By now, no team in the country should have any excuse not to be fully aware of the myriad dangers posed by Luis Suarez, but if there’s one team who should be extra wary of the predatory Uruguayan then it is Norwich City.
At Carrow Road two seasons ago the forward struck a hat-trick, topping off his treble with a billowing 40-yard lob.
In the corresponding fixture last term, he repeated the feat, leaving Michael Turner the most prominent of his that afternoon's numerous nutmegging victims, with the Norwich defence again unable to deal with the incessant whirlwind of menace that was the Liverpool striker.Luis Suarez: Premier League goals this season
And just in case he hadn’t quite made his point over those two games, Suarez was again conducting a resplendent red orchestra when Norwich arrived at Anfield in January. This time he was comparatively merciful – only the one goal – but he was nonetheless the architect of a 5-0 thrashing, with that fixture the first in which he and Daniel Sturridge were to dovetail superbly to the terrorise an opposing defence.
Fortunately for Chris Hughton and his side, Sturridge will be unavailable when the two teams meet at Anfield on Wednesday night, but they know full well that Suarez is plenty happy going it alone.
In that last clash between the sides on Merseyside, the Uruguayan was, according to Squawka’s Performance Score, the game’s most effective participant. The most striking aspect of his performance was his relative freedom to wander from his central attacking station.
Despite being his side’s foremost goal threat, Suarez is also keen to play the secondary role of creator when possible, dropping deep in order to spray diagonal passes across the pitch and indeed drifting wide in an attempt to forage his way past the full backs.
The latter quality was again on display in January when Suarez made an effort to beat his man on no less than 10 occasions (see graphic above), with the majority coming near to the byline, and with poor Turner once again falling victim to the striker’s propensity to dismantle and degrade defenders.
Without Sturridge on the field on Wednesday, the onus may be on Suarez to emphasise his capacity to score rather than create, but that’s not to say that he won’t take it upon himself to do the latter when necessary.
Of various poor Liverpool performers in recent games, it is the supporting attackers who have arguably failed to pull their weight as much as anyone, and the likes of Victor Moses, Philippe Coutinho and Jordan Henderson would be well advised to bust a gut to get into the area when Suarez vacates his normal spot at the team’s spearhead.
A sum total of two league goals so far this season garnered from 30 combined appearances from the above three players – with that figure not increasing when the names of the more peripheral Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling are added – is a paltry contribution and serves to demonstrate the extent to which the side’s striking partnership have been carrying the team.
With the news that Sturridge will be sidelined for at least the next six weeks should come an increased level of input from the above names. Of course, it’s not as if these players have been doing nothing of worth this term – Henderson has performed pretty consistently, while Moses and Coutinho have displayed their quality in flashes if not yet entire matches – but to examine their goal tally, reductive as it may seem, is to reveal their shortcomings.
They are shortcomings that Brendan Rodgers will need to address and address quickly, not only in order to shed the inevitable ‘one-man team’ accusations but also to give reassurance to the fans who will have looked with concern at Sunday’s insipid defeat to Hull City.
There are few better fixtures for Rodgers to correct that defeat than the visit, under the Anfield floodlights, of a side who the Merseysiders routinely put to the sword.
Another emphatic win would go a long way to quietening the detractors who will have come to the fore since Sunday, and Suarez will of course be the key ingredient should such a win materialise. But the men behind him need to start offering their input – Suarez can do it all on his own, but it’s not the healthiest state for a side to exist in.