LUIS Suarez has an image problem, and it will probably cost him the accolade of PFA fans Player of the Year.
It is a season when the Premier League has been breaking a variety of records for goals scored, and with so many leaky defences it is little surprise that, at the time of writing, these are also the top 4 marksmen in the Premier League, with 19, 18, 15 and 15 goals respectively.
Of these four only, van Persie is in the top 20 of assist-makers (with 7 in the Premier League), whilst Suarez has just 4. Steven Gerrard tops this list alongside Juan Mata and Podolski with 9. Luis’s 4 assists is somewhat surprising given how involved he is in almost any move Liverpool muster, and perhaps doesn’t give him due credit for the creativity that builds play to allow the final pass to be made.
Furthermore, van Persie will take corners and free-kick deliveries into the box, thereby getting direct assists for set-piece goals, while at Liverpool, if it isn’t shooting distance, Stevie G takes control to execute the delivery.
More insightful perhaps is the number of key passes made. Top of this list is Leighton Baines with 89 key passes made (who incidentally also only has 4 assists despite also taking all of Everton’s set-pieces), followed in 2nd by Suarez (78), Bale in 11th (56) and van Persie in 14th (46). Luis has made a massive 70% more key passes than van Persie. Michu doesn’t make the top 20, and given that he is the only one of the four that no one claims to yet be a World Class player, perhaps he is least deserving of the award; although, if value for money were the only criteria, he would be the most deserving.
If you only consider key passes from open play, negating set-piece stats, Suarez is way out in front of the pack at 2.65 key passes from open play per game (on average). The only other to break 2.0 is David Silva on 2.04. Van Persie and Gareth Bale don’t make the top 10.
Given that only one goal separates Suarez and van Persie, and Luis has superior all-round play and creativity (at least that’s what the stats and my eyes tell me) then you’d think he should get the award.
For this award the short-list is compiled by the PFA but the award is voted for by fans. Clubs with large fan bases can sway the final decision (Raul Meireles won it in 2011 even though he wasn’t at the level of other winners like Henry or Ronaldo) but you still have to be overwhelmingly liked by the majority. Stevie G won the inaugural award in 2001 and then again in 2009, but in truth it’ll be tough for Luis to win this one. Too many opposition fans detest him. The PFA Players’ Player of the Year seems just as unlikely.
A better bet however is the Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year award. Originally given to Sir Stanley Matthews in the 1947-48 season this is perhaps the more prestigious of the two, and the journalists who vote tend to be more objective and less partisan.
I certainly hope Luis wins at least one of these upcoming awards. Controversies aside, he is a stand-out player in the league and in my view, in a small group of players (alongside the likes of Neymar) who are just below the stratospheric heights of Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Luis has got to this stage by playing terrific football. Let’s hope, award or no award, he continues to play terrific football at Liverpool FC, as other clubs begin to circle.
You can catch more from me on my own blog: http://taintlessred.blogspot.co.uk/