SUSO is an exciting young player. Of that there is no doubt, and Liverpool staff and fans alike should be delighted that he is on our books. However, it is my opinion that his best will not be seen for some time.
The young Spaniard has become a regular starter for Liverpool over the past couple of months after making his debut in the thrilling victory over Young Boys of Bern.
It was great to see such a young Liverpool side, including fellow debutant Andre Wisdom, play with such freedom and expression as they stuck five goals past the Swiss.
Then, just a few days later came a big surprise. Liverpool, down to ten men, at home to bitter rivals Manchester United, bring on Suso at half-time despite having the more experienced Nuri Sahin and Jordan Henderson on the bench.
I nearly fell off my seat when I saw that he had come on. It said a huge amount about the new Liverpool. A manager who isn’t afraid to play young, inexperienced players, nor pluck them from the Under 21’s in the first place. It was highly refreshing.
For years, we have been wondering where on Earth the talent stocked at our multi-million pound academy has been hiding and we thank Brendan Rodgers for giving them the opportunities. I refuse to believe that Liverpool have not had youngsters in their ranks of similar quality or potential to outshine the likes of Albert Riera, Josemi, Andrea Dossena, to name but a few.
So with the likes of Sterling, Suso, Wisdom, Sinclair and Morgan all getting games, we can see a strong determination from our manager to get the club playing attractive football through players already at the club. This maybe because of his inability to sign more players in the Summer transfer window, but you get the feeling that part of his mission would be to give a chance to all who deserve one.
Suso played brilliantly against United and looked one of the most composed performers on the pitch, in a midfield role. He played a big part in Liverpool’s goal and barely put a foot wrong until a slightly wayward pass was punished in ultimate fashion by the visitors – with the help of the referee. Suso’s overall performance was very impressive and encouraging and a few days later came off the bench to influence the Reds to victory at West Brom in the League Cup.
Since then, he has started all of Liverpool’s Premiership games, and been brought off in each one too. Despite showing moments of class, his influence has not been of the highest order in the majority of these games and as a result of not influencing from his advanced position, has contributed to Liverpool’s lack of goals.
This is not a criticism of the man signed from Cadiz in 2010, as I believe that he is being played too much, and more significantly, out of position. When Suso came on against United, Rodgers chose to play him alongside Gerrard and Allen in a three man midfield. Rodgers clearly believed that his ability from the centre of the park was such that he could aid a side down to 10 men, in a midfield three, against the likes of Carrick, Kagawa, Giggs and Valencia. Suso played very well, as mentioned earlier. So why has Rodgers played him as a wide forward ever since?
Surely Suso’s position is in the centre of the park, exchanging neat passes here and there and threading in through balls as all good little Spaniards do these days. Liverpool do have a number of central midfielders at the moment but that is no reason to play somebody out of position. He clearly hasn’t had the impact that the manager would like from out wide as Liverpool aren’t scoring many goals and he has been substituted every time he has started in the league.
I hate to champion the work of Alex Ferguson, but over the years the Scot has been a master of introducing youngsters at the right time. His squad rotation has been quite brilliant, choosing to give young players and squad members time on the pitch, when the time is right. The number of such players who have been used correctly at Old Trafford has been a huge contribution to their success. Apart from the golden youth team of Scholes et.al, the likes of John O’Shea, Wes Brown, Darron Gibson, Federico Macheda, Darren Fletcher, Jonny Evans, Danny Wellbeck and even Luke Chadwick have been made great use of, before either being deemed good enough to keep, or moved on. None of these players were thrown into the side and kept there from the off, they were introduced gradually, usually in games at Old Trafford against the cannon fodder of the league.
It is great to see the likes of Suso getting so much game time, but it would perhaps make more sense to play him in home games against the likes of Reading, and in Europa and League Cup games, then if a big impact is not made, give somebody else a chance, like Jonjo Shelvey or Oussama Assaidi who has not seen as much of the first team limelight as he would have liked.
This extended run in the first team may well have a great impact on the development of Suso, and we will probably see the benefits of it in the New Year, or next season. However, I do believe that he is being played out of position and would be of much more use to Liverpool when breaking forward from the middle, with the big picture in front of him, rather than being stuck out wide, trying to precisely feed the very few players that Liverpool have tended to get into the box so far this season.
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