evident with Cheryl Cole now standing more chance of lining-up for Liverpool than her namesake. His plight is a reminder that January may also be used as a period to raise funds – though surely no English club will stump up cash or wages for the fomer Chelsea man.
The next few months are of huge importance to Liverpool. Not only must Brendan Rodgers improve on a record of two wins in ten league games, his bosses must provide him with the funds to do that. At the same time those who started the season need to aid their one world class teammate instead of simply admiring him. If they fail to do so, they may soon be admiring from afar.