Luis Suarez has Liverpool in cruise control in convincing win over Wigan
IT won’t stop his army of suitors from trying but you simply can’t put a price on Luis Suarez’s value to Liverpool.
Having reaffirmed his commitment to the cause following speculation about January bids for his services, the striker served up another masterclass at Anfield on Saturday.
The Uruguayan departed to a richly deserved standing ovation late on having provided the inspiration for an ultimately emphatic victory over Wigan Athletic.
In Suarez, Brendan Rodgers possesses a genius who is operating at the peak of his powers.
His classy double early in the second half transformed the contest as he took his tally for the season to 13 goals.
The speculation about his future won’t go away. There isn’t a club in the world who wouldn’t want the Premier League’s top scorer leading the line.
Liverpool’s resolve is bound to be tested. Their continued absence from the Champions League means clubs will attempt to lure their best talent away.
But Rodgers can rest easy in the knowledge that his in-form frontman is happy at Anfield. His actions as well as his words underline that.
Crucially, the manager has also been reassured by the owners that there is no desire in the boardroom to cash in on their hottest asset.
What Liverpool could achieve with Suarez over the coming years as Rodgers builds a team around him is a thrilling prospect. Where they would be without him is enough to send a chill down a Kopite’s spine.
This isn’t a one-man team but the pressure on Suarez to produce the goods is immense.
The 25-year-old has scored 10 and created two of the Reds’ 17 league goals this season. Raheem Sterling is the only other member of the squad who has found the net in the league since September.
Liverpool are alarmingly reliant on their only fit senior striker but he seems to thrive on that responsibility.
Suarez knows he owes Liverpool after they stood by him throughout the controversies of last season and he is repaying that faith on a weekly basis.
One criticism frequently levelled at him following his £22.8million move from Ajax in January 2011 it that he’s a scorer of great goals rather than a great goalscorer.
However, this term he has demonstrated he can be that prolific marksman supporters crave. His two goals on Saturday were clinical finishes of the highest quality.
One booking away from a ban, Suarez continues to walk a disciplinary tightrope and he was fortunate to escape punishment for a poor challenge on substitute David Jones in the second half.
This was a big win for Rodgers as Liverpool beat Wigan for the first time in six attempts. After fighting back to claim a share of the spoils at Chelsea, it was vital that momentum was maintained with maximum points.
Another home setback would have triggered a wave of negativity but instead confidence and belief abound. Liverpool are unbeaten in seven league games and within four points of the top six.
Rodgers insisted the presence in the opposition dugout of Roberto Martinez, who was also interviewed for the job back in May, provided no extra edge to the game. However, in front of chairman Tom Werner, Rodgers showcased why he got the nod with some bold tactical switches which paid dividends.
If things aren’t working out as planned the Northern Irishman isn’t afraid to hold his hands up and take decisive action. His changes in the Merseyside derby and then again at Stamford Bridge proved significant and on Saturday it was a similar story.
The first half was dour as Liverpool’s passing was pedestrian and predictable.
Playing 4-2-3-1, the support for Suarez was virtually non-existent.
Daniel Agger saw his header tipped behind before Suso stung Ali Al Habsi’s palms from the edge of the box but chances were at a premium.
Wigan more than held their own with Arouna Kone testing Pepe Reina, who enjoyed a quiet afternoon on his return to the side after six weeks out through injury.
The flow of the game wasn’t helped by a lengthy stoppage after Latics midfielder Ben Watson suffered a broken leg in an accidental collision with Raheem Sterling.
Clearly unhappy at the amount of possession the visitors were enjoying, Rodgers had seen enough and nine minutes before the break he brought off Suso and introduced Jordan Henderson.
Steven Gerrard was pushed further forward and Henderson did exactly what was asked of him as he provided a welcome injection of energy in the centre.
The formation became 4-1-4-1 with Joe Allen in the holding role and key to the Reds’ second-half dominance was getting Sterling closer to Suarez.
Within two minutes of the restart they were in front. Sterling burst past Maynor Figueroa down the right and cleverly picked out Suarez who fired into the roof of the net.
The striker’s movement was majestic and before the hour mark he had doubled the Reds’ lead.
The impressive Jose Enrique cut inside off the left and provided the perfect through ball for Suarez who finished in style.
The transformation in Enrique has been remarkable. A month ago his days at Anfield appeared to be numbered. He had been dogged by injuries this season and his form had been woeful.
However, the absence of Glen Johnson for the Merseyside derby handed him a route back to the side and he has grabbed his chance.
It says much about the lack of depth in Rodgers’ squad that Liverpool had a full-back playing on the left wing but the decision was vindicated by his performance.
Enrique’s work rate was relentless and his ability to spot a pass in the final third is a useful attacking tool. The Spaniard capped his best display since the early months of last season with his first goal for the club.
It came from a throw which the Reds were wrongly awarded but the build up was slick. Having exchanged passes with Suarez, Sterling’s shot was parried but Enrique was on hand to put away the rebound.
The margin of victory could have been greater but fans were content with the rare sight of Liverpool cruising at Anfield. Once again they owed so much to their cherished No 7.
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