Liverpool: Is Steven Gerrard Right to Say Season Hinges on Luis Suarez Staying?

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 1, 2013

Liverpool's transfer dealings for the remainder of the summer continue to be shrouded in mystery, not least of all the potential sale of star forward Luis Suarez.

With Arsenal still reported to be amongst the interested parties, captain Steven Gerrard has been talking about the need to retain Suarez if Liverpool are to challenge near the top end of the Premier League this season.

Speaking with Sam Wallace of The Independent, the Reds' skipper claimed that Suarez's departure would not only strengthen a rival, but his absence alone would make Liverpool's job of regaining a place in the top four that much harder.

Suarez has undoubted ability and was the Reds' top scorer last season, but is Gerrard right to place so much emphasis on keeping the Uruguayan?


Role and Skills

Without question, Luis Suarez is the single most talented footballer at Anfield these days and his ability to create chances for the team is his greatest strength.

Immensely difficult for defenders to track, Suarez has great movement throughout the final third and can change a buildup phase to one of attack by himself, without notice or regard for teammates.

Whether dribbling with the ball, moving deep into space or trying a shot from an improbable angle, Suarez creates danger and makes opposition defences extremely wary.

Last season, he was much-improved in terms of finishing chances, ending the season as the second-leading scorer in the league and breaching the 30-goal mark in all competitions for Liverpool.

Tactically, he gives the manager options, as he's able to play up front on his own, with a partner or else in a slightly wider role with room to roam.


Liverpool Without Suarez

As has been the case since he arrived, the Reds had to see out part of last season without the services of Suarez due to suspension.

He missed the final four games, part of his current 10-match ban, and any fears about a lack of cutting edge without him were quickly assuaged, as the Reds battered Newcastle 6-0. After a derby day goalless draw, Liverpool scored four in their remaining two games without Suarez.

There is a case to argue that Suarez's absence robs Liverpool of creativity and goal threat. Last season, without Daniel Sturridge in the team, that might have been the case.

Other viewers will acknowledge that Suarez has no fixed role within the team and his absence may let other players flourishSturridge at centre-forward, Philippe Coutinho in the No. 10 role and perhaps some yet-to-be-determined names on either of the flanks.

But is that justification for selling a club's best player? And, on top of that, to a rival?

At what point must Liverpool actively build around these players instead of shifting them to one position or another?


Must Reds Keep Him to Be Successful?

The bottom line is, can Liverpool finish this season in the top four of the Premier League?

With the squad as it is at the moment, the answer is almost certainly "No." While four additions have been made, not enough improvement has been made to the supposed first XI for it to be a credible challenger against Tottenham and Arsenal in particular.

As such, for them to even have a hope of keeping pace with those sides, they're going to need their best players in the side each weekthat includes Suarez.

Selling him to Arsenal and still expecting to finish in the top four would be nigh on impossible.

On the other hand, if funds are reinvested wisely and Liverpool do receive upwards of £50 million for him, it is possible that the team could be suddenly strong enough to not miss Suarez and perhaps even have more depth than it currently does.

However, could Liverpool find, and attract, enough players of that type this summer without European football and when their best player is departing? Possible, but not probable.

The safest money, for Liverpool, would be to retain Suarez if they possibly can without infuriating him to a degree where he no longer plays to his best level for the club.

A fit and firing Suarez, in tandem with Coutinho, Sturridge and further possible signings, could give the Reds an attacking quartet to trouble the sternest defenders in the league.

Keeping Suarez is no guarantee of the top four alone, but selling him, as Gerrard says, will certainly make it that much more difficult to attain.