Liverpool FC: 5 Options for the Reds Playing Without Suspended Luis Suarez
In light of Liverpool Football Club's star striker Luis Suarez being handed an eight-game suspension by the Football Association Commission as a result of an alleged incident of racism against Manchester United's Patrice Evra, Reds boss Kenny Dalglish will even now perhaps be pondering his options of lining up over the next six weeks without his attacking talisman.
For further reading on Suarez's suspension and the club's reaction, feel free to check out this piece.
Right here, we examine the best options available to Dalglish to dealing with Liverpool's upcoming fixtures without the Uruguayan No. 7.
Given that an appeal is one possible outcome, Suarez may miss the next eight games, including a trip to Wigan Athletic on Wednesday evening, or he may begin his ban at a later date pending the outcome of any possible appeal.
Liverpool FC's next fixtures:
Dec 21: Wigan Athletic, away
Dec 26: Blackburn Rovers, home
Dec 30: Newcastle United, home
Jan 3: Manchester City, away
Jan 6: Oldham Athletic, home, FA Cup
Jan 11: Manchester City, away, League Cup semifinal first leg
Jan 14: Stoke City, home
Jan 21: Bolton Wanderers, away
Jan 25, Manchester City, home, League Cup semifinal second leg
Jan 31: Wolverhampton Wanderers, away
Little and Large: Craig Bellamy and Andy Carroll
Kenny Dalglish has favoured, on most occasions this season, a flexible 4-4-2 system for Liverpool in the Premier League.
While Luis Suarez has been a mainstay of the team up front, he has seen his partner in crime switched between Andy Carroll and Dirk Kuyt earlier on in the season, to Craig Bellamy more recently.
With Bellamy putting in assured performances and netting recently against Aston Villa, his spot in the team seems as secure as anybody's right now.
Andy Carroll, meanwhile, has failed to deliver for large parts of the season until now, being left on the substitutes bench in the last few games.
The big No. 9 has been unable to forge a significant and consistent link with Suarez, failing to read the movement of, and in turn show his own movement for, the Uruguayan.
Perhaps a more direct version of a classical strike partnership would help Carroll step up and rediscover his shooting boots—something which Liverpool will need while top scorer Suarez is out suspended.
A Recall for Dirk Kuyt
One of the key components of Kenny Dalglish's re-vamped Liverpool last season, Dirk Kuyt played a pivotal role in the Reds' surge up the Premier League table over the second half of the season, netting several important goals in the process, including a hat trick over Manchester United.
This season, the Dutch forward has found opportunities both in front of goal and in the first team itself much harder to come by; indeed, he has started just one of Liverpool's last four games and is yet to hit the back of the net in the Premiership, with his single goal for the season coming in the League Cup against Brighton.
Stuck on 49 league goals for Liverpool, Kuyt has struck 23 shots in the Premier League this term but has yet to score.
Those statistics might make it unlikely that Dirk gets an immediate recall to the side, especially given Liverpool's upcoming opponents, but his work ethic and tactical astuteness mean that he will frequently be called upon, be it from the bench or in the first 11 later in the season.
That Kuyt can also play out wide as well as through the centre will perhaps work in his favour as the Reds' available numbers dwindle through injury and suspension.
One Behind Craig Bellamy: More Chances for Jonjo Shelvey to Shine
In Liverpool's last match prior to the eight-game ban being passed down to Luis Suarez by the FA, the recalled-from-loan Jonjo Shelvey was handed his first Premier League start by Kenny Dalglish.
Playing in an advanced midfield role just off centre-forward Suarez, youngster Shelvey excelled with his good distribution, clever movement and willingness to get forward alongside and even beyond Liverpool's striker, something which hasn't always been the case with the likes of Jordan Henderson playing in that role.
If and when Steven Gerrard finally puts his injuries, infections and illnesses behind him, then he will be the obvious choice to support a lone forward, but in the forthcoming games against struggling Wigan and Blackburn, it could well be that Shelvey gets an extended opportunity to prove his worth to the first team.
Playing with Wide Men Higher Up the Pitch
Lucas Leiva: injured. Jay Spearing: suspended. Steven Gerrard: ruled out through infection. Luis Suarez: a suspended ban in place.
Liverpool Football Club's available players for the centre of the park are ever-reducing in number at the moment, meaning that players in other areas of the pitch are going to be key in jumping the hurdle that is the non-availability of Uruguayan forward Suarez.
One option for boss Kenny Dalglish is to push his wide men further up the pitch, allowing two players to try and offer the levels of creativity and differentiation in attack that Suarez frequently came up with on his own.
A centre of the park trio of (for example) Charlie Adam, Jordan Henderson and Jonjo Shelvey offers a good mix of traits, both technical and physical, and between them, they can be organised into a 2-behind-1, but all three can also play a true central midfield role, allowing more freedom in attack for the likes of Stewart Downing and Maxi Rodriguez.
The pace and width offered by the former and the movement and goal-threat from the latter could be a real asset for Dalglish as Liverpool look to offset the loss of Suarez's skill and chance-creation in and around the penalty area.
Make a Splash in the January Transfer Window
Should none of the four aforementioned options suit Liverpool or work out well over the next three games that remain in 2011 for Kenny Dalglish—or any others he comes up with himself; he's pretty adept at that—then Liverpool have one final throw of the dice to get over the loss of Luis Suarez: the January Transfer Window.
One year ago, it was the time when Liverpool swooped to actually bring Suarez to the club from Ajax.
This time around, perhaps it will be the month that the Reds need to replace him?
Perhaps there is someone on Liverpool's radar already who was going to play alongside Suarez for the remainder of the campaign, but now will be needed instead of him?
Or perhaps we just need to see other players already playing in Red step up to the plate to replace him?
Have your say below—and thanks for reading.