A group of fans are discontented with the performance of striker Luis Suarez this season. He’s drawn flak from supporters for missing a number of goal scoring chances. The figure we’re talking about is 16. It is a big number for an elite striker and being this wasteful in front of the goal doesn’t really put you on the receiving end of any kind or encouraging comments. But would it be fair to criticize him badly for the chances he missed to score?
In my opinion, NO. He’s a striker, he’s going to miss chances and to curse him vehemently for that is not best way to react. Suarez started his season on a tepid note, struggling to score goals. But he gradually found his charm and has contributed to the team in a great way.
In the begginning of the season when he hardly found the net, his conribution did not reflect in form of goals but it was apparent in form of some good long balls and passes which were key for the subsequent part of the build ups that resulted in goals. In some of those times he became somewhat of a creator of goals, a trait which can be associated to a midfielder (not in any way hinting he dropped deep or handled major playmaking duties, but implying he had a role to play in some important goals). He has scored 11 goals until now and is in fairly decent form which gives us an impression he still has that spark alive in him despite growing older. These were the tangible aspects or stats to evaluate him. To talk about intangibles, people forget the importance of those ‘dummies’ Suarez makes, in or near the opposition half which mislead the opponents into thinking he’s going to score, but actually it’s meant for his teammate to slot home. His dummies against Tottenham which led to one each of Coutinho’s and Messi’s goal this season. Another attribute of his, is the ability to draw defenders towards him and make space for the teammate near him who can utilise that space and storm in towards the goal and take a shot.
These are some of the intangibles which cannot be recorded in form of statistics and can be easily overlooked by individuals who look at games by numbers. For instance Messi’s stats can never do justice to all what he does on the pitch and those numbers can not speak enough to express his marvels. Similarly Suarez, despite not recording incredibly high numbers this season is still contributing to Barca in a major way (for information: he is the second highest goalscorer for the club after Messi this season and joint second highest goalscorer in La Liga as well).
Messi’s injury compelled fans to expect goals from their striker Suarez and how well he handled the baton passed on by Messi in his absence, doesn’t even need any explanation from my side. He scored a hattrick in the biggest clash in football i.e. the El Clasico, scored the match-winning 90th minute goal against Rayo to fill in the void left by our talisman. Although Suarez isn’t the top scorer in the Golden boot race, he’s only behind some.
He was also criticized for not passing to Ousmane Dembele in the last match against Celta Vigo when he had the chance and instead looking for Messi. But this can only be seen as him having more faith in Leo than the 21 year old Frenchman. Suarez should’ve passed to Dembele but in his defence accusing him of selfishness is not done because we have seen his unselfishness (that too in a striker) at many instances before.
To compare his performance with one of the ‘elite’ strikers, let’s take an example of 30 year old Robert Lewandowski. Lewa missed 13 big chances, scored 10 goals, provided 5 assists and made 24 key passes. On the other hand 31 year old Luis Suarez is only slightly off the mark. Suarez missed 16 big chances, scored 11 goals, 4 assists and 20 key passes.
Suarez is slightly sub par compared to other strikers this season but to criticize him harshly for the number of chances he missed or for bad performance is difficult to accept.
He’s 31 years old and his fuel is going to last till maximum one more season, so a replacement should definitely be signed. Suarez himself acknowledged this in one of the post match interviews and Barca are already working on it, indentifying Piatek, Timo Werner, Pepe, Kasper Dolberg and some more as his potential replacement.