Remember Luis Suarez? Goalscorer, headline-maker, borderline basket case?
Of course you do, and he’s soon to be back in a Liverpool side that – bar last weekend’s surprising setback at home to Southampton – did pretty well in his absence.
That 1-0 loss to the Saints was the only one of the 10 matches Suarez missed through his latest ban which ended up in a defeat for the Reds, who’ll now be hoping that their impressive start to the season hasn’t been derailed entirely by Dejan Lovren and company.
But whilst Suarez’s return should be welcomed by a club who worked so hard to keep him in the summer – and despite everything else he remains one of the very top players in the world – it also creates a dilemma for Brendan Rodgers, and he’s not been too good at handling those lately.
Take last Saturday afternoon as an example.
The Liverpool manager took the somewhat bizarre decision to field four recognised centre-backs for the Southampton defeat, a decision which seemed to suggest that he was desperate to fit in as many of his star names as possible.
Mamadou Sakho, his most expensive summer signing, Daniel Agger, the vice-captain, Martin Skrtel, who has been in good form in recent weeks, and Kolo Toure, who has impressed everyone associated with the club since his arrival, made up the back four at Anfield whilst more accomplished full-backs Jose Enrique, Andre Wisdom and Martin Kelly sat on the bench. The fact that Enrique and Jordan Henderson ended the game in the full-back positions explained a lot.
Such errors of judgement are to be expected from a manager who is still young and in just his third season in the top flight. Liverpool knew that when they took the calculated gamble of appointing him of course, but it is how he reacts to the mistake which is the key issue now. And he’ll be reacting with Suarez at his disposal.
Before Philippe Coutinho picked up his shoulder injury, the belief was that Suarez was going to be used on the right of an attacking trio featuring the Brazilian in the centre and Victor Moses on the left, all supporting Daniel Sturridge.
However, the loss of Coutinho for at least the next month has given Rodgers an unwanted but healthy dilemma.
He has plenty of players available who can play out wide such Raheem Sterling, Iago Aspas and Henderson, but very few who can operate in the No. 10 role as well as Coutinho does, except perhaps for Suarez.
Playing the Uruguayan off the in-form Sturridge will create a potent partnership which showed signs of potential last season – the duo made goals for each other in Suarez’s infamous appearance against Chelsea at Anfield – and would give Liverpool the kind of cutting edge that would be the envy of plenty of their rivals.
This approach would allow Suarez to be at the centre of things, leaving Moses and perhaps the raw but extremely promising Sterling to operate on the flanks.
Whatever Rodgers decides to do with his returnee it will need to be the right decision to keep the Reds near the top end of the Premier League table, but he should be thriving on that pressure following the good, but stalled start to the season.
Suarez’s return to any team would improve it, but Rodgers will need to find the right balance to his side over a next few weeks which are going to be crucial.
Liverpool’s forward might be used to all of the attention, but now it is heaped upon his manager.
Cheerio Di Canio
Sunderland’s sacking of Paolo Di Canio was blamed on a mutiny by his players, and that was hardly a surprise given his constant public criticism of them.
There is a very good manager somewhere within the Italian – a man who certainly deserves to be judged on his present and not his past – but that approach is the incorrect one for a club embarking on a long slog to try and stay in the division.
Di Canio’s immediate impact and scare tactics last season were just what was needed in a time of crisis, but you can’t really sustain that over the long run.
Sunderland’s players and board clearly agreed, and whoever replaces the now former manager is likely to be a completely different character.
The Moyes midfield mess
Look at what Fernandinho and Yaya Toure were doing throughout the Manchester derby mauling on Sunday, and then compare it to what Michael Carrick and Marouane Fellaini weren’t doing.
Midfield movement and fluidity were key to City’s success, and unless David Moyes completely changes the way his teams play then United aren’t going to be able to match that.
The Scot could be in for more uncomfortable days like this one was.