Suarez Head To Head: Were Liverpool right to sell?
As they start life after Luis Suarez, ESPN FC's Liverpool bloggers Steven Kelly and David Usher go head-to-head on whether Brendan Rodgers' men can truly move on.
So, Suarez has left. What's your initial reaction?
Steven Kelly: The new season was always going to be extremely tricky for the Reds. Arsenal and Chelsea have gone some way toward solving their scoring weaknesses, and Manchester United would be going into the new season with something vaguely resembling a manager. What Liverpool didn't need was to lose their best player as well. Rationalisation will always kick in with supporters once bad news makes its impact, though one or two "Suarez will miss Liverpool more than they'll miss him" articles have taken optimism to a peculiar new extreme.
LUIS SUAREZ 2013-14 SEASON IN NUMBERS
• 31 - Premier League goals, winning the Golden Boot.
• 12 - Most assists in the Premier League.
• 24 - Scored the most goals from inside the box.
• 4 - Scored the most goals from counterattacks.
• 9 - Had the most shots that hit the woodwork.
• 3 - Most penalties won in the Premier League.
• 237 - Attempted more dribbles than any other player.
David Usher: He will miss Liverpool though. Perhaps not as much as the club misses him, but only time will tell on that. Don't be surprised if he quickly realises -- like Ian Rush, Michael Owen and Fernando Torres did -- that the grass isn't always greener. Suarez had it made at Liverpool; the fans worshipped him, the team was built to get the best out of him and he was the undisputed star and the top earner. This year he would have had Champions League football at long last, too.
But the money will be welcome, right? Time to rebuild ...
SK: It's not quite the bounty you imagine. Barcelona paid for the Uruguayan's value plus whatever it took to grease the wheels for a smooth purchase -- or in this instance to trigger a release clause. It would be extremely naive not to expect the likes of Southampton, Swansea, Benfica or Sevilla to be looking for similar grease money in the future.
DU: That's true, but LFC were being quoted extortionate fees even before the Suarez deal. They paid a lot for Adam Lallana, and the fee quoted for Dejan Lovren is ridiculous, too. That's just the way football is now. There's nothing wrong with paying over the odds to get a player, as long as it's the right player.
Is Rodgers the right man to spend this cash?
SK: In the old days you could rely on Liverpool getting big money for the likes of Kevin Keegan and Rush, then spending it on even better players. That sort of faith isn't there with Rodgers just yet. His forte seems to be coaching, taking players who have been OK previously and improving them. Raheem Sterling, Jordan Henderson, Daniel Sturridge and even Suarez himself can testify to that, but of the tens of millions the manager has spent, what percentage of it can really be claimed as successful?
- Hunter: Questions for Suarez
DU: Yeah, I agree, but it comes with a caveat: We don't know how much input he's had with some of the signings. Were the likes of Luis Alberto, Iago Aspas, Nuri Sahin, Oussama Assaidi and Tiago Ilori really players chosen by Rodgers? Joe Allen and Fabio Borini were obviously his, and he took a fair bit of stick for those, but those deals aren't looking as bad now as they did 12 months ago.
You're right, though, regardless of whether it's the manager or "the committee" who are responsible, they have it all to prove this summer, as there have been more misses than hits so far.
Do you have a particular target in mind? Wilfried Bony has been linked ...
DU: Bony is a good player, but a lot of fans would be underwhelmed by it because he isn't anywhere near as good as Suarez. I think people need to get away from the mindset of comparing every potential new striker to Suarez, though, because whoever it is, he won't even come close. If Liverpool strengthens in defence and midfield, a player like Bony (or someone of that level) would be a useful addition. He would not be a replacement for Suarez, though, as Suarez is irreplaceable.
SK: That's an understatement, but it's gone from a brilliant Suarez to potentially Alexis Sanchez to maybe Bony. The optimistic precedent would be John Aldridge replacing Ian Rush. Nowhere near as good, but flanked by John Barnes and Peter Beardsley, a first-class imitation. I see no "B&B" yet in the players Liverpool have signed or have been linked to.
DU: They don't need "B&B," though, they've still got "S&S" -- Sterling and Sturridge. They need Alan Hansen, Steve McMahon and Steve Nicol.
Liverpool scored 101 goals last season. Suarez bagged 31 of them and helped create countless more. How can Rodgers replace that kind of contribution?
DU: He doesn't need to. Very few teams ever top 100 goals, and fewer still (if any?) have done it in consecutive years. Liverpool's goal tally was probably going to drop slightly anyway, even with Suarez. There are still plenty of goals and creativity in the squad.
Sturridge has had no trouble scoring whenever Suarez was on serving one of his annual suspensions, while Sterling and Philippe Coutinho should continue to improve. Liverpool will score plenty of goals, but the key to any success will be whether they can shave 15 or 20 off the goals conceded column.
SK: Definitely key to it all is Sturridge, who's been prone to miss a few games himself. I feel the mere presence of Suarez often produced blind panic in opposition defences that greatly assisted his colleagues. That aura cannot be replaced by sheer numbers alone. Liverpool need at least one ace up their sleeve.
Can Liverpool build on what they achieved last year, or will the loss of Suarez see them fall back?
SK: I'd take consolidation. A points total in the 70s and some kind of cup run, preferably in Europe. That should be enough given the loss of Suarez and the doubled-up caution of the opposition. Liverpool surprised a lot of people last season, themselves included, so a come-down is inevitable.
If fans think Rodgers is the man, they must show it even if there's a small downturn in results. The club has chopped and changed too much in recent years. Something is definitely stirring, and it needs to continue even in the face of a short drop in fortunes.
DU: Losing a star player is not necessarily always damaging to a team. Sometimes you just can't replace that player, so you have to improve the team as a whole, either with signings or through developing players you already have. As you said, Aldridge was indeed a step down from Rush, yet the team that Liverpool built is regarded by many as the best in club history. They went 29 games unbeaten at the start of the next season and won the title!
And don't forget that last year Atletico Madrid lost Radamel Falcao but won the Spanish league title and were within seconds of becoming champions of Europe. If the Reds go backward next season, it won't be because they lost Suarez, it will be because they didn't invest the money wisely enough.