Blog by: Tee Tribute
The return of Luis Suarez has left me feeling underwhelmed, subdued and not knowing how to react. So you’ll see a bit of all that here, while I sink my teeth into a topic that has escaped our attention all summer (partly to avoid getting sucked into a whirlpool of never-ending commentary).
“Leave it, Giggsy!”
As Ryan Giggs prepared to jump for a header, the voice accosted him from behind; he stepped back, only to see an unpleasantly familiar player seize the ball and sprint in the opposite direction, without so much as a backwards glance or a ‘by-your-leave’. An angry Giggs ran to the referee, arms raised in supplication, but his complaint was in vain.
Yes, Luis Suarez is back. Not at his best, not even halfway the player who had wrecked the same team single-handedly at Anfield in happier times. He looked jaded – understandably, after a five-month absence from competitive football – but still wily, and still a creative force in the final third. As expected of him, he created chances, nutmegged midfielders, duelled defenders in a cagey and physical one-upmanship contest and ran his heart out. He even took a soft tumble in the penalty box, something he had forsworn last year – but the referee was as obdurate as in the Giggs case.
Several similes have been used to describe the prodigal’s return; most of which hugged the coast of predictable territory. “His return’s good for Liverpool, it’ll add some bite to the attack,” deadpanned Gary Neville. “He’s chomping at the bit to get back,” said Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers. (Knowing Brendan, there’s probably nothing more to it; but delivering a pun-ridden line about your own player with a straight face still deserves a round of applause.)
That bite in attack was well needed on the day. Liverpool were missing Glen Johnson and Phillippe Coutinho, so the burden of playmaking fell largely on Suarez. But the match was decided – like its predecessor at Anfield – by a poorly-defended corner, with Suarez consigned to fancy but impotent dribbling around the penalty box.
Like most encounters between the two sides, this one merits little tactical description. When intangibles like derby pride kick in, average players sometimes start to play like world-class talents; conversely, good players may not even turn up, and the match starts to acquires a flow of its own. Both sides had several chances to score, which were duly wasted so it was anti-climactic – yet curiously fitting – that the match was settled by a tap-in from a corner, with Javier Hernandez doing the honours.
It was an unremarkable exit from an unremarkable tournament. The only point of note, apart from the opponent and the venue, was Suarez’s return. Yet, it is surprising how low-key his re-entry has been. At the end of the match, he walked straight towards the touchline without so much as a wave at the fans. They in turn had been largely lukewarm to him throughout the match. Rodgers attempted to put a positive spin on events, claiming that Suarez has never felt better, and the birth of his first son the next day had given him added spirit. All in all, he expects a reformed and reinvigorated beast to take the field against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light.
I hope he’s proven correct. We’ve done well without Suarez (7 wins and just 1 defeat during his 10-match ban), and Coutinho has stepped up well. We’ve proved, yet again, that the absence of a star forward does not affect our fortunes. But I can’t deny that the profusion of 1-0 wins has left me slightly exasperated; and after three consecutive games without a win, the initial enthusiasm has given way to gloom, as yet another renaissance appears in danger of blurring into a false dawn.
Those fears are unfounded : this season, Liverpool are genuinely stronger than the last. But morale in the stands has dipped over the last fortnight. From the fan point of view, we could all do with a big Liverpool win, the kind that Suarez often inspired us to last season. With a revitalized Daniel Sturridge alongside, he could do plenty of damage to the few defences left in the EPL he hasn’t acquainted himself with yet. Although our cheering will now be a lot more impersonal than it was pre-summer, and definitely more than before his ban.
This topic elicits rather reactionary comments, so I’m going to be careful with what I say here. Had the Uruguayan departed midsummer, it would have left a giant, Luis-Suarez sized hole in our forward line that would have been almost impossible to fill. But this is still likely to be his final year with Liverpool, so to salvage whatever fan sentiment is still in his favour, Suarez needs to display some consistent form and get us back in the Champions League.
For better or worse, he will not get a chance to reacquire the lone trophy he has won so far with Liverpool. Better, because the exit from the COCup allows us to focus solely on the Prem. For us to achieve a sustained run of success in the EPL, our principal players have to come out firing on all cylinders match after match, unaffected by midweek distractions. (Worse because, well, who doesn’t like the League Cup? It’s good fun and completely harmless.)