Luis Suarez was at it again on Saturday. And by that we mean both being Liverpool's most prominent attacking threat against Stoke, and also by trying to win his team a penalty in less-than-honest fashion.
Suarez is a world-class forward, with a talent deserving of following the likes of Kenny Dalglish and Kevin Keegan into Liverpool's famous No. 7 jersey. He's also inclined to cheat—if cheating be deemed an attempt to dupe an official into deciding a match on your team's behalf.
The incident against Stoke was verging on the comical. Suarez lost his balance for a moment, then threw himself down as if armed robbers had just broken into Anfield. Three opposition players surrounded him, but replays showed all to be innocent.
All Marc Wilson, Steven N'Zonzi and Robert Huth could do was stand back, aghast, and then look down in disgust at the Uruguayan as he lay prone on the turf. It was as if they were channeling the go-to reaction of comedian Jerry Seinfeld: "Really, Luis Suarez, Reaaaaally?"
Stoke manager Tony Pulis echoed the sentiment of his players in his post-match press conference. Said Pulis, as per BBC Sport:
I've been on about and banging the drum about people who fall over. It's an embarrassment. The FA should be looking at this.
Suarez is a fantastic player with great ability. He is a handful and he is the one player we are frightened to death about.
What happens is that he puts enormous pressure on the referee. Every time he goes down, you have got 40,000-odd Liverpool supporters getting after the referee and I don't think that's right. It is a tough enough job as it is.
As an aside, it's worth noting that Stoke's Huth appeared to stamp deliberately on Suarez during the first half (Huffington Post), and Pulis' team are not exactly bastions of fair play themselves—having finished bottom of the table for the 2011-12 season. But that's for another article. This one is all about Suarez.
The Liverpool striker dives at the cost of his already-tarnished reputation (see World Cup handball, Patrice Evra racism affair), that goes without saying. But is there also an argument that his theatrics could impact his team's quest for (relative) success this season?
Said Rodgers, when asked if he thought Suarez's reputation was coming in the way of justice from the officials this season, as per Goal.com:
I'm not sure you'd need to ask the referees but he is a wonderful talent and irrespective of whether he goes down if it's a penalty, it's a penalty.
What I have seen, he certainly doesn't ever look like he is going to get a decision and that is something which would bother me going forward.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard shares his manager's frustration. "I think even when Luis does get blatant penalties now he doesn't get them," Gerrard said after Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Manchester United.
Is Suarez being cast as the Liverpool's "Boy Who Cried Wolf"? It appears so, and whatever his rap sheet reads, Liverpool and their fans have a right to feel aggrieved if they've missed out on pivotal decisions by result of preconceived negative opinion.
Had Suarez been given the penalty against Sunderland, Liverpool may well have won the match. Had they been given the one against United, the same applies. That's a difference of five points and a whole lot of positivity and momentum with it.
Whether Suarez was wrongly denied those decisions is still up for frenzied debate. Some will argue he dived over John O'Shea's leg at Sunderland, and thus warranted his yellow card. Others will say there was contact, and Liverpool deserved a penalty.
Either way, Suarez didn't help his chances with his exaggerated reaction. Is it going too far to say if he'd stayed on his feet, maybe Liverpool would have been awarded the claim they had against United the following week?
Probably. But you can't help but suspect his every dramatic act heightens the skepticism that must surely permeate the officials who judge his appeals. No referee wants to be conned, and it's a far easier path to turn away a penalty than to award one—and risk the tag of being Suarez's latest victim.
Therein lies the problem for Liverpool and Suarez. Such is the striker's infamy for diving, that Reading players would be well advised to come with sharpened studs when the two teams clash on Anfield on Oct. 20.
Suarez is the Premier League's new Jurgen Klinsmann. His reputation comes before every fall.
Klinsmann arrived at Tottenham with such a reputation for diving that he played up to it with this famous goal celebration.
Suarez, sadly, doesn't share the German's sense of humor. Neither do the hoards lining up to cast Suarez as the Premier League's public enemy No. 1.
But when you think back to Klinsmann, is there an argument that we're all guilty of taking the subject of diving too seriously? Is it really that big a crime to attempt to fool an official? And if it is, why don't we come down so hard on players who persistently do so in other areas of the game?
Moreover, if he truly is paying for his previous crimes in the eyes of the officials, isn't Suarez already being punished enough?
It's opposing fans who get most riled, but in the case of Suarez, the biggest losers this season might very well be the team who pays his wages.
The next time Liverpool have a cast-iron penalty turned down, who do you think will get the blame?
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