Liverpool Tactics: How Brendan Rodgers Could Get Even More from Luis Suarez
Luis Suarez has started the 2012-13 season like a man possessed; possessed, that is, of a semi-unnatural talent surpassing his peers in the league and befitting a team capable of so much more than languishing in the lower-mid table reaches.
Liverpool are still in the bottom half of the Premier League, 13th position to be exact, with well over a quarter of the campaign now having been played.
Losing has not been the problem; the Reds have lost games to only Arsenal and Manchester United since the opening day of the season, but winning games has proved more elusive than was hoped for in Brendan Rodgers' first months as manager.
Suarez, almost alone amongst his teammates, has been immune to the inertia that seems to be holding back the Reds once they get into the final third of the pitch.
Sure, Glen Johnson has been superb, Joe Allen started magnificently before going off the boil somewhat and the rising youth of the squad—Andre Wisdom, Suso, Raheem Sterling—offer great hope going forward. But Liverpool need some results now, in the coming weeks, to lift themselves a significant number of places up the league table.
Ever since the first day of September, with the transfer window having closed on a fruitless final day of waiting for Rodgers, Ian Ayre and the club's medical department, rumblings about the need to sign a forward or two in January have been heard down the Melwood corridors and press conference rooms.
That's all well and good, but the Reds still have 11 matches to get through with the current squad before any new additions can have an impact, and that's if someone arrives in the first 24 hours of the winter transfer window opening.
Judging by previous Januarys, we can safely assume that number will be increased to at least 12 games.
Brendan Rodgers, then, is going to have to coax an extra few percent of ability out of his current crop.
Arguably, he's already done that in some areas.
Luis Suarez has been Liverpool's main matchwinner this season, scoring 11 goals in all competitions. Considering he hit 17 in total during 2011-12, it's clear there has been a fantastic improvement in the finishing and consistency of a player who, though considered skillful and creative, suffered criticism last term for not scoring enough.
Consider the numbers closer; during the last campaign Suarez took 232 minutes to score a league goal. This term, that has dropped by more than a full match; he now scores at a rate of one every 124 minutes and is the joint-top scorer in the Premiership.
So where can he be improved further? Improving the team in general will help there.
Premier League wise, Suarez's goals are split thus: six goals away from home, two at Anfield.
Liverpool need to be far more effective, ruthless and full of conviction playing at home than they currently are, and there will be no better opportunity for them to do this than right now.
How many of their next five Premier League home games can Liverpool win?
With the greatest of respect to those sides, Liverpool should be looking to beat every single one of them at Anfield. 15 points at home in the next month will go some way to establishing the team in a higher placing in the league, and victory over Young Boys will also likely secure European football in the new year.
Suarez will be key to much, if not all of this.
First and foremost, Rodgers has to keep working on getting the wide forwards into supporting areas much quicker, and more effectively. Whether it is Raheem Sterling and Suso, or if Oussama Assaidi gets a run or Steven Gerrard is shifted further forward—those two players must start sharing the burden of creating and scoring goals.
Suarez has scored or assisted every single goal Liverpool have scored since Jonjo Shelvey's early strike against Udinese—way back in the first match of October. That run has to be ended, for the good of the team.
Others must become involved.
Suarez, though, remains core to Liverpool's attack and giving him extra support will not only give him more options to find with his dribbles and passes inside the penalty area, but also will leave him additional space to exploit.
He drifts, he roams, he waltzes here and there. That's part of what makes Suarez so difficult to track and why he's always the go-to man in the Reds' attacks.
Supporting him is first and foremost.
After that, Rodgers has more he can do.
In Joe Allen and Nuri Sahin, the Reds have players capable of finding forwards in good areas of the pitch. Sahin, however, is playing too far forward—maybe out of necessity at present—to really get the most out of his talents, and Allen is playing too far back.
The 4-3-3 hasn't quite come to exact fruition yet, changing more to a 4-2-1-3 for much of the season before the recent trials with a back three system.
With Allen able to work higher up the pitch and Sahin pulling strings from deep, Suarez will likely get the ball quicker in dangerous areas. If then an attacking midfielder—Gerrard, say, or Shelvey—can make driving runs through the centre and get into the penalty box late on in moves, that's another target for Suarez to find.
Or, what would be lovely to see, to finish off rebounds after a goalkeeper has saved an initial shot.
Apparently, with the exit from Anfield of Maxi Rodriguez and Dirk Kuyt, so left Liverpool's ability to follow up shots and make the keeper perform better.
A new striker or wide forward arriving in January is similarly key to continue getting the best out of Suarez; he needs time to rest and to not feel as though he has to do everything for the team, for his own sake.
As the squad continues to work together, learning patterns of play in the final third of the pitch, Suarez's role as a goalscorer should also continue to excel. The more players know what is expected of them, and of others, the more they should take to attacking as second nature, rather than the laboured and at times un-inspirational manner we have seen a times.
Liverpool have already had so much from Luis Suarez that it's hard to imagine how much better he could become—but a big part of how successful Brendan Rodgers could be, at least in the next few months, will be decided by how much more he can coax out of the Uruguayan.
statistics from eplindex.com
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