LIVERPOOL, England ● Luis Suarez can be called many things but disloyal and anonymous are not among them. Another week where the Uruguayan’s name has been a constant in the headlines concluded in familiar fashion, with Suarez finding the net again in a performance of typical prominence.
His ninth and 10th league goals of the season illustrated his importance to Liverpool. It is little wonder Brendan Rodgers is so desperate to keep him and, while Manchester City denied reports they are planning to take him to Etihad Stadium in January, it is obvious why anyone would be tempted by Suarez’s skills.
Watson breaks leg
Wigan midfielder Ben Watson suffered a broken leg during his side’s 3-0 defeat to Liverpool on Saturday.
Watson, 27, may require surgery after the freak collision with Raheem Sterling that saw the Reds winger’s knee catch his shin during the first half.
The former Crystal Palace man required several minutes of treatment but declined the stretcher and hobbled off, assisted by two members of the Wigan medical staff.
“It is a broken leg and we are going to miss him,” said Latics manager Roberto Martinez.
“He has a fracture and we are going to assess him now because maybe he will require surgery.”
The reality is that, stripped of Suarez’s goals and assists, Liverpool would have five points this season. Given the lack of support and the complete absence of fit strikers who have left their teenage years behind him, his significance, already considerable, has mushroomed this season. But Suarez has risen to the added responsibility. The talent has become a talisman, the speedster a scorer.
“He is a master marksman, absolutely outstanding and we are thrilled to have him,” Rodgers said. “He is a wonderful striker and his movement was outstanding.”
By accelerating into double figures for the campaign, he has now contributed 59 per cent of Liverpool’s league goals. The only element of Suarez that has remained static is his disciplinary record. The Uruguayan is a booking away from a ban but, despite one rash lunge, he stayed out of the notebook.
“He was very fortunate because there was a stamp on David Jones the referee didn’t see,” Wigan manager Roberto Martinez said. “It could have been a red card.”
It was not even a yellow.
It made for an unhappy outing at Anfield for Martinez, who lost midfielder Ben Watson to a broken leg. Yet had his June interview with Liverpool’s principal owner John W Henry gone differently, Martinez could have been managing the home side yesterday. Instead, Rodgers emerged as the preferred candidate.
These two 39 year olds, both Spanish speakers who have served an apprenticeship at Swansea City, have much in common. Their shared philosophy was apparent with a mutual emphasis on passing. The challenge for both is to ally possession with incision. Suarez provided the cutting edge Liverpool had missed in the first half.
He brought the breakthrough, lifting his shot into the roof of the net after Raheem Sterling had intercepted Jean Beausejour’s under-hit pass and accelerated away from Maynor Figueroa to set up the Uruguayan
“A wonderful finish and a great weight of pass from young Raheem,” Rodgers added.
Then Suarez darted between Maynor Figueroa and Gary Caldwell to meet Jose Enrique’s pass and angle a shot past Al Habsi. And while the third goal had a different scorer, Suarez played a part, too. He fed the overlapping Sterling, whose shot was parried by Al Habsi only for Jose Enrique to snap up the rebound.
It was a belated first goal of the Spaniard’s Liverpool career and was aided by a Rodgers rethink. His need for other striker has camouflaged their lack of wingers who command the manager’s confidence. The manager’s latest move was to deploy left-back Enrique further forward. Asking a defender to supply the goals may sound a counter-intuitive move but it worked and prompted his manager to put Enrique in exalted company.
“Look at Gareth Bale,” Rodgers said. “I thought about pushing Jose further forward. I think he can do that role. He is a terrific talent.”
The rebranding of the full-back almost reaped an earlier divided when the Spaniard met Suarez’s low cross. Had Al Habsi not made a superb point-blank block, he would have provided the opener. Instead, as usual, Suarez did.