What makes Barcelona so sure that Luis Suarez – who looks set to arrive at Camp Nou in a big-money move from Liverpool – will succeed where his illustrious predecessors have failed?
Why Luis Suarez and Barcelona are a perfect fit
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic left Barcelona just a year after his €60 million (Dh299.6m) transfer from Inter Milan, he complained that “the team was adapted for one guy, [Lionel] Messi, and I was sacrificed”.
Thierry Henry, David Villa and Alexis Sanchez are other top-class strikers who have played out of position in Barca’s 4-3-3 formation, to allow Messi to play centrally.
So what makes the club so sure that Luis Suarez – who looks set to arrive at Camp Nou in a big-money move from Liverpool – will succeed where his illustrious predecessors have failed?
Suarez is incredibly adaptable
Barcelona’s new manager, Luis Enrique, will probably make tactical style adjustments, since the football world seems to have figured out how to stop their possession-based attack.
However, the 4-3-3 formation that is practised from senior level down is unlikely to change, especially with Neymar, Messi and Suarez all needing to fit into the side.
If they line up like previous seasons, Messi will play centrally in a withdrawn striker’s role – a false nine – and Neymar and Suarez will play on either flank. Both can dribble the ball well and have tricks up their sleeve.
This way, Messi can roam around, while his strike partners attack from out wide.
Suarez is designed for this role. For Liverpool, he was especially dangerous when he made runs between the centre-back and full-back on either edge of the penalty area. His close control won penalties or created clear chances on goal. His ability to swivel and turn in confined spaces meant defences had to double up on him, leaving gaps elsewhere.
The attention he draws will be invaluable, allowing Messi and Neymar into one-on-one situations.
Also, Suarez showed last season that he can lead the line – when Daniel Sturridge was injured – or play as a second forward with more responsibility for creating chances.
Ibrahimovic was a centre-forward, who had success at every club where he played down the middle. Henry was also far better playing centrally. Villa and Sanchez did decent jobs playing wide, but Suarez is an obvious upgrade.
He and Barca are a perfect fit.
His dribbling ability
Few strikers are as tenacious as he is with the ball at his feet. How many times over the past three seasons have we seen Suarez almost force himself into a dangerous position through a combination of skill and willpower? He scares defenders, and a tendency to go down easily means he will win his fair share of penalties for Barcelona.
Part of Barca’s problem last season was that sides set themselves up to nullify the main threat – Messi. He often gets the ball with three or four players in close vicinity.
It leads to a lot of passes going nowhere. Full-backs get to the byline, and pass the ball backward. When it worked, tiki-taka was unstoppable. But it became stale last season and a lack of players who could unlock defences hurt Barca.
Messi didn’t have his greatest season, Neymar was still finding his feet, Sanchez was played out of position and Pedro is not the kind of player Barca can expect to be a creator. And the midfield took a step backward, en masse.
Suarez is the antidote to the malaise of 2013/14. He’ll inspire the team and take pressure off Messi.
His dribbling gives Barca another way of unlocking a defence when teams put 10 men behind the ball.
With Neymar likely to improve in his second season, that makes a frightening front three.
He sometimes goes over the edge, but Suarez has been a consistent winner. He plays on the edge and will add a dose of attitude to a Barca side that seemed a bit too nice last season.
He will be to Barca what Cristiano Ronaldo is to Real Madrid – a player who antagonises the opposition, draws fouls and earns penalties. He may fall over too often, but he will always get back up and will never stop running.
After missing out on the Primera Liga title last season, Barca had to do something to improve. Their was little wrong with their frontline and few players in world football who could have improved it.
Suarez is one of them.
Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE