Why Luis Suarez's Liverpool Season Should Be Deemed a Success, Not a Failure

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 15, 2013

WIGAN, ENGLAND - MARCH 02:  Luis Suarez of Liverpool celebrates after scoring his third goal to complete a hat trick during the Barclays Premier League match between Wigan Athletic and Liverpool at the DW Stadium on March 2, 2013 in Wigan, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Up until late April, Liverpool's Player of the Season award was a pretty straightforward matter, and it was probable that the same player would win the Premier League PFA Player of the Year too. There would always be conjecture there, of course, but an incident occurred at Anfield against Chelsea that put that argument to bed regardless.

It was, of course, Luis Suarez biting the arm of Branislav Ivanovic.

The media reaction was predictable, the ensuing 10-match ban from the FA harsh or appropriate, depending on the stance of the opinionated many. Regardless, it was the end of the season for Suarez, and so it ended his double challenge to win the PFA POTY and the Premier League Golden Boot awards.

A moment of madness, which cost the Uruguayan a stint on the sidelines, but this was far from being a microcosm of the season as a whole.

As such, Suarez's personal season for Liverpool should still very much be seen as a positive one.

This year for the Reds was always likely to be one of transition, but it was still an important building block of what the club aims to achieve in the future. For that reason, it was important for as many of the senior players as possible to show their true abilities and qualities as often as possible, to ascertain how they might fit into the long-term plans of Brendan Rodgers.

Criticisms the previous campaign had been aimed Suarez's way on account of his wayward finishing, his lack of continued presence in the box—as if it was his fault nobody else was regularly scoring—and his perceived simulation. On a personal level, at least, it was the aim for Suarez to improve on these three aspects of his technical and tactical approach to the game.

Check mark No. 1 can certainly go against that first issue.

At the time of his suspension, Suarez led the Premier League top scorers list with 23 goals in 33 games, having improved his conversion rate of shots by some distance and reduced his minutes-per-goal rate from 231 in the 2011-12 season to just 128 minutes this term.

Had he not received the suspension, the odds are he would have gone on to hold off the challenge of Robin van Persie over the final matches of the season to take the Golden Boot.

It wasn't just in his finishing, though, that Suarez had shown his importance to the team. With Andy Carroll loaned out and Fabio Borini injured, the Uruguayan was the Reds' only senior forward available to play from October through to January, and he led the line with admirable consistency and resilience.

"Where would Liverpool be if not for Suarez?" became a repetitive and monotonous complaint from outside the club, as if the Reds would suddenly be starting every game with 10 men on the pitch and no centre-forward, but there was no doubt that Luis was the go-to man for construction and finishing off attacking moves.

His link-up play remained exemplary, his movement fantastic. Defenders tried to double-up on him, only for his sleight-of-foot to leave them bemused, bamboozled and horribly exposed.

Even now, having missed the end-of-season chunk of games, Suarez leads every other Premier League player in the number of dribbles-per-game attempted, totalling 95 for the season, and in shots per game, with 187 efforts overall.

And it wasn't just chances for himself he made, but for others: In terms of key passes, Suarez sits third overall, behind only David Silva and Leighton Baines, having created an average of 2.7 chances each and every match for his Liverpool teammates.

Versatility in his positional play became a factor as the season wore on, and the Reds strengthened in January, as Suarez operated from the left flank of the attack and in a No. 10 role. An instant understanding forged with Daniel Sturridge seemed immediately exciting as the pair combined for eight goals between them in their first few matches in the same team.

Hints at what were to come with Philippe Coutinho finding his feet as well were arguably even more capable of whetting the appetite of Reds fans, and it will be those two linking up—as they did against Wigan Athletic so well—that Kopites want to see more of next season.

The diving claims receded after a midseason berating from the management, the Reds were scoring more goals than they had in previous seasons with Suarez at the centre of everything, and on the whole, results were on an upward, positive trend, even if they hadn't yet achieved the consistency Liverpool were looking for.

A Europa League match against Zenit St. Petersburg at Anfield showed the drive, passion, commitment, quality and ferocity that make up the boiling pit of emotions that is Luis Suarez on the football pitch.

A pair of sumptuous free-kicks fuelled the fire of that rage and inspired belief among thousands where only desperation had been present an hour beforehand.

The end result, a disappointment just too short of another fantastic European comeback was broadcast on the faces of all and on that of Suarez more than most.

This game, defeat in Europe in a competition that most teams barely seem to want to play in, meant absolutely everything to the No. 7 at that moment.

There was still more to play for, but ultimately consistency would continue to be the bane of Liverpool's season as they bid for European competition next season once more. And then, Suarez wasn't part of the latest part of that challenge, after Ivanovic and the lengthy ban that followed.

It's cost Suarez much already, and who knows, given the potential for summer additions it might even cost him—in the very short-term, no doubt—a place in Liverpool's starting XI after he returns next season. If he even lingers on that long at Anfield, of course.

But a poor season? A failure? Not Luis. Not this year, and not since he joined.

He's had his moments, alright. Don't all top players? But Suarez has the mental ability and the technical quality to have an off-day, go back into training and smack in hat-trick three days later in the next game.

Liverpool's year has been up-and-down at times, but Suarez's, well, Suarez's is perpetually up, interspersed with plunging lows from time to time. That's just the way he is, and Liverpool will take him that way as they try to encourage him to improve his disciplinary record many times over before parting ways with him of their own accord.

That's how much of a success he has been.


Player statistical data from WhoScored.com