Luis Suarez: An Overrated Troublemaker Who Liverpool Must Sell
Suarez's performances in the 2010 World Cup had garnered him much praise, with Man of the Match awards, goals and assists aplenty. At the time, he was also a star for Ajax, having scored 49 goals in 48 games during the 2009-10 season.
In total, he would bag 111 goals and 37 assists during his 159 games at the Dutch club, before sealing his move to Liverpool.
On his arrival on Merseyside, Suarez was largely credited for the turnaround in Liverpool's form, which saw them rise from twelfth place to sixth by the end of the 2010-11 season.
And despite all the trouble that has surrounded him this year, he is still widely regarded as one of the best players in the world.
AsThe Daily Mail's Dominic King recently put it , "Liverpool have absolutely no appetite to offload their current No 7. Why? Simple; Suarez is one of only a handful of world class players at Anfield."
But does Suarez actually deserve to be considered a world class player?
I would argue that he does not.
And, when combined with the controversy that seems to have surrounded his entire career, it is imperative that Liverpool take the bold decision to sell him during this summer's transfer window.
Much of Suarez's current reputation largely seems to rest on his first four months at the club, during the 2010-11 season.
In that period of time, he made 13 appearances for Liverpool, scoring 4 goals and providing 3 assists. For a player still settling into the Premier League, and playing for a struggling team, these are fairly decent numbers.
But an analysis of his statistics from this season provides a much less impressive picture.
In 21 league appearances (19 starts, two from the bench) he has only six goals and one assist. By way of comparison, Craig Bellamy has six goals and two assists in eight league starts and 12 substitute appearances.
Some might argue that Suarez has four goals in Cup competitions this season. Yet, one of these goals was against Exeter City, a team from England's third division, and another was the sixth goal in a win over a Championship side, Brighton, in a game where Suarez also missed a penalty.
He has only scored against Premier League opposition in one cup tie this year—the admittedly impressive two goals he bagged in a 2-1 victory over Stoke earlier this season.
But, it's not just that Suarez doesn't score enough league goals—he also misses a lot of chances.
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Suarez averages 4.2 shots on goal per game—the third highest in the Premier League. Yet, he has nowhere near the shot-to-goal conversion rate of players with a similar average. Robin van Persie averages 4.4 shots on goal per game and has 25 league goals this season. Wayne Rooney averages 4.7 shots per game and has 17 goals. Sergio Aguero averages only 3.5 shots per game and has 16 league goals.
In short, when faced with the higher standards of the Premier League, Suarez has shown that he is not a clinical striker, even when compared to other newcomers to the league, such as Sergio Aguero. Accordingly, Suarez does not deserve to be considered a world-class goalscorer.
Aside from his poor goal tally, Suarez's overall attacking play is weaker than many presume. Three players in Liverpool's own squad have more league assists than Suarez this season, for example.
And while one could argue that Liverpool don't have enough quality players to help Suarez gain more assists, his key pass numbers (a pass which leads to a shot on goal) are also relatively unimpressive.
Suarez averages 1.8 key passes per league game—less than the 2 key passes that the frequently derided Charlie Adam produces on average. Even during the 2010-11 season, Suarez only averaged 1.8 key passes per game.
26 other players in the Premier League have a higher key pass average than Suarez this season, showing that he should not be considered a world class creator of goal scoring chances.
One of the other reasons Suarez is considered a world class player is his ability to dribble with the ball. He averaged a very impressive 3.2 successful dribbles per game during the 2010-11 season—the joint best for the Premier League.
This season, his average has fallen to 2.0 successful dribbles per game, but he still has the sixth-best average in the league.
But if Suarez struggles to score goals and to create chances, who cares if he's good at dribbling?
Take today's game against Arsenal. Suarez completed 3 successful dribbles, the highest amount of any player on the two teams. This included a mazey run which led to a shot on target, causing loud proclamations of his supposed world-class talent among the ESPN commentary team.
Yet, what did he actually achieve? A shot on target which was not a goal.
And this was his only shot on target out of his three shots on goal during the game.
Suarez provided zero assists and no key passes during the match. In other words, he created no goalscoring chances and he didn't score. His pass completion rate was also fairly risible—only 73%.
Let's compare this to an actual-world-class player who was taking part in the same match—Robin van Persie.
He had two shots on goal—both were on target, and both were goals. He also had two key passes, to add to his average of 2.4 key passes per game this season and eight actual assists.
Combine that with the Dutchman's 25 league goals, and it's clear that van Persie is on a drastically higher level than Suarez.
Indeed, when you go back through Suarez's career, questions must be raised about the opposition against whom he supposedly proved his ability.
Firstly, the significance of Suarez's incredible record at Ajax must be questioned.
For every Ruud van Nistelrooy or Robin van Persie, the Dutch league also throws up players with incredible statistics who simply can't cut it outside of the Netherlands. Mateja Kezman, Alfonso Alves and even Klaas-Jan Huntelaar are all players who dominated the Eredivisie, but who largely failed when asked to step up to the next level.
In other words, being good in the Netherlands doesn't necessarily prove anything.
Secondly, many of Suarez's brilliant performances in the World Cup came against nations which are hardly titans of world football—South Africa, Mexico, South Korea and Ghana. Similarly, while he was named MVP at the 2011 Copa America, the quality of some of Uruguay's opponents—such as Peru, Paraguay, and Chile—must be doubted. People often forget that international football can be a misleading barometer of a player's ability. Just ask Toto Schillaci.
Overall, I would contend that Suarez simply hasn't produced enough when asked to play at a higher level on a week-by-week basis in the Premier League. He certainly has not done enough to be considered world class. He is a good player, not a great one.
Yet, on the basis of the stats alone, Liverpool might be right to persist with him.
But one can't talk about Suarez without the litany of controversies that have accompanied him throughout his career.
I've no desire to restart the debate surrounding the comments he made to Patrice Evra, but I will say this—I've read the FA report, and I think they made the right judgement, given the evidence available. In particular, I'm more inclined to accept the opinions of expert witnesses, who have dedicated their life to the study of Latin American culture, than the average fan in the street.
But the Evra incident is just one of many moments where Suarez has acted in a extremely questionable manner.
Should Liverpool Sell Luis Suarez in the Summer?
His refusal to shake Evra's hand before the recent game with Manchester United was a pointlessly inflammatory gesture by an individual who still refuses to accept he has done anything wrong. This occurred after he lied to his own manager earlier in the week, when he told Kenny Dalglish that he would shake Evra's hand.
His goal-line "save" during the World Cup quarterfinal with Ghana shows he is an individual who is willing to commit outrageous acts of cheating while on the football field. Suarez showed no contrition for this incident, and even bragged that he had made "the save of the tournament" after the game.
And let's not forget that when Liverpool bought Suarez, he was serving a seven game suspension in the Dutch league for biting another player, in an act which saw him labelled "The Cannibal of Ajax."
Even in today's match against Arsenal, Suarez has courted further controversy, after it appeared that he dived to win a penalty.
So, in the final analysis, what do we have?
A player who has been found guilty of using racially abusive language, who bites other players, who openly cheats to win matches, who engages in acts of petulance that cause him to miss games, and who lies to his manager.
And, on top of all that, Suarez is not, at present, close to being considered one of the best attacking talents in the Premier League—let alone the world—when he is subjected to a detailed statistical analysis.
In short, Suarez is an overrated troublemaker, and, for the reputation of Liverpool Football Club, he must be sold.
With the proceeds from this sale. Liverpool will be able to find a better player—one who can more successfully represent the club and its proud history, both on and off the pitch.
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