What we’ve learnt, on Tuesday night, is that the game against Bolton has almost certainly – unequivocally, surely, undoubtedly and for Blackburn fans hopefully – proved to be the final straw for the out of his depth Steve Kean.
But there were other fires lashing around the world of football on the same Tuesday night. And these fires weren’t jovial or jocose, as you’d expect around this time of year, but dark and fuelled by a sense of injustice. These were the fires provided by the 8-match ban and £40,000 fine (although that won’t exactly matter to him) for the Liverpool forward Luis Suarez.
Was it an injustice? Were the FA determined to throw the book at Luis Suarez in order to make an example of him? Did they completely and unfairly dismiss the fact that the Uruguayan was supposedly unfamiliar with the sensitivity in the English game? Was Evra’s statement dodgy, is Luis Suarez a racist or simply guilty of making racist comments, have the FA been too harsh on the foreigner and will they show the same ferocity when charging John Terry?
Those are all interesting questions and ones which I’m sure the realms of football will debate for a long time to come, but for me the most important question for Liverpool right now – and certainly for Kenny Dalglish – is how on earth will they cope without him? How detrimental could his banning be to this campaign, in which the reds are gunning for the coveted fourth spot?
That is eight matches for which Liverpool will be without their, alongside Pepe Reina, most influential player. One cannot undermine how paramount he is to their season so far. Luis Suarez takes many shots when playing for Liverpool and he certainly needs to work on his finishing, but he gouges out their attacks. His incisive movement and passing, as well as being a target for any Liverpool midfielder to pinpoint – so Suarez can take the ball under his meticulous control and create chances from the most seemingly uncreative positions – will be so sorely missed.
He really is quite something special – and he is vital to Liverpool for right now all of the other teams aspiring to finish within the top four bracket have their ‘special’ players ready and waiting. Arsenal have the glorious Robin van Persie, Chelsea have a mixture of Juan Mata and when on form, the football action man that is Didier Drogba. Tottenham’s team is full of special players, most notably the towering target man Emmanuel Adebayor (who in my opinion is one of the signings of the season) and Manchester United have deep-dropping second-striker-cum-goal-master Wayne Rooney. Let’s not forget Manchester City’s David Silva, either.
Liverpool are now without a man who makes them tick, who makes them look that extra bit fierce. Whilst the other teams will be plugging on, drilling out wins against the lower teams and being able to save and manipulate their squad so when the big fixtures come their best player will be fresh, Liverpool cannot now afford that sacred luxury. The pressure was already on them and the rest of the squad; it will have been intensified tenfold now that they have to play the genius of Manchester City away and brutality of Stoke City at home – all without the game-changing Suarez.
And it is in the most important period of a clubs ascendency – the Christmas period where teams drop off or keep going strong; when the fixtures come thick and fast in and around January and February – where Liverpool are struck down. What bad luck! Some would say. In fact, it is pure stupidity on the part of Luis Suarez for he has ripped Liverpool of their vital organ when they are in need of it most. He has carried out this obtuse behaviour before and his reputation is infamous for these impetuous, unnecessary acts. But this time his return after the ban could be when Liverpool have already been left behind by the other Champions League-aspiring teams in the league.
He is irreplaceable: a diamond amidst the unrelenting rough of Andy Carroll.
And so the cynic would say after a year of injury and looking like a giant mound of dung amidst – in comparison – rivers of perfume, he isn’t exactly the best option to replace Suarez. Yet he is really their only option, aside from the aging – but still brilliant – Craig Bellamy. The optimist would say that now is the chance for Andy Carroll to prove his worth to the Liverpool faithful. The weight on Carroll’s shoulders will be massive but within a different system – instead of being prised into the one custom-built for a small, tricky player such as Suarez – perhaps he could make it work. Perhaps it is a silver-lining for him and his Euro 2012 options, perhaps Carroll will find the goal once, twice and thrice and then the net-bulges will flow.
But the word ‘perhaps’ is telling. For Luis Suarez’ exit from Liverpool for eight games is a huge blow for a club who, after spending millions in the summer, really ought to be confident in their aims to achieve fourth spot. Without their Uruguayan genius, Liverpool’s hopes for the capturing of Champions League football have just slid dramatically. They are now without their diamond; their stalwart player, the player who – since moving to these shores in January – has electrified the face of English football, and for purely football reasons as well as immoral ones. They will have to learn to cope without their best player, or learn to cope without Champions League football for yet another year.
The motto is ‘you’ll never walk alone’; Luis Suarez’s punishment will ensure the rest of the Liverpool squad, at the least for the next few months, will have to do just that. And it looks certain their campaign will be hindered because of it.