Life After Luis – Why Liverpool Don’t Need Another Centre Forward

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Adam Griffies explains his positivity despite losing Luis Suarez, and opines that we don’t need to replace the Uruguayan with an out-and-out goalscorer.

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK - Wednesday, July 16, 2014: Liverpool's manager Brendan Rodgers during a preseason friendly match against Brøndby at Brøndby Stadion. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez scored 52 goals in Premier League matches between them in 2013/14, cementing their place amongst the upper echelons of strike partnerships throughout Liverpool Football Club’s illustrious history.

The dynamic duo came agonisingly close to providing Liverpool fans with the title they have craved so much since 1990. However, the obligation that Brendan Rodgers doubtless felt to fit them into his side was one of the factors which eventually cost us glory in my opinion.

Please read on.

Of course, that is no slight on Sturridge and Suarez as footballers. Please don’t take it as that. They are two majestic talents who were playing, in tandem, to an absurdly good level for a lot of 2013/14. Strangely, this is where the problem lay for me. There was no question that both had to be in our 11, so Rodgers’ hand was forced to a degree. He had to make sacrifices elsewhere.

It was hard not to be swept up by the furore of our title run-in, sprinkled occasionally by moments of ludicrous individuality from the aforementioned ‘SAS’. In fact, no. Drenched consistently with moments of ludicrous individuality. But it was those moments that masked what was in my opinion, at times, a disjointed Liverpool team. I’m sure Rodgers will have picked up on this too, hinting a few times that it’s not just results that satisfy him, he wants performances too.

Now, with Suarez gone, it’s time to change the dynamic. Will we look toothless in attack or is it time for others to make their mark as we make some adjustments?

First of all, I keep hearing that we have to replace Luis’ goals. Do we?! Why not look to become a better all-round team and subsequently concede a lot fewer? Then, perhaps even more frustratingly to me, I’m constantly told that we have to recruit a new striker to partner Daniel Sturridge. So despite looking stodgy in parts last season, due to playing two centre forwards and sacrificing control, people think Rodgers will actively look to replicate that system. This time with a player who unequivocally won’t be as good at football as Luis Suarez and thus won’t produce as many pieces of sudden brilliance to elevate us from trouble in games. Swansea’s Wilfried Bony is a perfect example. According to some, he should come in to partner Sturridge, meaning no remedy to last season’s unbalanced system and a personnel downgrade. No thanks.

CHICAGO, USA - Sunday, July 27, 2014: Liverpool's Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring the first goal against Olympiacos2 with team-mates Lazar Markovic, Jordan Henderson and Daniel Sturridge during the International Champions Cup Group B match at the Soldier Field Stadium on day seven of the club's USA Tour. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

The Bony link stems from a blinkered and simple theory that to score more goals you have to bring in a centre forward. This is, of course, reductive nonsense. By bringing in better players in other areas of the pitch we will become a more universal and cohesive team. Our control of games will increase, meaning we are likely to create more chances. And more chances results in more goals. All that without adding another central striker! Magic.

What I’m trying to say is, playing two up front was acceptable when we owned Luis Suarez. The quality of him and Sturridge dictated that. Without him, it is time for a reshuffle; we can place more significance on balance, fluency and tactical discipline.

Rodgers may have employed a diamond system with two strikers in the first half of our recent friendly with Manchester City, but I’m sure that was out of necessity to give Rickie Lambert some game time. I’m almost certain Brendan won’t select a front pair out of choice this campaign. Coincidentally, in the second half against City, when we reverted to a 4-3-3, we gained more control of the game.

That’s not to say I’m averse to adding another attacking player. In fact, I think we should. But shelling out around £20 million on a player like Bony, who can only really play one position, is illogical for me. I’d like to see us bring in a versatile forward; someone who could play on the side of a front three and also centrally. That way we could use the player with Daniel Sturridge in a 4-3-3, or in place of the Englishman when required.

What’s the point of spending that amount of money on a player who will only be a deputy for Sturridge?

We also possess a flourishing Raheem Sterling, who has everything to play as a ‘9’. Lazar Markovic could also slot seamlessly into a central striking role in my opinion. The key is, they are versatile; you can play them anywhere across an attacking three. Within Rodgers’ fluid footballing framework, I’m confident either could score goals playing through the middle. And don’t forget Rickie Lambert, who I have no doubt will prove to be a shrewd buy over the next couple of years.

Watch us develop this season. Less of the jaw-dropping spontaneity a certain Uruguayan brought, but we’ll be a better, more flowing, more cohesive and more structured football team. I’m sure of it. The mercurial flesh-fancier Suarez may have gone, but crucially Brendan Rodgers is still very much ours.

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