Liverpool

Fernando Torres vs Luis Suarez: Who Was Better for Liverpool?

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - AUGUST 30: Steven Gerrard of Liverpool congratulates Luis Suarez on scoring during the UEFA Europa League play-off round second leg between Liverpool and Hearts at Anfield on August 30, 2012 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Matt LadsonFeatured ColumnistNovember 7, 2013

Steven Gerrard believes Luis Suarez is the best Liverpool player he has played with during his 15 years at Anfield, saying that only Fernando Torres comes close to the Uruguayan.

"The only player who comes close to producing what Luis produced in a red shirt is Fernando Torres... but Luis just pipped him for me" explains Gerrard in an interview with ESPN.

It's an interesting debate—if you can focus on how the two have performed on the pitch for Liverpool, ignoring Torres' departure and Suarez's indiscretions.

Goals

It's easy to forget that Torres scored an incredible 33 goals in his debut season in England—24 in the Premier League.

The Spaniard's first 100 games saw him hit 61 goals—more than Robbie Fowler, Ian Rush or John Aldridge, the fourth most of any Liverpool player.

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 08:  Fernando Torres of Liverpool celebrates scoring the opening goal with team mate Steven Gerrard (R) during the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final First Leg match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 8, 2
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Torres was the fastest Liverpool player to score 50 goals, after just 72 games—the next closest doing so in 80 games.

 TorresSuarez
Cost:£22m£23m
First 100 games:61 goals54 goals
First 50 goals in:72 games81 games
First 50 PL goals:84 games91 games
Goals / games:142 / 81102 / 57
Goals / game ratio:1.751.79

All stats via LFCHistory.net.

For comparison, Suarez had 54 goals in his opening 100 games, and took 81 games to score 50 goals.

Their first 50 Premier League goals tally also puts Torres ahead, taking 84 games, compared to Suarez's 91.

An excellent article by EPL Index statistically compared Suarez's early season form in 2012-13, with Torres' prime of 2009-10, concluding that:

The statistics show that Fernando Torres in his prime in a Liverpool shirt was a much better finisher than Suarez has been for Liverpool thus far in the current season, however, the overall influence Suarez has on the game exceeds the grip that Torres during his time at Liverpool. Suarez is a much more involved player, a more creative and dynamic forward than Fernando Torres, but is that something of greater importance than finishing?

This is the crux of the debate; how do you value non-goalscoring contributions to the team. It's a subjective opinion, and why the "moneyball" approach in football has been widely criticised—statistics don't tell the full story.

Chance Creation

While Torres may lead the way in terms of goals, the counter opinion in favour of Suarez is that he creates more chances for the team. The table below shows that chance creation and assists from the two forwards during their respective four seasons at Liverpool.

 Torres Suarez
07/0843 (4)10/1125 (3)
08/0921 (3)11/1264 (3)
09/1021 (3)12/1390 (5)
10/1123 (2)13/1411 (1)

Chances created (assists) courtesy of Anfield Index.

Not too dissimilar in terms of actual assists, but Suarez created a staggering amount—90 last season— and thus the hypothesis that he creates more than Torres did is accurate.

Other Factors

You must also factor in the quality of opposition—Torres scored eight goals in the Champions League; against Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and in quarter-finals against Arsenal and Chelsea. Suarez is yet to be tested against Europe's continental elite.

Then there is the quality of teammates to consider; Torres was in a very strong Liverpool side, one built around him and paired with Gerrard in his prime. Suarez hasn't had such a luxury until the arrival of Daniel Sturridge.

Indeed, Suarez cannot be blamed for the lack of accuracy from those around him—as shown by the staggering chance creation stats above.

The Liverpool teams of 2007-10 were certainly stronger than those that Suarez has played in since his arrival in 2011. So are Suarez's achievements greater?

What Might Have Been?

What's not often debated is how lethal a strikeforce it may have been had the two of them been paired together at Anfield. Suarez was signed prior to Torres' acrimonious departure to Chelsea, with Andy Carroll the direct replacement for the Spaniard. Now that would have been interesting.

Who do you think was better and who would you rather have—Suarez in his prime, or Torres in his prime?

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