Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughLuis Suarez ...Football’s modern day Artful Dodger? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Luis Suarez ...Football’s modern day Artful Dodger? - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Luis Suarez …Football’s modern day Artful Dodger?

Kudos must be credited to Martin Tyler, of Sky Sports, for the provision of this thought provoking comparison. Tyler made the comment in the aftermath of a late Luis Suarez equaliser at Stamford Bridge in November. The Uruguayan forcefully shoved Chelsea’s Brazilian Ramires within the 6 yard box, engineering himself the space to head in from close range, earning Liverpool a hard thought 1-1 draw at the home of the European Champions. However, with closer reflection, Tyler’s throwaway remark could carry levels of high credibility, as close comparisons run deep between the Uruguayan forward and the deceiving character that utilised his cunning mannerisms to run amok in Charles Dickens acclaimed novel, Oliver Twist.

To indulge in a commonly utilised comparison, Suarez could comfortably be branded The Premier League’s equivalent of Marmite, a renowned food spread with the attached marketing slogan of, ‘love it or hate it.’ Since his £22.8million move to Anfield from Ajax in January 2011, Suarez, 25, has become a quintessential fans favourite at Liverpool, showcasing not only inhumane levels of technique but also an incredible work rate, endearing to many fans in what remains a largely working class sport. However, before analysing the reasons behind this seemingly perpetual love affair between Liverpool and its iconic number 7, we must first remind ourselves why Suarez is loathed by many, with feelings of exasperation and anger that run far deeper than a typical begrudging of a rival’s star player. 

Those that follow our sport across the continent will be aware that controversy and the mercurial talent, that is Suarez, went hand in hand long before he arrived upon Merseyside. In November 2010, towards the end of his highly successful days at the Amsterdam Arena, Suarez bit PSV’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder, culminating in a 7 game league ban for the striker. The aforementioned incident is just one example of several unsavoury, internal and external, events during his time in the Netherlands.

Since his move to The Premier League almost 2 years ago, the striker has continued to be embroiled in controversy. Suarez was infamously fined £40,000 and banned for 8 matches after being found guilty of racially abusing Manchester United defender Partice Evra.  It should also be noted that as the FA panel gathered evidence of the Evra’s accusations, an elongated process in itself, Suarez was again charged with misconduct and awarded a one game ban for making an offensive gesture to fans during a damaging defeat at Fulham.

The striker has also been caught up in incidences of diving, with Stoke boss Tony Pulis calling for retrospective action from the FA after some amateur dramatics during a 0-0 draw this season. In a similar vein to Gareth Bale, it appears that previous misdemeanours are now somewhat hampering Suarez when it comes to unjust refereeing decisions. However, if truth be told, a game barely goes by without Suarez showing at least brief glimpses of petulance, a personal gripe is the way less than eloquent way he goes about demanding a hand ball off the referee.

As with many of the game’s elite players over recent eras, we must see beyond these flaws to appreciate the prestigious talent that Suarez undoubtedly is. Suarez is charismatic, with a wonderful work rate that acts as a highly effective backdrop to his undeniable flair and technique. This desire to win is infectious, he carries his side at times and almost certainly now surmounts his captain, Steven Gerrard, as Liverpool’s most influential player. Furthermore, the fact that the forward appears to be the beneficiary of many deflections and scrambles is no co-incidence. He has a desire to constantly be involved and extremely rarely finds himself on the periphery of a game.

If there was one underlying criticism it was that Suarez was not as clinical as he had proved at Ajax, often showing a lack of prolificacy when faced with the whites of the goalkeepers eyes, as well as being seemingly cursed by woodworks throughout the nation. Playing in an inconsistent outfit, the striker has more than rectified any issues this campaign. With a further brace against perennial strugglers QPR yesterday, Suarez now has 13 league goals for the season, already two more than he managed in the entirety of last season’s campaign. Perhaps his most resplendent moment of this campaign to date was his equaliser at home to Newcastle. Receiving a pin-point diagonal from Enrique, Saurez displayed an impeccable first touch and a drop of the shoulder, deceiving both Coloccini and Krul, before rolling the ball into the empty net infront of the Kop.

Much has been made of the manner in which Brendan Rodgers is trying to change the style of play at Anfield, undertaking a seemingly long-term project, hopefully concluding in a successful and aesthetically pleasing style of play. Signs of progress are increasingly evident, however in a season in which the club and many of its players, including the once integral Steven Gerrard, have been riddled with levels of inconsistency; Rodgers must be delighted with the sumptuous manner in which Suarez has reacted in the face of adversity.

A similar concoction of prosperity and contentious issues are mirrored whilst reflecting upon Suarez’s international career. Many will immediately point to arguably the most notorious incident of the 2010 World Cup, in which Suarez was sent off for hand-balling a late goal bound header, indirectly denying Ghana a place in the last 4. Lest we forget that in this instance the striker acted as a martyr, sacrificing an appearance a World Cup Semi Final to give his nation an unlikely route of progression. To this point, Suarez played a distinctive role, scoring 3 vital goals, including a group stage winner against Mexico and a decisive double against Denmark in the last 16.

A year later, Suarez was again instrumental as Uruguay won a record 15th Copa America title. He was named player of the tournament, scoring four goals in the process, including a semi final brace and the opening goal in a 3-0 triumph over Paraguay. Since making his debut in 2007, a game in which he was sent off, Suarez has become an iconic national treasure, with an impressive 29 goals in 61 appearances to date. Uruguay’s advances towards Brazil 2014 haven’t been as smooth as they may have hoped, with bruising Autumnal defeats in Argentina and Bolivia hindering progression. The form of the enigma that is Suarez, along with that of Edison Cavani, is fundamental to the South America’s hopes of qualification and any serious impact that may be made upon the tournament itself.

To return to the unflattering comparison offered at the outset, in many ways Luis Suarez does indeed resemble the Artful Dodger. The Uruguayan is undeniably sly and cunning, and will go beyond ethical means to find a way in which to win a football match.

However, if one is prepared to look beyond these patently obvious flaws, you will discover a player that effectively harnesses high levels of individual brilliance with a burning desire to be part of a successful group of players. The Artful Dodger was ultimately banished ashore for his betrayals and sinful ways. Although in highly incomparable circumstances we must hope that for the good of the English game, Suarez is neither tempted by the bright lights of, say, the Santiago Bernabeu or hounded out by the continuous haranguing of the English media. 

Michael Dobson