Introducing Anfield Asylum's newest inmate,
Before we get down to business and start running the rule over Liverpool's 2012/2013 season, I'd like to quickly introduce myself and express my great excitement at joining the Anfield Asylum community. I'm truly thrilled that Adam, Dan, and Jonathan were willing to bring me aboard and allow me to supplement their tremendous insight with my own opinions, analysis, and conspiracy theories (no really, prove that Howard Webb isn't a puppet for the Illuminati). My unhealthy obsession with LFC was laid bare when realizing that simply being at Anfield to see Stevie G slot home the winner against Spurs somehow qualifies as one of my life's greatest achievements.
Now, on to the show
Key Track: The Who - Heaven and Hell
Revered as a Fowler amongst men by red-blooded Liverpudlians and reviled as Beelzebub just about everywhere else, few personalities are quite as dynamic as that of Luis Alberto Suarez Dias. The 2012-2013 season, in which he both singlehandedly led Liverpool's front-line for six months and gave Branislav Ivanovic rabies, only worked to further entrench the remarkably bipolar sentiment surrounding Liverpool's number seven.
Fulfilling his supporters' expectations, the writhing, wriggling deity of a forward unquestionably established himself as a true global superstar. Equally capable of providing the final pass as delivering the final strike, Suarez took his individual game to soaring new heights in Brendan Rodgers's first year at the Liverpool helm.
Most crucially, Suarez firmly dispelled his label as a "scorer of great goals, but not a great goal-scorer" and re-discovered the ruthless marksmanship that defined his time in the Eredivisie. The Uruguayan's 23 league strikes (with seven more in cup competitions) more than doubled his previous year's contribution of 11. The twice over in Suarez's goal-tally is most clearly the result of his remarkably improved conversion of clear cut chances, which skyrocketed from 25% to 53% and left him second in the final Premier League scoring table behind Manchester United's Robin van Persie.
Though not quite as dramatic as his improvement in front of goal, the growth in Suarez's build-up play also deserves mention. With his crossing accuracy enhanced from 20% to 28%, Suarez created a clear-cut chance every 197 minutes, a stark improvement upon his 2011-2012 rate of once every 320 minutes. Somewhere in London, Andy Carroll orders another pint.
Suarez's progression as a player is only made more impressive when one considers the unfair burden placed upon his shoulders following the disastrous summer transfer window that essentially left him as the only fit senior striker for half the season. One gets a better understanding of the pressure faced by "El Pistolero" when examining Liverpool's record before his suspension.
In matches without a Suarez goal, Liverpool were 3-5-9 with a points per game average of .82 that, extrapolated across 38 matches, would have meant 31 points, 18th place, and Evertonians' sadistic joy at Anfield hosting Doncaster Rovers in the fall.
On the other hand, matches with a Suarez goal saw Liverpool go 9-7-0 with a points per game average of 2.13. This pace across the entire season would have seen a total of 81 points, 2nd place, and, most assuredly, Liverpool's sixth European championship next May. In short, Luis Suarez was Liverpool's attack for much of the campaign.
The blossoming of Suarez into a genuinely world-class striker was, for many, secondary to his ascendency as England's official public enemy number one. That his transcendent play is overshadowed by the recurring moments of insanity that will see the striker sit out the first six games of next season, speaks to just how toxic his relationship with the rest of the island has become. While he claims to be victimized by the press and the press claims he is a Randle McMurphy-esque threat to the nation's morality, the truth is somewhere in between. David Cameron's son probably won't turn into a vampire after watching a Liverpool match, though it is equally likely that the Kop's Suarez song would be radically different were he to hail from a different clan.
True "highlights" would be his continued torment of Norwich City, with a brilliant hat trick in Liverpool's September thrashing of the Canaries, his free-kick clinic in Liverpool's comeback that wasn't against Zenit in the Europa League, or maybe just his consistent brilliance across the season.
Instead, his performance against Chelsea allows us to ride the entire roller-coaster of Suarez induced drama. A brilliant assist for Daniel Sturridge was immediately followed by his concession of a cheap penalty on a corner kick. Not long after, Kevin Friend failed to punish Suarez for World War Z-ing Ivanovic and the Uruguayan expressed his gratitude by scoring a stoppage time equalizer with what could be his last kick of the ball in a Liverpool shirt. No match can better encapsulate the range of emotions Suarez inspires, nor can any other match claim a more direct impact upon the general ambiguity surrounding his immediate future.
Season Grade: 7
Such is the duality of Suarez that I'm as equally tempted to give him a full 10 for carrying the team on his back as I am to give him a 0 for the simply astounding likelihood that he completes his second consecutive transfer while suspended for biting a living, breathing human being. He scrapes by with a seven after acknowledging that Liverpool were effectively out of the race for Champions League qualification by the time of his suspension.