Luis Suarez is not a normal footballer. Gareth Bale is not a normal footballer. They do things some players can only dream of. They slip through the enemies grasp more times than James Bond, each time giving the ultimate two fingers to the claim that ‘dainty, intricate players cannot cope in the Premier League’; 37 goals in 41 league games between them says so.
But there is still that ‘controversial’ tag which just doesn’t sell Luis Suarez. He’s a diver! He’s a cheat! Are we really going to let such shouts cloud the magnificence of Suarez? After all, he has been the illumination on Liverpool and arguably, the Premier League.
Though it seems the Uruguayan magician will meet his match in a titanic clash at Anfield on Sunday.
Eleven goals in his last nine Tottenham outings, including winners at West Ham, West Brom and at White Hart Lane to see off Lyon and Newcastle, has seen Bale likened to Cristiano Ronaldo. That may be extreme, but Liverpool left back, Jose Enrique found likenesses between team-mate Suarez, and the utterly resplendent, Lionel Messi. The talismanic performances of Suarez have been spine to Liverpool’s meliorism this season. A second hat trick of the season last week at Wigan saw the forward overtake Robin Van Persie to become the leading Premier League goal scorer with 21 goals, while keeping faint hopes of Champions League football for The Reds next season alive.
For consistency, there is only one winner. It is worth mentioning, Gareth Bale bagged just six times before Christmas before his current rich vein of form.
History likes to tell us that football and trophies are not won on paper but when you look at the stats, they offer a lucid pattern; and they are a lot more one-sided than you might expect.
Suarez’ 21 goals in 2415 minutes of football give him a strike every 115 minutes – something Bale cannot contend with. The Welshman’s 16 goals in 2114 minutes of Premier League action yield a goal every 132 minutes. With an equal number of shots throughout the season, it shows Bale’s transformation from provider to predator – much like his fellow Player of the Year candidate. Bale’s increased selfishness means Suarez takes the plaudits for more created chances for team mates so far this season: an accumulation of 78 – roughly one every half an hour – compared to Bale’s 57, with just one coming in the Premier League.
They are inseparable when it comes to number of shots on target – 54; each roughly putting a goal away every five shots but Suarez ekes out Bale on shot conversion rate: 27% vs Bale’s 19%.
Anfield seems all set for an old-style Western shoot out between two of the league’s greatest talents this season. Head-to-head, toe-to-toe, flick-to-flick, this is Suarez’ chance to eclipse Bale on Sunday and put himself firmly in the driving seat and steer himself to the Player of the Year award and his side nearer and nearer to European football next season.
There have been multiple moments of magic this season from Suarez that have left grown men aghast and his aura of confidence shows he has the knowledge that he IS the best player in the Premier League and seems to be able to flaunt it at will. His ebullient twists and turns argue that he could rival the likes of Messi and Ronaldo in terms of dribbling with the ball. The punishment Suarez takes with the ball at his ball is unmatched. His tauntingly audacious feet and technique on the ball is unrivalled in English football, even by Gareth Bale.
Suarez has the facility to mesmerise opponents and have people up and down the country shaking their heads in wonder. I’m still wondering how he orchestrated that moment of brilliance to equalise against Newcastle. Genius.
Brendan Rodgers’ input cannot be overlooked of course, nor can Andre Villas Boas’ at Tottenham but Rodgers’ alm in the Suarez production has worked wonders. In a new, fluid system under the Ulsterman, Suarez has been gifted free reign and his response must have exceeded Rodgers expectations. An increased consistency and treat in front of goal coupled with passing and movement beyond some of the greatest players in the world, has made the South American a joy to watch this season and perhaps the most complete player in the Premier League.
For his incessant impudence, Luis Suarez gets my vote; and Sunday would be the perfect opportunity to show why.
(All stats and figures via Opta)