This piece first appeared on The Tomkins Times on June 2nd 2011.
Now that Luis Suárez has firmly cemented his place as the current darling of the Kop, I thought it would be interesting to compare his initial impact to that of our last talismanic striker, one Fernando Torres. They were similar ages (Suárez being the older by a year) and were both playing in the Premier League for the first time, so a comparison seems reasonable.
The status of the club could not have been much more different for the arrival of the two hitmen though.
Torres joined a club who had finished 3rd in the league the previous season, and had just lost a Champions League final (somewhat unluckily in many people’s eyes), with a successful manager who had bedded in well over his first three seasons.
Suárez, on the other hand, joined a team with a caretaker manager who’d been in charge for just four league games. A team that had finished 7th the previous year, had been in the relegation zone as recently as three months prior to his arrival, and were more familiar with Rabotnicki and Trabzonspor than Milan and Barcelona.
The timing of the two players’ signings is worth considering too.
Fernando Torres signed in July 2007, so had a decent pre-season with his new club. He had also had a free summer, something he hasn’t enjoyed since, so it could be strongly argued that he was fresher then than he has been at any point in the intervening four years.
Luis had played in the World Cup until the 10th July, and only joined his new club in late January, so was thrown in to the fray having barely met his new team mates.
Suárez played 1101 minutes of league football for Liverpool this season, so I looked at the stats for the same length of time from the start of Torres’ Anfield career.
So how did they get on?
The two situations certainly favour the Spaniard, but did it pan out that way? The best place to start is with a look at their goal scoring and assist tallies, as these are probably the key measures of a striker’s success.
Whilst both players had a mixture of opponents in terms of difficulty, in the interests of fairness I should point out that three of Torres’ nine goals came against a Derby County side which is statistically the worst that the Premier League has ever seen, so he is perhaps fortunate to be so far ahead.
Suárez also didn’t have any cup games to find any form in; Torres scored a morale boosting hat-trick away at Reading in a league cup match during his equivalent period.
The assist tallies are similar, but as Paul Tomkins noted here, they don’t tell the full story with Suárez. For example, he also won a penalty against Newcastle, and he is only credited with one assist against Manchester United, despite being the final LFC player to touch the ball prior to each of Kuyt’s three goals that day.
Let’s take a look at a few more stats. Regarding tackles won, the Guardian chalkboards (where this info is sourced from) defines them partly as where a player retains possession when someone tries to tackle them but fails. So by retaining possession they are deemed to have ‘won’ the tackle, even though they themselves haven’t tried to tackle anyone (if that makes sense!).
There are probably not too many surprise revelations here. I was surprised that Suárez had more shots than Torres overall, though perhaps not that he didn’t get as many on target; his shooting has been somewhat wayward on more than one occasion since joining.
It’s interesting to see that Torres gave away more free-kicks than he won in this period. One key difference that struck me between his initial time at the club and more recent times was his lack of petulance in those earlier days.
The statistics here show clearly that he did not always win the challenges he went for and was most likely wrongly penalised on occasion, yet I don’t recall the constant backchat to referees which seemed a common theme of the last two seasons or so.
Clearly most of the stats show that whilst Torres was the better out-and-out striker, Suárez brings more to the team overall. The passing stats really hammer that point home – the Uruguayan attempted nearly twice as many passes and completed over twice as many more, so has clearly been far more involved in the overall play than the Spaniard.
So maybe what they both provided was what the team needed at the time; Torres was the world class striker the team had lacked for a number of years, whilst Suárez was the creative genius that a struggling team was crying out for, in order to make things happen after a period of poor football (though Dalglish had started to turn this around shortly before Suárez arrived).
Of course, what all Liverpool fans now want to see is Suárez continuing his fine form in tandem with a fit and firing Andy Carroll (see here for my analysis of his performances for Newcastle this season). That really would be something to get excited about.
As for Torres. . . since his move to Chelsea, Martin Skrtel has scored as many goals as he has, and that says it all. Liverpool definitely got a lot more for their £20m in 2007 than Chelsea got for their £50m in January.
Please take a look at my other articles, a list of which can be found here.