Salah vs Suarez
There has been an explosion of chatter, fallout, and debate regarding the discussion of the crew at ESPN FC, Liverpool club legend Steve Nicol included, over the question of “Who would you take Suarez 13/14 or Salah 17/18?”. The ESPN FC crew unanimously decided Suarez.
That all being said, let’s take a look at the two players in question over a broader spectrum before providing any comparison.
Suarez’s Liverpool connection began after his 1st European suspension due to biting in 2010. After that, Ajax began looking to sell, and with an almost 23 million pound bid from Liverpool, they elected to let the talented, well-liked player go. The 11/12 season was a decent one for Suarez by Premier League standards; however, there was the racial abuse incident with Patrice Evra. Despite Liverpool and then manager Kenny Dalglish supporting Suarez, the FA handed down an 8 match ban. In 12/13, Suarez scored an impressive 30 goals in all competitions under Brenden Rodgers, this was somewhat overshadowed by yet another disastrous event. This time– a 2nd biting incident and a 10-match ban had Suarez agitating for a move at season’s end.
After a summer of turmoil and rejected bids, Suarez decided to remain at the club for the 13/14 season. This– the season in question, posed by the ESPN FC crew, where Suarez and his 31 goals and 12 assists catapulted Liverpool into a 2nd place finish and a return to the Champions League spots; and would possibly have been a title win if not due to the infamous Steven Gerrard slip.
During that run, Suarez was undeniable: 31 goals and 12 assists in 37 appearances. His performance led to most of the major accolades available to him, short of the Ballon d’Or. That summer at the World Cup in Brazil, Suarez had his 3rd biting incident, and with a rumored 70 million-ish pound Barcelona bid and a potential massive ban coming, Liverpool chose to let him go.
Salah made a name for himself at Basel from ’12-’14, mainly taking advantage of coming up against Premier League opposition in the form of Spurs and Chelsea. The mark he left between the Europa League and Champions League performances lead to Chelsea making the move for him in the January 2014 transfer window. After 11 appearances for Chelsea, a summer of uncertainty almost led to a footballing break for Salah due to the Egyptian government’s imposed military service requirements. Back on the pitch for 14/15, again with minor participation in the Chelsea squad (8 apps), Mo was sent on loan with Fiorentina. Making 26 apps, scoring 9 goals and bagging 4 assists, Fiorentina sought to make the move permanent. The subsequent discussions between parent club Chelsea and Fiorentina led to a falling out.
Instead, Salah ended up at fellow Italian side, Roma. Once on loan there, Salah put in a solid season on loan with 42 Apps, 15 goals, and 6 assists. Then after a permanent move, he established himself with 41 apps, 19 goals, and 12 assists. Accomplishments which led to Liverpool’s club record transfer fee, and Salah’s incredible performance this season so far with 41 apps, 36 goals, and 10 assists.
Salah has brought nothing but joy to the Liverpool faithful this year. His tireless work ethic and constant smile should be enough to keep Liverpool in the Champions League spots. Not to mention the potential of advancing in the Champions League this year with upcoming fixtures vs Manchester City.
Salah vs Suarez
It’s a common thing that fans love to do or ask, the hypothetical one-off season performance of “This Player vs That Player”. There are some merits to this at times, however, let’s take another look at the two aside from the opinions of ESPN FC.
Comparing a wing player, no matter how fluid the system, to a striker/centre-forward is problematic. The roles that the respective positions play are fundamentally different in nature. The striker is meant primarily for holdup play, and/or fluid movement. Something which leads to the finishing move in some way–be it taking the actual shot or providing a deft touch in an assist. Whereas the winger–usually meant to be a connection in transition with the midfield in defense or an outlet moving forward–leads to providing the assisting ball or occasionally finishing the move.
Next, the issue of team personnel provides a considerable element when viewing the contributions of these players in perspective. The 13/14 side was a wonderful blend of experience and youth. We saw a more complete and stable spine provide for the needed dexterity to grapple with a Premier League season. At the back, a more confident Mignolet was hidden behind experienced hardened defenders like Agger, Toure, Skrtel, and Johnson. Then, of course, legendary leadership with Gerrard, stability with Lucas, and Henderson in the center of midfield played their roles facilitating forward play. Further up, Coutinho and Sterling provided youth, speed, width, and creativity. And finally, Suarez and Sturridge opened defenses with clever moves and smooth finishing. This team had so many of the elements that we see in teams that win the Premier League.
The 17/18 team, while diverse in type, lacks the same type of blend that made teams like the former mentioned successful. A majority of the team is in their mid-20s and just about to hit the prime years of their career. Which has a future upside but in the meantime often shows in various lapses. Not to mention the exit of Coutinho, whose match change-ability and creative contributions have been missed at times.
The last major element under consideration is scheduling. The 13/14 Liverpool team had what seems to be a benefit in the last few seasons: no Champions League commitment, coupled with only 5 matches added between the 2 domestic cup competitions, ending on a total game count of 43 matches. The 17/18 team has had Champions League football to contend with (8 games and counting), 3 domestic cup games, and 31 league games played– already at 44 matches played with at least 9 still to go. This also impacts the amount of rest time the team has had and lead to the significant amount of personnel that has seen the field for Liverpool this year.
With all these aspects in perspective, I think it is fair to say that Salah’s performances over the course of the season have somewhat edged the contribution made by Suarez in the 13/14 season. With the comparisons drawn positionally, in the make up of the team, the youth and inexperience, the lack of rest, number of matches played, diversity in competitions, contributors leaving, the frequent squad rotation, or character shown in representation of the club, Salah has impacted the team to such an incredible extent that he really should be receiving more praise.