With 95 percent of his games sub-affected under Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, Suso lacked the cutting edge and was floating through games.
This was evident during the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup, where he showed glimpses of skill but didn't quite catch the eye as an incisive passer like Bruma of Portugal or Ghana's Frank Acheampong.
When you don't have reserve sides playing in level two, three or four of the football pyramid—an aspect seen in German, Spanish and Portuguese football—Suso is one of many Premier League prospects whose development is stunted, as they're not quite ready for senior football but are too good for reserve football.
A loan spell away from Anfield was needed.
When it comes to loaning a Premier League prospect for developmental reasons, it has to be an English club or if a foreign team come into the equation, it's highly preferable the loanee is familiar with the culture and language.
The latter reasoning is why Spanish club Almeria were granted a loan for Suso.
Getting To Know Almeria
- The team is led by 35-year-old rookie manager Francisco, who had a modest playing career and is a former Almeria player.
- Francisco uses a 4-2-3-1 formation, a system in which Suso swaps flanks with Aleix Vidal.
FT 2-2. Suso sharp, some lovely touches. Assist on first goal, pass indirectly leading to second too. Started left wing but mostly right.— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) August 23, 2013
- The deep-lying forward is Fernando Soriano, who has a knack for winning "cheap" free-kicks.
- The No. 9 is Barcelona B loanee Rodri, who's tricky in the box but can be quite selfish by frequently ignoring free teammates to take low-percentage shots.
- Francisco allows the team the creative freedom to push forward, which isn't the case at former Liverpool player Nabil El Zhar's club, Levante, a team that has difficulty definding and lack ideas in the attacking half.
- The one prerequisite in Francisco allowing uninhibited attacking freedom is the Almeria players are expected to press like crazy.
Why Suso Can Break out This Season
Don't underestimate how crucial confidence correlates to a footballer's performance, as explained by Luis Garcia, who played a key role in Liverpool's triumphant 2004-05 UEFA Champions League campaign.
"When I was in a bad run of form and everything went badly, that used to cost me a lot of time to recover that confidence," Garcia said, according to LFCHistory.com. "Now at those bad moments I attempt to maintain a level of five, an average level."
With Suso given the peace of mind that turnovers won't lead to decreased minutes or a benching, he is playing with free rein.
Suso showing continuity important to his game. Influential for Almería, now for Spain U-21. Taking over Isco's role. Did not fail...MOTM.— David (@davidjaca) September 5, 2013
Illustrating Suso's Form
Suso controls the flighted ball, traps it, holds off Jaume's tackle, spots Rafita's run, turns and plays in the overlapping right-back, who provides an assist for Rodri.
This was how Almeria scored their first goal in the 3-2 loss to Villarreal.
It was a combination of high football IQ, with Suso knowing Cani was out of position, and high-quality execution in threading a perfectly weighted ball for Rafita.
Suso's natural ability to beat opposing players off the dribble and his aptitude to masterfully manipulate the ball were on show in the 2-2 draw against Getafe, when he completed six dribbles.
In 2010, then-Liverpool reserve team manager John McMahon stressed Suso's need to work hard without the ball.
"We are looking at developing the whole player here," McMahon said on the Liverpool website. "He needs to know about the discipline and work that's required in a team, like tracking back, tackling and staying with runners."
Suso averages 2.3 tackles per league game for Almeria, harassing opponents by snapping at their heels.
His effort is in line with Rodgers' viewpoint of attacking and defending in unison.
For example, as technically gifted as Philippe Coutinho is, he averages three tackles per game, more than Jordan Henderson and Jose Enrique, players you'd think would be more prolific tacklers than the jet-heeled Brazilian.
What Suso Needs To Improve
Suso has a deft first touch, can play defence-splitting through balls or weave his way past two or three defenders.
Why he needs to just send in low-percentage crosses is beyond comprehension.
Rodri wins less than 50 percent of challenges in the air, and Soriano is often in midfield dictating play, so Suso doesn't need to cross the ball.
Three games into the season, he's mishit 18 of 22 crosses. However, of the four accurate crosses, one was an assist in a game against Villarreal, where he sent in nine inaccurate crosses from 10 attempts.