Saturday, 11 April 2015

Was it All Luis Suarez Last Season?

Luis Suarez is one of the greatest players to have graced the Anfield turf and definitely, one of the most prolific goalscorers to have played for the club. It has been close to a season since the mercurial Uruguayan left the Reds after notching 31 goals and 12 assists last season. In the aftermath of his departure, Liverpool has immensely struggled to replace the goals and genuine threat of Suarez. As a result, they have plummeted down the table and have scored only 31 goals from open play, the same number of goals Suarez scored in the entirety of last season.
Luis Suarez - Man,Talisman,Out of this World
Credit - Zimbo
Last season, Liverpool had one of their most successful seasons in a long time and were inches away from laying their hands on the elusive Premier League title. This season has undoubtedly been a marked contrast and many have attributed this to the loss of Suarez. Brendan Rodgers, so revered by everyone last season, has been castigated this season and all the success last season has been laid on the hands of Suarez. While last year, Rodgers was regarded as the next Bill Shankly, this season he has been viewed as nothing more than a charlatan.

Allegations of a ‘one-man team’ have been placed on Rodgers’ Liverpool side that achieved success and any success that others might have had has been attributed to the ‘Suarez’ factor. But, football is a team game and you can have the best players in the world but if there is no cohesion or chemistry, no success can be achieved.

I find these Suarez allegations a little bit misguided and they disregard the contributions of the entire Liverpool team last season to make it the season that it was. To just plainly attribute the achievements of an entire team on one player is not right, no matter who that player is. Suarez was a great player but you need a great team to achieve things and for that Brendan Rodgers and the Liverpool players have to deserve credit. Was it really all Suarez last season?
The entire team contributed last season
Source- LiverpoolEcho
Firstly, while Suarez might be a prolific marksman today, it should be remembered that Suarez was very wasteful when he first arrived at the club. The most prevalent example of this would be in Kenny Dalglish’s 2011-12 season where Suarez only notched up 11 goals and had a WhoScored rating 7.35 compared to 8.43 last season. He also had a record of hitting the woodwork the most number of times in that season.

It was only when Brendan Rodgers came in that Suarez became the clinical behemoth that he is today. Instead of shooting straight at the goalkeeper. Suarez would now aim for the sides and became accurate in both short range and long range shooting. Rodgers has to be given credit for making Suarez the player he is today by playing to his strengths and building the Liverpool team around him.
Until recently, Suarez was derided in the Spanish media as well for not being lethal enough. Till now, it is Brendan Rodgers who has gotten the best out of him. It must also be remembered that Rodgers played players like Fabio Borini and Stewart Downing out of position so that Suarez could revel in the striker role. It could be said that Liverpool contributed more to Suarez as a player than Suarez to Liverpool as a team.
luis suarez
Suarez struggled in his first full season
Source - Guardian
Secondly, it is worth noting that the team in Brendan Rodgers’ first season where the team finished 7th was not very different than the team that finished second. Only Simon Mignolet and Mamadou Sakho were significant additions to the team. And, when the team finished seventh, Suarez was performing at the same level notching 23 goals despite being banned for biting. That suggests that it was the general improvement of the team that caused an upturn in results, as Suarez’s form was constant throughout the time of consideration. In scientific terms, Suarez was the constant factor as the team’s form improved with time. Obviously, Suarez played a huge part in how the team played but without the team, nothing would have been achieved.
Daniel Sturridge and Steven Gerrard - Two Key Intisgators
Credit - LiverpoolEcho
The common saying throughout this season is that Suarez was responsible for the entire teams output last season because he scored a lot of goals (approximately 1/3rd of the entire team’s tally). But, the same can be said about Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid or Lionel Messi at Barcelona. But, that does not mean that Barcelona or Real Madrid are one-men teams. The best players always contribute the most  regardless of the quality of players around them and Suarez’s output has no bearing on how good the team was. Suarez, being the talisman that he is, scored a few goals out of nothing but many of his goals were also created by his teammates.
Lastly, to say that it was ‘all Suarez’ last season is to undermine a lot of the good work done by the other Liverpool players and Brendan Rodgers . Daniel Sturridge got the second highest goal tally last season (after Suarez of course) despite being out with a length spell of injury, which can be tough for any player. Steven Gerrard got the most number of assists last season whereas Raheem Sterling and Phillipe Coutinho were two of the best young players. Sturridge’s chip and Steven Gerrard’s exquisite through ball last season are two examples of the caliber of talent outside Suarez.

And, then there is Brendan Rodgers who has taken a lot of flak this season but he did make a few game changing decisions last season. Be it implementing the diamond formation or bringing on Joao Carlos Texieira for his debut with the team needing a winner against Fulham, Rodgers made a lot of gutsy choices which won a lot of plaudits last season but have been discounted this season. He gave players like Jon Flannagan, Raheem Sterling and even Luis Suarez chances to flourish when many other managers like Sir Alex Ferguson (who asked Liverpool to sell Suarez) might not have made that choice.
Brendan Rodgers made some great decisions last season
Source - Telegraph 
Suarez’s departure this season has most definitely affected Liverpool’s performances and results because he was such a good player. But, in my opinion, the majority of the problems this season have resulted from poor team selection, inefficient tactics and ineptitude in the transfer market. Suarez gave Liverpool a platform last season and Liverpool have failed to taken an advantage of that. The debate that Suarez gave the other players face holds some merit but to just flat out attribute that to the results of an entire team is not right. The players have less space this season but have still achieved success when the tactics and selection have been right. In the end, Brendan Rodgers should most rightly take criticism for this season but deserves plaudits for last season.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

The Raheem Sterling Contract Saga

Raheem Sterling is a star in the making. Ever since breaking out as a young teenager and scoring 5 goals in an FA Youth Cup game against Southend United, Sterling’s talent was palpable to everybody. He became the talk among every Liverpool fan and this resulted in him making his debut at the tender age of 17. He even became Liverpool’s youngest ever goal scorer after scoring in a league game against Reading. He was the shining light in a poor first year for Brendan Rodgers.

