Luis Suarez Ban: The FA Might Have Just Done Liverpool a Huge Favor
The last couple weeks were exciting and eventful for football and football lovers. Bayern Munich trounced Barcelona 4-0 and Borussia Dortmund hammered Real Madrid 4-1, both at home in their respective first legs of the Champions League semifinal, while Manchester United won the Barclay’s Premier League in England.
Yet, there was one particular incident that strangely grabbed more headlines than the others. It was Luis Suarez’s bite on Branislav Ivanovic that unfortunately got highlighted to the hilt. As enough has been already discussed on the subject, I would like to talk about what has ensued and the probable aftermath.
Thereafter the FA was quick to slap a 10-match ban on the Uruguayan for his crime. A lot was made out of Suarez’s future and whether Liverpool would be able to cope without him for a good six games at the start of next season.
The Reds responded by smashing Newcastle United 6-0 yesterday at St.James’ Park with braces from Daniel Sturridge and Jordan Henderson and one each from Daniel Agger and a returning Fabio Borini.
As an optimist, I wondered and was even discussing before the match with many how the ban may actually be good for Liverpool FC, Brendan Rodgers and also Luis Suarez. After last week’s match indicated signs that concurred with my thoughts, I got even more convinced that the FA actually did do Liverpool a big favor when it chose to levy a 10-match ban on Suarez.
The match against Newcastle would have surely opened Rodgers' eyes to the obvious tactics that everyone has been dying for him to use.
Sturridge up front has always been very dangerous, whether it be with Suarez or without him. In addition to that, Phillipe Coutinho was given the exact role that he thrives in.
Both of them were very good, albeit against a poor opposition.
With Suarez out for nine more games, I expect Sturridge and Coutinho to run riot some more in similar fashion. Everton come to Anfield tomorrow afternoon, and with this game being the last Merseyside derby for Jamie Carragher, the team will surely be up for it.
The Reds can show everyone that they are just as good without Suarez as they are with him.
Much Needed Time Away from the Game
We all know some rest and a ban could be good for Suarez and fire him up. The Uruguayan was missing chance after chance when he played under Kenny Dalglish.
And can you blame him? He had played non-stop for a few years until then without a significant drop in form. He was bound to hit a lean patch or have problems with finding the net.
After an unfortunate incident and an eight match ban, Suarez was at it again. The highlight of the campaign was his chip over the keeper from more than 40 yards out to grab a hat-trick at Carrow Road.
He is an enhanced version of former Red Dirk "Duracell bunny" Kuyt. He simply does not stop; plus, he has more pace, skill, technique and guile in his repertoire than Kuyt. Because he is an important member for his national side also, he is playing a very large number of games every season.
To add to that, Liverpool were not quite able to put up without him at times in the Europa League and FA Cup. This made it very difficult for the manager to rest him and he kept on playing, thrice a week at times.
Liverpool have almost nothing remaining to play for this season. Giving Suarez a rest without him being banned may not have been possible, as he wishes to be involved so much. This is a good opportunity for others, even some youngsters, to show what they can add to the team.
Having Suarez in the team may not always allow others to optimize their impact, as he single-handedly tries to do too much.
I hope after seeing the team perform without Suarez, Rodgers can find a way to include him when he comes back and be able to have the team perform to optimum levels while not relying entirely on Suarez.
Henderson and Downing
A lot was spent by the Reds on Henderson and Stewart Downing to make them a part of the squad. Unfortunately, both were and still are seen as players that will never justify that price tag.
"Never" is a bit extreme, don't you think? Call it optimism, but I truly believe that Henderson will be seen as a success as a Liverpool signing by the time his career at Anfield comes to an end.
If he were to be sold right now, would I call him a good buy? No, I would not. But I certainly don't think that he will be sold this season and I also forecast that he will change the opinions of many Liverpool fans over the next two seasons.
Downing has improved a lot this season. It may be one or a combination of reasons, such as the change in system, a different manager or the fact that this is his second season with Liverpool.
The ban on Suarez can certainly have a positive impact on these two players. We have already seen some evidence in the game against Newcastle.
Let us compare the stats for the three men behind the lone front man in Liverpool's system, considering that we assume it to be a 4-2-3-1 formation.
Against Newcastle, Coutinho, Henderson and Downing had a total of three shots on target, eight key passes, 147 passes and 187 touches. When we compare it to a similar away game against Aston Villa that Liverpool had won as well, the trio had sums of one shot on target, 10 key passes, 134 passes and 182 touches.
Does not seem to make that much of a difference does it? But when you extrapolate the numbers, you can see the gap more clearly.
After taking into account the fact that Coutinho played only 77 minutes against Aston Villa and 84 minutes against Newcastle, along with possession stats that showed Liverpool to have 54 percent of the ball against Aston Villa as compared to only 47 percent against Newcastle, I derived some interesting information.
Against Aston Villa, the trio had one shot on target, 10.3 key passes, 139.4 passes and 190.3 touches. While against Newcastle, they had 3.5 shots on target, 9.3 key passes, 172.7 passes and 219.8 touches.
There is quite a clear correlation to Suarez's presence on the field to the effectiveness of the trio behind him. El Pistolero is a different player to Sturridge and I would not want to change that. But I do think that he could benefit the team more if he minimizes his tendency of being a ball hog.
To be fair, there have been signs under Rodgers' reign as manager of Suarez trying to adapt more to the manager's philosophy and passing the ball more often than not.
The Italian to Get Chances
Every Liverpool fan would have been happy to see Fabio Borini come back and score immediately. No one wants the Italian to have the same fate at Liverpool as Alberto Aquilani did.
Borini's return could not have been better planned. With Suarez's ban, the Italian can get a few chances to prove his worth before the start of next season.
If he can get a few goals and his confidence back by the time that Suarez returns, Liverpool may no longer find the need to get another striker in the summer with Sturridge showing impeccable form too.
Borini is different to both Suarez and Sturridge and can prove to be a good option on the bench if someone has to be left out on Suarez's return. However, any manager would also want the bench players to be scoring regularly and to have the confidence worthy of putting them on the bench. For that very reason, Borini needs to play and it is good that he will get to, at least in the next few games.
Liverpool want to be back in the Champions League. Suarez will not be able to make that happen. So it is only fair that others get their act together and try their best.
You can either feel sorry for yourself or see your miseries as opportunities.
Yes, Suarez's ban has monetary significance to the club, but that will be factored into the Uruguayan's next contract anyway.
Yes, Newcastle was very poor on the day. The second goal that Sturridge scored was through appalling defending. Steven Gerrard had all the time in the world to pick out Henderson, whose run was tracked by no one. The Reds were not being closed down and they made the Magpies pay dearly.
However, it is still very hard to beat teams that are playing poorly at their home ground by a margin of six goals without imposing your style or being distinctively good. Liverpool managed to do both.
People will point to the game earlier in the month when Newcastle lost 3-0 to Sunderland, at home again and say that the Magpies have been poor lately. However, at least one, possibly two, of the goals in that game was controversial.
So I would not be very skeptic about the Reds' performance on that day. I only wish that they can repeat something similar against Everton this Sunday and prove me right. Suarez will be watching and I hope we will not get our winner ruled offside this time around.