27 October 2011
Goal Breakdown: Suarez 1-1 Stoke
Nothing, absolutely nothing, can take away from the sheer, singular brilliance of Suarez's swirling strike, but I wanted to highlight the contributions of those involved in the build-up, specifically three off-the-ball runs and two cross-field passes. Mostly to ensure they don't get lost in the utter majesty of the finish.
In case it isn't clear, in the above chart solid lines represent passes, the black dashed line is Agger striding forward in possession, and the red dashed lines are the player's movement off the ball following their pass.
Henderson, ostensibly the right-sided midfielder, comes inside to start the attack after Liverpool successfully defended a Stoke free kick (it was Lucas who won possession). After correctly spreading play to the full-back, Henderson follows Agger's run instead of retreating to the right flank. And having followed Agger's run, he's perfectly placed to draw Robert Huth (who's initially marking Suarez) away from the Uruguayan with a sprint to the byline, leaving Suarez one-on-one with the unfortunate right winger Shotton.
Meanwhile, Agger's continued going forward after setting up Maxi, getting into the box despite being a center-back pushed out to the left, but smartly retreating when the early cross didn't come. And at the same time, Maxi joined him in the penalty area after quickly passing onto Kelly, occupying the right-sided center-back Shawcross to ensure he didn't double up on or close down Liverpool's eventual scorer.
And we can't sell two brilliant cross-field balls short of credit. Maxi's to Kelly, shifting play from left to right, opened up the space for Henderson, Agger, and Suarez's runs. Spearing's from deep was pinpoint to Suarez drifting out wide, deftly weighted and easily controlled.
This goal, regardless of the necessarily wondrous finishing touch, is the epitome of both pass and move football and a fluid formation where numbered notation and starting position mean next to nothing.
When done correctly, it creates unwanted chaos for the opposition, requiring defenders to leave their planned marker, not necessarily sure who to pick up. The quick passing between Maxi, Kelly, and Spearing – two of three long in the air – ensures the defense has to chase, unable to settle into the preferred default shape. Henderson, Agger, and Maxi were comfortable enough to leave their required roles, demonstrating some of the intuitive attack we've been hoping for, seen so often in last season's big wins. The problem is that is not easy to build that intuitive understanding, especially with a fair amount of new signings over the summer. This goal is an apt demonstration of Liverpool's undeniable potential, in both creation and finish.
More of that please. And more heart-stopping, jaw-dropping, different class finishes from Suarez wouldn't be too bad either.
Liverpool Offside has video of the goal if you'd like to relive it in a more visual manner.