There has always been a special connection between Spain and Liverpool, with stars such as Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, Luis Garcia turning out for the Reds with flying colors. This season is going to be a crucial one for another talented Spaniard in Fernandez Suso to see if he can break into the first team and emulate the likes of Torres and Alonso.
The last two years have been quite eventful for the Liverpool Academy as they have been bringing out creative talents such as a production line in a factory. Youngsters such as Raheem Sterling, Jon Flanagan have all but cemented their positions in the starting eleven and the likes of Jordan Ibe, Brad Smith and João Carlos Teixeira have made their senior team debuts in the last few months. Loaning Suso for a season to Almeria (he bagged 3 goals and 7 assists) turned out to be a pretty good decision by Brendan Rodgers, although Liverpool could have used Suso’s creativity in the latter part of last season.
Suso’s versatility: A big yes for Rodgers
The current Liverpool squad has versatile players who are adept at playing not just a solitary role but many. Brendan Rodgers would be happy to see Suso develop into a ‘multi-dimensional’ player, one who is comfortable playing in two or three positions. He played many different roles at Almeria last season. Fransisco Rodriguez, Almeria’s manager used him as a right winger in a 5-4-1, a left attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1, a central attacking midfielder in a 4-2-3-1 and a deep-lying forward in a 4-4-2 formation. Pace has never been Suso’s best attribute and it is safe to say that he will find it tough to upstage the likes of Sterling, Markovic and Ibe on the wings , as these players have got blistering pace and look menacing on the counter. Instead, he can play the role of releasing them with intelligent and crisp passes.
The post Suarez era has seen Rodgers field a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-5-1 formation with the lone striker operating upfront. That may, of course, change with the signing of a new centre forward. But from what we have seen in the pre-season games against Preston and Roma, the Reds have played Rickie Lambert upfront with Coutinho, Ibe and Borini playing just off him and supplying him with the ammunition.
With Lallana, Coutinho and Sterling outright favorites for the starting eleven, Suso would have a tough challenge ahead of him, but he has shown glimpses of his quality and the vision to be effective as part of the front three. A left footed player, Suso was more than a handful on the right wing for Almeria, playing in a 5-4-1 formation and cutting inside. Again, it all depends on Rodgers’ system and formation that he employs in different games.
With the signings of Can, Markovic, Lallana and Lambert and most probably Loic Remy, the Reds need not think twice about squad rotation unlike in 2008/09 where they had to mount a title challenge and a Champions League campaign with a very fine starting eleven but a poor bench. Liverpool’s bench strength has been their undermining over the past few seasons and it would be rather nice for Rodgers to have a player such as Suso come on to break down teams that park the bus.
Areas to improve
The ‘physicality’ of the Premiership is there for everyone to see and it will be interesting to
see how Suso copes with the physical duels on the pitch after spending last season at Almeria. The Spaniard can learn a lot from Sterling and Coutinho who have looked exquisite on the ball despite being short-statured and light weight.
He also has to work on the defensive side of his game and has the tendency to be lazy at times when it comes to tracking back and helping out his team mates. Another downside, which the regular La Liga watchers may very well know is his decision-making, which has been awry at times. Even in the game against Preston, where he scored a brilliant left footed curler, Suso could have been more decisive on when to shoot and when to pass to a team mate.
A crucial pre-season waits
The pre-season games that Liverpool have been involved so far have looked more of garage sales than proper football matches. Brendan Rodgers would have quietly assessed the performances of his squad players and the academy graduates in the pre-season games against Brondby and Preston, and would have made a decision on who features in his plans for the upcoming season and who should be sold/sent out on loan. The Northern Irishman is looking to make more quality additions in the coming days and it looks like many players on the verge of leaving the club, are putting on a show for prospective buyers.
Liverpool fans would love to see Suso break into the first team and become successful, just like his Spanish peers at Anfield. It looks like the lad from Cadiz is indeed is in Brendan Rodgers’ plans for this season and a strong pre-season performance in the next few weeks, leading up to the opener against Southampton, will go on to show that he is the one to watch out for in the 2014-15 season and not to forget, the much needed contract extension that he and the Liverpool fans crave about.
The bottom line is that Suso is a cracking young player and this season is going to define whether he is good enough to play at the highest level or is just another talent such as Daniel Pacheco, who promised too much but just couldn’t take his game to another level.