Why Luis Suarez Was Liverpool's Best Player Against Stoke

Mark JonesFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2012

STOKE-ON-TRENT, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool applauds the fans at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Liverpool at the Britannia Stadium on December 26, 2012, in Stoke-on-Trent, England. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Luis Suarez doesn’t like to lose. No footballer does of course, but defeat seems like a mortal wound to the Uruguayan forward.

Perhaps it would be easier for him to head off to pastures new, then. Off to a team who lose less than Liverpool do―a team such as Barcelona, Juventus or Manchester City. He’s good enough to play for them all. More than that, he’s actually good enough to improve them all.

But Suarez spent what passes for a Christmas break for footballers in England telling all who’d listen just how happy he is at Anfield, how much he wants to stay at the club and how much he wants to aid in what he hopes will be a gradual improvement under Brendan Rodgers.

Fans of every club have learned to take such talk with a pinch of salt of course―given just how quickly the football landscape can change and just what a difference bagfuls of money can make to a footballer’s loyalty―but there seemed to be real passion and commitment in Suarez’s words. He’s here to stay and everyone associated with Liverpool is delighted with that.

In the Boxing Day loss at Stoke City, Suarez was quite probably the only good thing about the Reds.

His endless running and constant availability made a Liverpool comeback from 3-1 down seem somewhat more possible than it really was.

Credit has to be given to Stoke and Tony Pulis for turning in yet another masterclass in just how much hard work alone can win you football matches, but no one on the pitch worked harder than Liverpool’s one and only available forward.

In the face of provocation from both the home fans and some of the home players, Suarez’s movement caused central defenders Ryan Shawcross and Robert Huth problems all evening, starting off early on when he escaped away from Shawcross and was hauled down for the sort of clear cut penalty which referee Howard Webb simply had to give―even if other officials haven’t been as kind to the Reds this season.

Suarez then watched on as poor defending saw Liverpool’s one goal lead quickly become a one, and eventually a two, goal deficit, and although it is true to say that the Uruguayan snatched at a chance at the start of the second half which could have given Liverpool a route back into the match, it also has to be said that no one else did anything more in a bid to try and make that route back possible.

Because of everything else that has come with Suarez, it seems as though there are many who remain reluctant to praise the forward as a footballer, and as he admitted during those Christmas interviews, he is now working hard to rid himself of his reputation as a player who goes to ground too easily.

Barring the comedy pratfall in front of David Moyes when celebrating a goal in the Merseyside derby at the end of October, it is, in fact, hard to think of a time when Suarez has tumbled theatrically since Pulis brought up the subject so loudly at Anfield earlier in the same month, and Suarez’s desire to take the game to Stoke through sheer force of will was apparent throughout the contest at the Britannia Stadium. It’s just a shame that so few of his teammates joined him.

Getting support for Suarez is, of course, key for Rodgers and Liverpool in the January transfer window―a fact repeated so often that it has become a modern day Premier League cliché―and whilst the Reds’ know that their No. 7 will continue to work as hard as he possibly can in a bid to arrest the club’s decline, getting in those with the character to match him should be key.

There are very few with the quality to match him, however, and whilst that quality wouldn’t look out of place in any of the best club sides in the world, he’ll be sticking with this work in progress for the time being.

He’s bound to lose more games with the Reds in future too, but there will be no one working harder to ensure that the number of defeats isn’t too high.