Liverpool haven’t had a bad start, have they?
They sit atop the Premier League with maximum points obtained, no goals conceded and in possession of a striker in red-hot form. The early signings of Iago Aspas, Kolo Toure and Simon Mignolet have all settled well, whilst deadline day captures of Mamadou Sakho, Tiago Llori and Victor Moses also look astute acquisitions. The squad looks hungry, vibrant and most importantly, as though they are progressing under the stewardship of Brendan Rodgers.
It’s been the perfect opening to what promises to be a wholly significant season for the Merseyside giants, and in practice, it can only get better. Let’s not forget, Rodgers has Luis Suarez sat in the stands. He is now just three games away from taking to the pitch for Liverpool once again and presumably especially keen to fling himself back into the thick of the action.
But with Liverpool playing so well, will Suarez come straight back into the side? After all, in the seven games Liverpool have missed with the Uruguayan suspended, the Reds have won six and drawn just the once, conceding only a solitary goal in the process; that compared to the seven goals conceded in the five games before Suarez’s suspension.
In short, yes he will. The fact remains that the former Ajax man is a world-class talent who would improve the vast majority of teams on the planet. So, if Liverpool are going to find a place for him, where is it?
The two berths the Uruguayan has occupied most frequently in his Liverpool career to date are at the spearhead of the attack and as a second striker/number 10. But currently, those two slots are being filled with distinction.
That is, of course, because Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho have struck up a marvelous understanding. It would be a shame to disrupt a relationship which continues to blossom as the weeks tick by.
Subsequently, the general consensus seems to be that Suarez will occupy one of the wide positions. And with Jordan Henderson currently performing admirably in his role down the right-hand side, expect the former Sunderland man and loan signing Victor Moses to alternate their turns down that side.
So Suarez, it seems, looks as though he will line up on the left flank. And from an attacking point of view, it will have Liverpool supporters mouths watering. Whilst Henderson will likely maintain plenty of width in his right-sided position to cover for the rampaging Glen Johnson, Suarez, Sturridge and Coutinho will be given the freedom to interchange their positions, going in search of the ball and pockets of space. Goals certainly won’t be difficult to come by.
But there have been subtle changes made to Liverpool’s system since Suarez was banned. They look a much more cohesive unit in the current set-up, with every player keen to move the ball on quickly and incisively.
The players are all well drilled and disciplined within their roles and that has made them a remarkably difficult side to break down. In the early stages of games they have pressed relentlessly, and as the matches have drawn on, dropped deeper and maintained an unyielding shape to frustrate the opposition.
This is where the introduction of Suarez could become a potential detrimental factor. He offers a unique attacking dimension, that’s for sure. But he is a player who likes to take on a major portion of attacking responsibility; his standing as the top dribbler and most frequent shot taker last season only back this up further.
Suarez is a free-spirit, and playing at the spearhead of the attack – a position where he played his best football in the infancy of the last campaign – allows him roam and wander wherever he pleases. Granted, with young players like Raheem Sterling, Suso and Fabio Borini often partnering him in those early encounters, it is understandable he tried to take on such a significant portion of the attacking burden
Out on the left, you expect he will have to work back and help out defensively. His remarkable work-rate suggests there will be no issue there, but having the appropriate awareness in those deeper positions is another matter entirely. Whether or not he has that specialized nous in his locker remains to be seen.
The key for Rodgers will be reintroducing Suarez into the current set-up, whilst maintaining this wholly disciplined, tactical unity that he has introduced. If he can do that quickly, then the Reds can be a major player this campaign.
Tactics board courtesy of EPL Index
What do you think? Let me know in the comments section or on Twitter: @MattJFootball