You know the type; always picking on the smaller kids but when the big boys roll into town, they go into hiding – yeah, that’s Luis Suarez.
Whilst the majority of Europe fawns over the Uruguayan and his goal scoring exploits, I’ve yet to be fully convinced. His recent form has seen his name being mentioned in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and frankly, I find that a little absurd.
There’s no doubting Suarez’s world class talent and his ability to win games, at times, single-handedly but when you examine his goal-scoring record a little more extensively you’ll notice a large majority of his goals have come against ‘lesser’ teams.
In his 114 appearances for Liverpool, he’s managed to score 73 goals. That’s well over a goal every other game, which, in anyone’s language, is world class. However, of those 73 goals, only six of those have come against Manchester United (1), Manchester City (1), Chelsea (2) and Arsenal (2).
In total, against those four teams, he’s played 23 times. That’s just under one in every four games against one of the top sides in the league. Impressive? I’d argue there’s much room for improvement.
In contrast, he’s got 11 alone against Norwich – nearly double the amount against United, City, Arsenal and Chelsea – seven against Sunderland, six against Stoke, six against Wigan, four against Fulham and well, you get the picture. It reeks of a bullying mentality in that he’s only been good enough to excel properly against the weaker sides in the division.
Of course you can argue that the sides he’s been involved with in his Liverpool career over the last three years have not been of the strongest calibre and that’s a valid point, they’ve not. And yet in 2012/2013, they managed 71 goals – the 4th highest in the league – and 51 this season, already.
His performances this season have been absolutely stellar and some of the goals he has scored have been breath-taking but it was highly noticeable that in Liverpool’s big games this season – the games that win leagues – he’s been conspicuous by his absence. Against United in the Capital One Cup, Arsenal, Manchester City and Chelsea in the league, he not only failed to score but failed to impact the game in any sort of way; games in which Liverpool were all beaten in.
After being kept quiet in those two big back-to-back games against City and Chelsea, Suarez was back on the score sheet against both Hull and Stoke; goals which would exacerbate the theory that he feasts – no pun intended – on the smaller teams.
To add further depth to this argument, compare Suarez to one of his main contemporaries in Sergio Aguero. The Argentinian has scored 48 goals in 79 appearances for Manchester City since signing from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011.
That’s a similar record to Suarez in that it’s just over one every other game. Except, of those 48 goals, 12 have been against Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. That’s double Suarez’s tally against the other ‘big’ sides in the division.
So as you can see, when it comes to the big games, Suarez still lags behind his main rivals. And don’t even try and place him at the same level as Messi and Ronaldo; both of whom average over a goal a game over their careers. Those two titans are on an astral plane of their own.
Suarez, though, has still plenty of time on his side. At 26, he’s yet to hit his prime and if Brendan Rodgers’ side continues to develop at the rate at which it has in his 18 months in charge, Suarez – and this Liverpool side – have the potential to go very far and if not, well, let’s just say there won’t be a lack of potential suitors for Suarez’s signature if he kicks up a fuss again.
There has already been talk linking the little Uruguayan with Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid although Liverpool would, no doubt, fight any temptation to part with the jewel in their crown.