Brendan Rodgers Right to Give Luis Suarez Wide Role in Liverpool Attack

Karl MatchettFeatured ColumnistSeptember 4, 2013

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 24:  Liverpool FC Manager Brendan Rodgers (L) looks on as Luis Suarez of Liverpool is substituted into the match during the match between the Melbourne Victory and Liverpool at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on July 24, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia.  (Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images)
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

It seems that Liverpool have scarcely felt the absence of suspended star forward Luis Suarez, winning three games out of three this season to sit atop the Premier League.

Suarez will return from his ban during September, though, and is likely to return to the starting XI sooner rather than later. Manager Brendan Rodgers has indicated that he will be coming back in a wider role in attack compared with last season, as per Andy Hunter at The Guardian, and the Reds' boss is right to suggest this could be the best role for the Uruguayan this term.

No stranger to headline performances, Suarez's first game back from his ban will be against Manchester United in the Capital One Cup, the first chance fans will have to see Rodgers' plans for him this season.


Suarez in 2012-13

Last season Suarez was the top scorer for Liverpool with 30 goals in all competitions, finishing second-highest in the Premier League behind only Robin van Persie. He played the first half of the campaign as the Reds' only real centre-forward option, with Fabio Borini injured and all the Reds' other attackers having been sold or loaned out.

The Uruguayan didn't disappoint, hitting hat-tricks against Norwich City and, later in the season, Wigan Athletic, and netting 10 league goals in the opening 12 games.

During the second half of the campaign, following the signing of Daniel Sturridge, Suarez remained central but played a more withdrawn role, being alternately the creator from deep and the runner beyond the forward taking advantage of Sturridge's movement.

Suarez did play a wider role in a couple of games, notably against Sunderland early in the season, when Borini played up front, and later against Arsenal. Both times he operated from the left, but these instances were few and far between.


Liverpool's Current Options and Suarez's Role

Rodgers has, rightly, decided that Philippe Coutinho is far more effective for Liverpool from a central-attacking-midfield role, and therefore the rest of the attack needs to be structured around getting the best out of him.

Sturridge's place is also secure as the main No. 9 for Liverpool.

His blistering start to the season—five goals in four games—means that he will remain the centre-forward, with Suarez operating from one flank or the other.

It is possible that Suarez will resume from the left, cutting in on his right foot, but judging by the other options in the squad it will be the right flank from which Suarez operates. Iago Aspas can provide cover from the right and centre, but Raheem Sterling, Jordon Ibe, new signing Victor Moses and youngster Luis Alberto are all more comfortable and more effective from the left.


Best Plan of Attack?

In terms of a first-choice front four, the Reds likely have three-quarters of the positions filled on a regular basis, with just the left flank up for grabs depending on opposition and player form.

Playing Coutinho and Suarez behind Sturridge gives Liverpool a great amount of on-the-ball ability, movement and vision, while all three can also contribute heavily to creating and taking goalscoring chances.

On the opposite flank to Suarez, Jordan Henderson combines athleticism and tactical flexibility with his improving influence on the field and reliability in defensive work, while Moses will be more of an attacking threat with his direct movement toward goal.

In both cases Rodgers is likely to rely heavily on the full-backs getting forward to provide constant width for the Reds' attack, with Glen Johnson on the right side—after his recovery from injury—also likely to need additional cover from midfield when defending.

From Suarez in particular, Liverpool will want great movement and interchanging of position with his fellow line of attacking players, especially with penetrating runs into the penalty area from his wide role. Sturridge's trademark dart outside the box invariably leaves a gap for the right-sided forward to burst into, and in Coutinho the Reds will have the perfect man in place to find the through ball.

Suarez might be playing in a different and deeper role than he did last season, but don't expect that to have too much of an impact on his shot count if he, Sturridge and Coutinho can quickly click as an attacking trio.