Well, that could have gone better.
News just came out that Luis Suarez is getting an eight-game ban and a fine that is probably more than all of our cars combined for his offenses. As we said all along, if Suarez made racial insults toward Patrice Evra, then he got what he deserved. There's no place in the game for that, or in life. However, why it took this long is anyone's guess, and the fact that it did take so long has to mean the evidence isn't that cut and dried. But that's just a theory, one I can't prove.
Where do Liverpool go from here? Well, the particulars is that Suarez won't be available until the end of January. He'll miss the trip to Wigan, the home games against Blackburn and Newcastle, away to City, the FA Cup first round against Oldham, the first leg of the League Cup semifinal against City again, home to Stoke and away to Bolton. Wow, that took a while to get through.
On first blush, a lot of those games should be winnable without Suarez. Wigan tomorrow and Blackburn at home are supposed to be gimmies, paying rent in the relegation zone as they are. Newcastle is trickier, but with recent injuries in their defense it's not as daunting as it was. The games against City? Yeah, ouch. Stoke at home is a toss-up, and Bolton away should be batting practice regardless.
But it doesn't work that way, does it? Because everything Liverpool do goes through Suarez right now. He's either creating the chance or taking the shot. His constant movement can't be replicated by anyone, nor the intelligence, nor the fearlessness. Liverpool have trouble scoring with him. Without? I don't want to think about it.
Andy Carroll, come on down. Will he get another and better chance to prove his worth? One has to believe that Carroll will now get a run as the spearhead of a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, with Bellamy, Maxi, Downing, Kuyt, Shelvey, and one or two others trying to match the movement and creativity behind him. Carroll doesn't have to be clever, he just has to be ruthless. Liverpool can live if Carroll can replace Suarez's brilliance but profligacy with blunt efficiency. Just take two or three chances to score instead of the five or six Suarez has needed. That'll be enough. While there have been times to judge Carroll on his play around goal scoring, his movement, his passing, now he should only be judged on goals.
Some will say that Liverpool can rally around this, close ranks and all that. I don't know, we'll just have to see. As for Suarez, I wonder. What do his teammates think? Especially those of a different race? Do they know what went on, what was said? Are they on his side?
First Lucas, now this. Not the easiest of seasons.