Sterling became the youngest ever scorer
Source -
However, Sterling’s promising start went downhill after sometime. He found it tough to deal with the growing pressure put on him and had numerous off the pitch problems. At one point, he was almost farmed out on loan to bring in Mohammad Salah. However, fate intervened and the Salah deal imploded and Sterling transformed into an integral part of a team that almost challenged for the elusive title. He reveled in playing at the tip of the diamond formation that Brendan Rodgers had devised for the Reds. This season, he has grown into a regular starter and was even regarded as the main man in a team short of stars.

Sterling came to his own last season
Source - Guardian 

Recently, Sterling has made the news, but for the wrong reasons, with an issue surrounding his contract. If the media is to be believed, Sterling is reluctant to sign a new contract because of wage issues. Various media outlets have covered the story and some sources have even claimed that Sterling wants 150,000 pounds per week. There has also been a recent interview with the BBC surrounding this situation. While it might be debatable whether Sterling deserves those wages or not, what is for sure is that the figures he is asking for are astronomical. Is he really good enough to earn those wages?

The first point to be considered is that wages as high as 150 thousand are reserved for the very best players that make the most desirable impact on a team. Is Raheem Sterling the best player on the Liverpool team? Can he be depended to bail the team out when they are in trouble? It doesn’t seem so. For starters, Sterling tends to fade way in big games. For example, in the Champions League game against Basel, Liverpool needed someone to bail them out and Sterling hid behind Steven Gerrard’s shadow. Another example of this is the Europa League game against Besiktas where Sterling was completely anonymous. If he wants to earn the bug bucks, Sterling has to provide.

Sterling has blown hot and cold
Source - Express 
The next area into consideration is his goal scoring and genuine impact on the team. While plain goals and assists may not paint the whole picture, it is an undeniable fact that Sterling does not score as much as he should and his chance conversion is not the best. Sterling has played close to every game this season and has only 10 goals in all competitions with many of them in an attacking position. An old and declining Steven Gerrard has the same number of goals as him. In fact, there was a long period in October-November, where Sterling did not even register a single goal. He is definitely a player that blows hot and cold. Can Liverpool really afford that?

Thirdly, there are age and off the pitch factors that have to be taken into consideration. While it has become a common adage to say, “If you are good enough, you are old enough”, the fact of the matter is that it can have a harmful effect on the dressing room if a player of Sterling’s age is given such high wages. Issues like seniority and hierarchy should not exist but do in the dressing room and if Sterling is rewarded with a new contract, others might either feel jealous or treat Sterling with derision. It could lead to turmoil in the back. Politics is defined as “activities aimed at improving someone's status or increasing power within an organization”. With backstage politics in Liverpool, Sterling might have trouble dealing with the status quo at Liverpool.

Additionally, very few players around the world, regardless of club, are paid that much money, especially at Sterling’s age. Players like Julian Draxler and Hakan Calhanoglu are definitely talented but earn nowhere near the amount of money Sterling wants. Calhanoglu, for example, only earns 60,000 euros but that does not make him any less talented. There is also the fact to consider that Sterling has achieved next to nothing in the game, yet. He has little European and international experience and this is his first full season in the Premier League. He is nowhere close to being a world-class player, no matter how much fans want to deny it. Lastly, if Sterling is to be paid that much, he instantly becomes an ambassador for the club and will he be prepared to handle the responsibility that comes with it. These are all issues that have to be considered.

Hakan Calhanoglu has the talent but not the astronomical wages
Source - 

 Sterling’s worth aside, the bigger issue here is how does this saga reflect on Liverpool as a club. In the past few years since FSG have taken over, changes have been made. However, one thing that cannot be argued is that the club has fallen short in terms of transfer dealings. In Brendan Rodgers’ tenure, only Mamadou Sakho is a big name that has come into the club. Normally, other clubs are very quick and effective in transfer and contract dealings. Recently, Real Madrid signed Danilo with no media fanfare and no hiccups. Chelsea have been very efficient with their dealings. They have either paid the money for players they want or sold players who they want to move on.

Liverpool is a club trying to get back on its feet and these kinds of issues are things that the Reds have to deal with to be taken seriously. If they think that Sterling is part of their future, they should pay the money but if they do not, they should let him go. Chelsea did that with Andre Schurrle, Kevin De Bruyne and many others and Liverpool should do the same. There should be no if’s, but’s or maybes. These debacles should not occur in the future as it makes the club looks like amateurs. The Raheem Sterling contract issue has gotten out of hand and it is the club that should make a unanimous decision on what to do. A club of Liverpool’s stature should not be forced to lie down and be played around by agents.