07 March 2011

Luis Suarez, Perpetual Motion Machine

There has been a cavalcade of praise for Luis Suarez following yesterday's match. A deservedly massive sack of love letters and valentines for the player.

He had his tantalizing moments against Stoke, Wigan, and West Ham, but we saw the total package yesterday, a comprehensive beatdown jam-packed with all-around brilliance.

His barbarous run to set up the first goal was obviously the highlight (and Liverpool Offside has the video), but Suarez never stopped contributing. A quick glance at his passing and tackling chalkboards helps demonstrate the full weight of his influence.

The passing chalkboard shows an archetypal second striker, busy all over the pitch. He came deep to cover and help start the attack, and spread play well throughout the United's end of the pitch. A 64.4% completion rate leave a little to be desired, especially when crossing in the final third, but it's still a full day's work.

The tackles chalkboard is arguably more impressive. Suarez won more individual duels than any other Liverpool player yesterday – seven successful take-ons, two tackles, and one aerial challenge. The two red blotches are both halted dribbles, but a seven of nine success rate is still superb, something Liverpool has desperately lacked. And as in the passing chalkboard, Suarez shows up in both halves, not restricted to waiting for Liverpool to cross the center circle (unlike a certain striker sold in January).

Plus, to my infinite delight, he's got more than a touch of the devil in him.

It all kicked off yesterday after Carragher and Rafael's tackles. During the handbag-filled melee following the Brazilian fullback's idiocy, Suarez played peacemaker. And by peacemaker, I mean tried to rile the frustrated Rafael up even further.

Pulled away from the fracas by Carrick, Rafael was moments away from calming down. Until Suarez cheekily yanked his faux-fro behind Dowd's back, which prompted a second round of stomping like a toddler who had his favorite toy taken away.

That's not nice. It's sure to provoke the ever-righteous 'spirit of the game' brigade into howls of condemnation. But it is funny. I'm sorry, but it's always funny when it happens to the opposition (yes, I'm a hypocrite). And I doubt it'll be the last time we see similar.

The dark side is strong in this one, and that image sums it up. Suarez will poke at the rhinoceros until it charges. He'll get so far under your skin it'll cause an infection. And then he'll smile in holy innocence.

Gamesmanship works, and Rafael didn't have anywhere near the same impact after the incident. Having a yellow card restricted him more than anything else, but Suarez adding fuel to the fire helped put the player off. Every little bit makes a difference.

Liverpool needs a Slytherin-esque dark side as much as they need a speedy, dribble-happy attacker who creates and scores goals. The club's gotten two for the price of one in the feisty Uruguayan.

Long may it continue.

Edit: I'm an idiot, and rushed this. There's another chalkboard I wanted to include.

Suarez won six free kicks yesterday, conceding just one. Liverpool won 15 in total. Kuyt and Lucas were joint-second for most won with two each; Kuyt conceded three while Lucas conceded two. That's a fairly big gap.

Suarez is already picking up a reputation for diving, so it remains to be seen whether he can keep us this pace. But those each of those free kicks won represents a goal-scoring opportunity – especially the three closer to United's penalty area – despite Liverpool's frequent inability to convert set plays. It's yet another weapon in his armament and another sign of his menace. Either he dribbles by you or you foul him, because chances are you aren't stopping Suarez any other way.


marc said...

Great piece! But I fundamentally disagree with the analysis of Suarez's temperament.

You seem to paint this picture of a guy who makes calculated attacks to unsettle opponents and is in control of himself, to the point of "smiling in holy innocence."

But this dude BIT A GUY.

Suarez is not in control when he loses his temper. It's not a ploy to mess with opponents. He just has massive rage issues, and when he sees red, he'll bite or hair pull or who knows what.

I love Suarez, but this side of him is not a good thing. And I don't mean on a moral level -- I mean, at some point, he's gonna get a big-ass ban because he loses his shit. And that hurts the club.

nate said...

I didn't mean to infer that his shtick is completely calculated. This incident may have been, but the bite which saw him banned for his final month in Holland certainly wasn't. He does attempt a facade of complete innocence after the Rafael fiasco.

I worry about the same outcome you are. I don't want to see him pull a Cantona. It's definitely a valid fear.

But regardless of intention, Liverpool needs a shit-stirrer. As I've written multiple times, it's why I still miss Bellamy. Again, gamesmanship works. Anything to put the other team off makes me happy if it's not seen/punished. It ain't cheating if you don't get caught.

Neel said...

The EPL is probably not the best place to do shit stirring. The bans will be harsh and the press will get all over it. Italy is the place for you, Nate. {cite{materazzi}}

Dirk Kuyt Industries said...

Good stuff Nate.

By the way, did you see Lucas' tackles chalkboard (Zonal Marking has a screencap of it) yesterday? Any thoughts on it?

Gaz Hunt said...

I'm excited for Andy Carroll to start a match but in the meantime Suarez and Kuyt are looking great. I want Kenny Dalglish to play all three players in attacking positions (with the option for one to drop back)but a healthy rotation policy is probably more likely.

Gaz Hunt said...

"Either he dribbles by you or you foul him, because chances are you aren't stopping Suarez any other way."

That's exactly it. With all those quick turns and knocking the ball side to side, defenders don't know what to do. They risk fouling if they stick a foot in but may concede a pass or shot if they hesitate to do so for too long.

Mike Georger said...

Kevin Keegan punched Billy Bremner in a game for Christ's sake.

A fact that probably has not occurred to most making the comparison to Keegan, but to me it makes it even more accurate.

He's not going to take shit from people, and I'd rather deal with on the pitch antics than punching someone over refusing to play Land of Confusion.

He'll get a good talking to about it I'm sure. There's a time and a place for everything, and that includes taking cheap shots when you can get away with it.

Mike Georger said...

(Granted, what Keegan did OBVIOUSLY not an example of time and place)

master LEO said...

Let's not forget that at the World Cup he certainly showed he's willing to sacrifice himself for the team, no matter what the method is.

Regardless of temperament, he's looked fantastic in red, and that's what matters most.

nate said...

"He's not going to take shit from people, and I'd rather deal with on the pitch antics than punching someone over refusing to play Land of Confusion."

<3 <3 <3

nate said...

Oh also...

@Dirk Kuyt Industries:

Yeah, I did see that chalkboard (link for those who haven't). Surprised me. Seven tackles, one aerial challenge, and one dribble were unsuccessful, winning just one aerial duel.

Still, he only conceded two free kicks, which isn't bad when you're losing out on so many individual duels. Overall, I thought he played well. He closed down attackers, tried to get forward (there's a moment in the first half where he's the furthest player forward on the counter, in a great goalscoring position, only for Suarez to mishit the cross), and had typically-consistent passing performance.