Liverpool Performances Prove Forward Luis Suarez Is Not Expendable
Namely, that forward Luis Suarez had finally completed his long, 10-match ban and would be available for selection to Brendan Rodgers once more.
Of course, Suarez being the media hog that he is, his first game back just happens to be against Liverpool's biggest rivals, Manchester United, in the Capital One Cup third round. It's been 10 games though since Suarez competitively featured for the Reds, so should he walk back into the team?
Do Liverpool's results without him, indeed, prove that he is no longer the sole focus of the team and that Rodgers and his Reds can do without him if needed?
Suarez Out, Balance In?
Liverpool's results without Suarez have been quite excellent, in fact. Despite the Uruguayan top scoring last season for the Reds, they finished up the campaign with two wins and two draws without him, including the 6-0 thumping of Newcastle United.
This season's six matches have yielded a further three wins, one draw and one single defeat, as well as the League Cup victory over Notts County.
Without the extra forward in the team, Brendan Rodgers has utilised Jordan Henderson far more often, in a variety of roles, while others such as Philippe Coutinho have also had an extended impact through the centre.
At times Liverpool have looked more balanced, though that is not to say it has been as a result of Suarez's absence rather than merely as natural progression of the team.
Coutinho, Henderson, this season's top scorer Daniel Sturridge and, most recently, Victor Moses have become the established quartet of final-third players for the Reds without the No. 7 in the team.
A blend of power, pace, technique and goal-scoring ability is what those players have brought, but without the unpredictability, individual spur-of-the-moment brilliance and aggressive defensive forward play that Suarez himself has.
An extra midfielder in the team has at times aided defensive solidity and buildup play after transitions in possession, contributing in no small part to six clean sheets from those 10 games.
Other players, previously either on the periphery of the first team or, at least, not standout in their own right, have been required to step up and contribute far more often to scoring goals and getting results. In praise of those members of the squad, just one defeat in 10 is testament to their ability to having done that.
But, having finally lost now, they've got to go and repeat that sequence, and more, if they are to achieve their goals over the season.
Last Game, Easiest Recollection
In looking at whether Suarez has been missed, and whether he has become expendable, it's easy to merely look at the last game—the 1-0 defeat to Southampton was lethargic, tepid, lacking in energy and devoid of attacking impetus.
Suarez would largely remedy all of that, but it was also comfortably the worst display from Liverpool out of the 10 matches the Uruguayan was absent for.
Compare it to the first-half performances against Stoke, Manchester United or Aston Villa in terms of movement and tempo on the ball, and it's easy to see how the Reds' form has quickly swung this season. The 10 matches as a whole should be looked at, rather than only last weekend.
Is Suarez Expendable?
Despite six positive results from 10 games—in fact even if Liverpool had won all 10—the team needs Suarez back.
Liverpool are not yet so mighty, far from it, that they can count one of the world's great players as expendable or not the right fit for their tactical system. If Suarez doesn't quite fit into what Rodgers wants to do, his job is to find the right role for him.
The club had the opportunity to sell this summer and refused, so Rodgers simply has to find the right position to not only accommodate SUarez in the team, but get the best out of him without altering the balance of the team.
Liverpool need Suarez, and you wouldn't bet against him displaying just how much in his first game back—at Old Trafford against Manchester United.
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