Luis Suarez has been nothing short of a revelation since arriving in the Premier League last January from Ajax for £22.7m. His pace, inventiveness and work rate have stood out in particular and marked him out as one of the Premier League’s true star performers. However, while Suarez was signed with the intention of being a key performer, are Liverpool in danger of becoming a one-man team by relying on him too much?
The disparagingly used ‘one-man team’ remark is often levelled at teams with a perceived over-reliance on one player. This very same criticism has been levelled at Liverpool for years, with Steven Gerrard often being made to look head and shoulders above the rest of the side he’s been playing in – which when it includes the likes of Djimi Traore, Josemi and Antonio Nunez is really no wonder really.
But aren’t most teams in the Premier League overly-reliant on one player or another? Arsenal rely on Robin Van Persie a huge amount, so much so that he’s scored 29 of Arsenal’s 56 goals in 2011. You could by that same very token argue that Man Utd are heavily reliant on Wayne Rooney, whether he’s scoring goals or plugging a gap in midfield.
Only Man City and Chelsea, to my knowledge in the Premier League at present, are capable of sharing out the workload, mostly because they are the league’s two biggest spenders in the transfer market.
Swansea goalkeeper, the quite brilliant Michel Vorm had this to say on the matter after his Swansea side’s recent 0-0 draw at Anfield last weekend: “Maybe they rely on Suarez too much. He is a player with incredible qualities. He’s a world-class player. But maybe they rely too much on him. He is a player who can make a difference, you know that. But he didn’t, and they didn’t score. Maybe because we kept him quiet they didn’t have other options.”
For anyone that has watched Liverpool closely over the past few months will tell you, while the side has been overhauled, and at great expense, the side often look to one man to break the deadlock – Suarez.
This is as much an indictment on the success of Dalglish’s other signings as it is on Suarez’s quality in the final third. Andy Carroll has struggled for form and fitness and looks miles off being a natural finisher, let alone the physically dominant striker that he was purchased with in mind. Stewart Downing has contributed the root cause of sod all and Charlie Adam and Jordan Henderson’s roles dictate that they provide and instigate moves rather than finish them off themselves.
Since his move, Suarez has scored eight and assisted eight goals in 24 Premier League games. Liverpool’s best performances have come when he’s spearheaded a fluid attack alongside the likes of the criminally underused Craig Bellamy and Dirk Kuyt. Alongside Andy Carroll, though, while their partnership is in it’s relative infancy, they still resemble a duo going through teething problems.
It’s worth noting too, though, that Suarez has played just eight games alongside Liverpool skipper Steven Gerrard since he signed for the club, with Gerrard being dogged by his own injury demons.
Having an over-reliance on one player in particular is not necessarily a bad thing, as Arsenal have proven in the case of Robin Van Persie recently, it’s just that it’s not entirely conducive to the sustained success of a side. You may challenge for trophies, but you’re unlikely to win them.
When you factor in that while Suarez is undoubtedly a naturally creative player, he is far from being a natural finisher. He has struck 51 shots in the Premier League this season, the most of any top flight player, yet has just 4 goals to show from it. Suarez most probably created half of those chance himself out of nothing, such is his skill, but his profligate nature in front of goal has mirrored that of the struggles of the rest of the side.
What is clear is that Liverpool haven’t had their fair share of luck. They’ve already struck the woodwork 11 times in the league this season. Had each of those strikes gone in, they would be sitting comfortably in third. They are a side, which barring the Swansea and Spurs fixtures, is creating chances in bundles.
They often say the sign of a good striker is that he finds the space to get on the end of a chance. Well with Liverpool criticised heavily last season for a failure to create, it’s somewhat ironic that just six months later they are being criticised for a failure to finish after creating so much. Their luck will surely turn soon.
What would Liverpool fans kill to have Suarez alongside a fully-fit and in-form Fernando Torres now? As was originally intended before his late move to Chelsea. It’s clear that Suarez, while he will be constant source of productivity for this Liverpool side, lacks the requisite finishing ability to punish opposing teams in the Premier League, on the evidence so far.
To an extent, Liverpool are far too over-reliant on Suarez. What first started out as a rich vein of form which filtered through to his team meats has now crept into the underlying suspicion that he’s the team’s go-to man, particularly in the continued absence of Gerrard.
The true measure of whether a side is especially over-reliant on one individual and in danger of crossing over to that dreaded ‘one-man team’ territory is if you take the player in question out of the side, how would that side then do? With concerns to Liverpool and Suarez, perhaps Michel Vorm has a point.
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