Wednesday 13 December 2017

Reds playing a dangerous game with super Suarez

Chris Bascombe

Anfield is in the grip of a high dependency culture, the range of Luis Suarez's influence on Liverpool making both impressive and worrying reading for Brendan Rodgers.

Of the 11 points Liverpool have accumulated in the Premier League, nine have come as a result of Suarez's goals and assists. Without Suarez, Liverpool would be in the bottom three this morning.

Managers will always dismiss the notion of a one-man team -- and there are plenty of others at the top and bottom of the table relying on a dominant, talismanic presence -- but Suarez has often resembled a lone gunman leading the charge of an otherwise unarmed cavalry.

Rival managers believe stopping Suarez stops Liverpool, and the statistics seem to confirm this perception.

Even his manager admits Suarez has spent "a lot of time this season playing the back four on his own".

Rodgers added: "People are looking at Liverpool and thinking if they can control Suarez, they might cut our threat. But they are still unable to do it. For defenders, he is a nightmare. He never gives them a breather, always making them think.

"Our job is to try to get a few players in to help the team and make us a threat in other areas."

The Liverpool manager recognises the short and long-term importance of easing the load on his striker when he gets the chance in January.

Additional firepower and creativity are essential to push for a European spot this season, but there is a timely reminder of the consequences of failing to satisfy the needs of iconic players in the opposition ranks at Stamford Bridge tomorrow .

Like Suarez, Fernando Torres was once Liverpool's heroic figure, pledging his loyalty on an annual basis while privately -- understandably some sympathisers still argue -- determining his ambitions could never be fulfilled on Merseyside.


The timing, and destination, of Torres' exit in January 2011 still rankles at Anfield, even if his desertion appeared justified with a Champions League medal around his neck.

Liverpool's fear is Suarez will also eventually tire of the same perpetual promises of the club thriving again before being lured away, not by financial motivation, as was unfairly suggested about Torres, but by the desire to win titles.

Suarez signed a new contract last summer when his club were able to fend off Paris St-Germain and Juventus but, if Barcelona or Real Madrid make the call next time, Rodgers knows Liverpool have to be in a far healthier position if they are to ensure the temptation for their forward to move on is not overwhelming.

"Great players will always leave great clubs," said Rodgers.

"But at this moment in time I am safe in the knowledge that Luis had the chance to go in the summer.

"There was probably no better time for him to do that, with a new manager coming in.

"He would have had an excuse to go, but having spoken to him at length he committed to staying here. He gave us that opportunity to see how it was going to work and at the minute, for him personally, it is working really well.

"We need to keep going and develop it. Luis is up there in that bracket of one per cent of world-class strikers. There is no team in the world that would not want Luis Suarez in it.

"The task for everyone here -- the manager and the board -- is to keep the club moving forward. When you do that, top players want to be around.

"Luis has never been happier, he loves the club, he loves the football and everything about the training. He seems to be in a good place.

"It's up to us as a club to add players that can help support him and move us on."

If Suarez is injured or suspended, teenager Adam Morgan is the only fit and available striker with first-team experience. Fabio Borini and another youngster, Samed Yesil, are both injured.

Making it to January 1 with Suarez's 100pc league appearance intact would be some achievement given he has already received four yellow cards and will be suspended if he earns another caution.

"Luis plays on the limit every game, but it is a worry," said Rodgers.

"He's our main striker, our only striker, and is only a booking away from a ban. But he plays the game honestly and works hard. Hopefully he won't pick up another booking."

Liverpool have won on their last three trips to Stamford Bridge. They will need more than Suarez to make it four in a row but, if they succeed, it is almost certain Merseyside's lone gunman will have either fired or loaded the bullets again. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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