It’s safe to say that Luis Suárez certainly had an ‘interesting’ 2011/12. After starting it by becoming a Copa America champion, as the domestic season unfolded he saw controversy follow him around, as it has continued to since his goal-line handball in the quarter-final of the World Cup in 2010.
As well as the heavily debated ‘Evragate’ and subsequent ban, he also received a further one game ban for giving the Fulham fans at Craven Cottage an unsuitable hand gesture (to put it as politely as I can).
One thing he didn’t do though, and that he was expected to, was score a bagful of goals.
Eleven strikes in the Premier League, scoring in just nine matches, put him joint fourteenth for goals scored and saw him finish behind far less heralded frontmen, such as Grant Holt and Danny Graham. On the other hand, he did create a lot of chances, and this is where I think Liverpool can reap greater benefit from the Uruguayan next season.
Below is a table of how many chances Suárez created in each of his league starts in 2011/12. Bear in mind that the top chance creator in the league (Juán Mata) averaged exactly three per game, according to whoscored.com, so that seems a reasonable target for a decent performance in chance creation terms.
In thirteen appearances out of a total of twenty-nine (or 45% of the time, in other words), Suárez matched or bettered the average for the top creator in the Premier League. It’s interesting to note that two of the five games where Suárez failed to create a chance were against Swansea City, so it would appear that Brendan Rodgers already knows how to nullify the threat posed by the Uruguayan at least.
However, I think that Rodgers could exploit Suárez’ skillset superbly. The Ulsterman favours a high pressing game, and Luis made thirty-one final third regains last season; more than any other player in the Premier League, and at least nineteen more than every other Liverpool player. The statistics show that Suárez is the top player in England for pressing high up the pitch, so Rodgers must be licking his lips in anticipation at working with him.
If the new manager plays Suárez at the left or right of a front three, then I think he can become the Reds’ key creator who should also get into double figures for goals too. This won’t eradicate Liverpool’s need for a prolific striker, but it should mean they make better use of the one world-class forward they currently possess, and that will be one step in the right direction for 2012/13.