Although the news was confirmed today that Luis Suárez will be leaving Liverpool, clearly it has been on the cards for some time. Including penalty wins, the Uruguyan scored (eighty-two) or assisted (fifty-three) a total of 135 goals in 133 appearances for the Reds, at a rate of a goal or assist every 84 minutes. Clearly he will be missed, and not least as Liverpool only had twelve different scorers in the league in 2013/14, the joint-fourth fewest in the division.
Yet Liverpool’s league record without Luis Suárez in the team is surprisingly good. In the 18 league games he has missed since his debut in 2011, the Reds’ record is W11 D3 L4; exactly two points per game, in other words. If they can repeat that form next season then Rodgers’ Reds might start to edge towards becoming CL regulars.
It won’t be that easy to achieve without Suárez though, and here is why.
I wrote this piece last summer which showed that although most of the match stats were similar with or without Luis Suárez, the number of big chances that Liverpool had dropped a lot when he was absent; from 2.64 per game when he played, down to 1.92 when he was banned, which is a drop of 27%.
Sure enough, in the five games that the player of the year missed this season the Reds averaged 1.4 big chances per game, compared with a whopping 3.4 when he featured.
Of the 112 big chances that Liverpool had when Suárez was on the pitch in the Premier League in 2013/14, he either created (twenty-two) or shot (thirty-one) a total of fifty-three of them, and also bear in mind that penalties won, of which there were several, don’t count in the official big chance creation figures either (though perhaps they should!). As Gerrard and Sturridge took the penalties, there were twelve big chances that Suárez couldn’t have official (stats wise) involvement in, so his big chance contribution figures were essentially 53/100.
So in short, the trend I identified in the article last summer continued in 2013/14, and in fact from the point of view of looking at a permanently Suárez-less Liverpool, it has got worse. In Suárez’ three full seasons at Anfield, the Reds averaged 2.90 big chances per game, but this dropped to just 1.77 in the seventeen matches he missed.
This massive drop of 39% in top notch creativity will definitely need to be replaced somehow. In fairness, as I noted in my Rickie Lambert article, Suárez was the only player in the Premier League to create more clear-cut chances than the former Southampton striker last season, so I’m confident that the Reds’ new Scouser can help to make up some of the shortfall. But he won’t play every game like Suárez has (when not banned of course), so a further injection of big chance creativity is definitely required.
Liverpool seem to find a way to win matches when Suárez doesn’t play, but thanks to the greatly reduced quality in the creativity I wouldn’t stake a claim that they can continue to do so in the long term. Unfortunately, it is now a permanent problem and not just for when he is banned.
But Suárez has always been about more than mere statistics; watching him play has brought so much to joy to Liverpool fans across the globe. Thanks for the memories, Luis.