It’s not very often that popular opinion appears to toe the line with urban myth, but in the case of Liverpool’s Luis Suarez, it seems amazing that a few more of us aren’t currently reeling in amazement at the Uruguayan’s current feats.
The detractors seem to be unsurprisingly silent in their current observations, but who can be surprised after his current run of form? Suarez currently sits as the Premier League’s highest goalscorer, after notching an outstanding 10 goals in 12 games. An incredible run of form by any striker’s standards, would you not agree? Or maybe not. As apparently, he isn’t much of a goalscorer, is this Suarez lad.
Let’s rewind back to the ashes of the car wreck that was Liverpool’s season’s opener at West Bromwich Albion. Their 3-0 hammering at the hands of Steve Clarke’s side didn’t look good however you look at it, but despite a raft of candidates that could quite easily have been given a guilty verdict, it seemed fitting that one man in particular seemed to come in for pelters.
Indeed, whether his recent history had anything to do with it, it’s difficult to say, but there seemed something overly alarmist about the criticisms aimed at Luis Suarez in the face of defeat. The ex-Ajax man suffered a terrible day at the office be all accounts and to say he looked impotent in front of goal at the Hawthorns was bordering on complimentary.
Although Suarez it seems, isn’t allowed a day off.
And as ever, it was the usual members of the Liverpool old boys club, that were keen to edge in, offering their unflappably well weighted sentiments.
“Suarez is a fantastic player, but I don’t know if he is a natural goalscorer, somebody like a Michael Owen,” blurted out Gary McAllister back in August.
“I can see him chipping in with a good amount of goals but is he somebody who is going to get 25 plus? I’m not so sure,” continued the Scot, before suggesting that Stewart Downing was more than capable of getting into double figures, in the same interview with BBC Sport.
Following Fabio Borini’s injury that left manager Brendan Rodgers with only fit forward in Suarez, you would have thought that those connected to the club would have been keen to get right behind their number seven. Not quite.
Sandwiched in between a splashing of traditionally negative insight from both Alan Hansen and Mark Lawrenson on Match of the Day, it was former Liverpool striker John Aldridge, who was next up to dismiss Suarez’s goal scoring exploits.
“He is not a natural goalscorer and cannot turn himself into one,” said Aldridge at the end of last month.
“He [Suarez] has a major problem when it comes to the most important part of this game – sticking the ball in the back of the net.
“You have either got it or you haven’t when it comes to penalty box poaching and sadly for Liverpool, Suarez falls into the latter category.”
While Luis Suarez probably hasn’t paid much attention to anything the critics have had to say – he certainly didn’t give a monkeys about Fifa vice-president Jim Boyce’s criticisms when he labelled him a publicity seeker – even in the reactive world of the Premier League, there was something difficult to understand about Suarez’ most recent raft of stick.
Last season, Suarez’s chance conversion rate was 9.26%, compared with the 2011/12 average of 13.30%. Yes, he was guilty of his share of misses in the top flight, as every striker is, and you can suggest that the observations made by the likes of McAllister and Aldridge isn’t perhaps wholly unfair. But to focus on merely the statistics, doesn’t tell the entire story.
A chance conversion statistic doesn’t give any credence to how hard the chance was and considering at times last season he was having to almost single handedly create his own luck, that’s not maybe as bad as it seems.
Even then, he may have missed his share, but he did in fact end up with a tally of 17 goals in 39 games in all competitions last term. That’s not too far off the benchmark ratio of one in two, widely considered to be a striker’s bread and butter. Throw in his eight-game suspension, one that if nothing else, offered a massive disruption in terms of his form and he’s not done al that badly at all.
Maybe Suarez isn’t a natural goalscorer, in the ilk of say a Robbie Fowler or a Michael Owen. But then again, how many natural goal scorers currently exist within the Premier League? Even a goalscorer as prolific as Robin van Persie boasts a spectrum of talents that go far beyond that of simply putting the ball in the back of the net. Darren Bent is living evidence that sides in the modern game need more than a striker who can simply finish.
It’s very easy to sit here and simply lampoon those who look to have got it wrong – indeed, Suarez could just as easily go off the boil as easily as he could continue putting the heat on. But where as every club has its range of respected voices and legends of which fans turn towards to heed opinion, Liverpool appear to have a small army of them. And for all intents and purposes, that’s all very well. But when they start piping up making wild observations as they have done with Suarez this season after a handful of games, is it really helping anyone?
To say Luis Suarez isn’t everyone’s cup of tea is perhaps the understatement of the year so far. But if you strip away the controversy, there really is one hell of a footballer underneath. One that in purely footballing terms anyway, is continuing to put egg on the faces of his doubters. And long may it continue.
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