Analyzing Luis Suarez's Performance vs. Sunderland
Brace yourselves. Luis Suarez is back in the Premier League.
The Capital One Cup fixture against Manchester United in the middle of the week was Suarez's first match back following his 10-match suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic back in April last season. The 26-year-old Uruguayan made his EPL return against Sunderland on Sunday, and what a return it was.
He scored two goals in Liverpool's 3-1 win, the first of which was the eventual winner, and the second left no doubt about the result and secured three points for the Reds.
That brace was good enough to earn Suarez man of the match honors from Reds supporters on Twitter.
Daniel Sturridge was arguably the better player, but you can't dismiss how great Suarez was today.
Here's a quick breakdown of his performance against Sunderland.
By the Numbers
Brendan Rodgers used a 3-4-1-2 again, with Suarez partnering with Sturridge at the top of the attack. They occasionally interchanged, but Suarez was often occupying the left side of the pitch, with Sturridge on the right.
Unlike most of his usual performances for Liverpool, Suarez looked to be more of a poacher. For most of his Liverpool career, he's been a deep-lying playmaker/centre-forward. He's now been freed from having to shoulder so much of the burden in the attack.
He wasn't tasked with too many creative duties. Victor Moses was the central attacking midfielder, while Sturridge was more the centre-forward who held up the ball. Suarez was left to stay close to goal and just look for opportunities to score.
According to WhoScored, Suarez had the most shots on goal (two) and shots total (seven). He completed 81 percent of his passes, failing to make a single key pass.
Perhaps what was a bit frustrating was that Suarez turned the ball over four times, the most for Liverpool. For a player who's not the focal point of the attack, you don't want to see him giving it up so much.
Return to Form
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Against United, you could see Suarez was still off his game. He wasn't terrible; however, he wasn't getting into the right positions, his runs were late, and his shots weren't hitting the target.
It was to be expected for a player whose only real first-team action since April has come in a few matches with his national team. The Uruguayan star needed an adjustment period, and that's what he got during the week.
This Sunday was more the Suarez of old. He was predatory in front of goal and getting himself into attacking positions. His two goals were the result of being in the right place at the right time and then finishing.
In addition, he looked much more comfortable in the attack and seemed to have a better understanding of his duties.
Partnership with Daniel Sturridge
Perhaps the most encouraging part of Suarez's performance was how well he was linking up with Daniel Sturridge.
There was quite a bit of consternation among supporters about how Suarez would be integrated into the side. Liverpool were playing so well toward the end last season and started this year flying as well. That success came with Sturridge playing up top as a lone striker.
Would throwing Suarez into the starting XI throw off the overall team chemistry? Apparently not.
Sturridge assisted for both of Suarez's goals, and the two played off each other very well. They weren't running into the same areas of the pitch, and neither was eschewing his teammate in order to take a shot on goal himself. Sturridge's first assist was a great sign that these two have a great understanding of one another.
What shouldn't get lost, though, is that Philippe Coutinho is still out. Depending on the formation, he'll likely replace Moses as the attacking midfielder or left winger. It will be interesting to see how the trio of Coutinho, Sturridge and Suarez perform together.
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