Premier League forwards serve up wonderful entertainment, and Suarez is pick of the bunch

The Premier League has been lavishly gifted this season with the array of talented forwards that its top clubs have put together. On any given weekend, fans can marvel at the sight of Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck causing spontaneous combustion at Manchester United. Fernando Torres may be struggling to remember what a great striker he was, but that hasn’t made seeing the slick interplay of Chelsea’s talented triumvirate behind him any less compelling. Olivier Giroud is beginning to find his feet at Arsenal, his demonstration of quick thinking allied to remarkable strength in the manic 3-3 draw with Fulham hopefully the first of many to come, and who cannot fail to feel fortunate to be watching the Premier League when two of the best Argentine forwards in the world are strutting their breathtaking stuff in every match for Man City?

However, even in that daunting cast, there is one man who is rising head and shoulders above every one with his exhilarating mix of sheer brilliance and individual fortitude and he is Luis Suarez of Liverpool. The hat-trick against Norwich was the first sign that a player who could score thirty goals a season if he took more of his chances was finally becoming more clinical, but in then single-handedly hauling Liverpool from defeat to the brink of victory against Newcastle, Everton and Chelsea with five goals across all three matches he proved that his talent knows no bounds. It is launched from the springboard of a strong-willed, indivualistic personality with fire in his belly, as proven by his wonderfully cheeky dive in front of David Moyes after scoring a goal, in response to criticism of his antics from the Everton manager, and by the plays he attempts on the pitch. When faced with a defender, he without fail turns to improvisation and attempts a trick that re-creates the childlike joy of football from the street or playground – and which is recognisable to every fan – in the professional theatre of the Premier League. It is a delight to see him mug a well-honed defender who has been prepped with tactical knowledge with a trick that has been invented on the spot and strips the sport back to its basics, just as it is a delight to see how often he looks to bring his teammates into play with inch-perfect passes that are every bit as good as his runs and skills. He radiates brilliance just as he hustles with grit and determination, and this effort is endearing to fans who recognise that his inimitable talent nevertheless draws upon his insatiable work ethic and proud, wilful determination to give everything in service of the cause. It is not just Liverpool who are indebted to him, but every single viewer who is in love with football and recognises the wider zest for life and activity in his play that holds the key to mobilising one’s talent and creativity.

There was an altogether different thrill associated with watching Robin van Persie materialise in Arsenal’s penalty box as if out of thin air to poke home a lofted ball from Patrice Evra in Manchester United’s 2-1 defeat of them two weekends ago. Van Persie failed on that occasion, but the movement was so ghostlike, so sudden, as to be barely believable. Premier League fans should celebrate the variety on display between a van Persie, with his invisible, wraith-like movement and a Suarez or Aguero, who combine outstanding talent with the endearing hustling qualities from the streets of the continent they come from. At this moment in time, Suarez occupies the number one place in many fans’ affections, and perhaps this has something to do with his multi-layered, compelling personality as well as the way his character shines so clearly through his football (much like an Andrei Arshavin as well). One writer imagined the damage Suarez could wreak playing for a Chelsea or a Manchester United, but there is a more tempting hypothesis. What if Barcelona had not bought the faltering Alexis Sanches for the purpose of running at defenders and creating havoc alongside Lionel Messi and Pedro, but Suarez instead? With his intelligence and box of tricks, Suarez would have taken to the task like a box to water, benefitted enormously from the service of Xavi and Iniesta and the glow cast by playing with Messi, and Barcelona would have found the key to unlocking stubborn defences that sit back as most obviously displayed by Celtic a few weeks ago. A player of Suarez’s heroism and talent deserves the stage and acclaim of a club like Barcelona, but Liverpool’s struggles and the way it perhaps elevates his efforts, mean that he is certainly not under-appreciated in the Premier League. Sergio Aguero may be snapping at his heels, and Fernando Torres may be a sad warning sign of how many twists and turns a player can take throughout the course of his career, but right now Luis Suarez is playing at a level and with a determination that will even cause those who claim he is a curse upon the game to reluctantly admit there is something special and likeable about this boy.

Brendan Rodgers’s Carroll-conundrum

Brendan Rodgers needs to tread carefully. Despite learning part of his trade under the most media-savvy coach of all in Jose Mourinho, he has taken a few overly hasty steps in his handling of the Andy Carroll affair that could yet come back to haunt him. His recent about-face regarding Carroll’s utility to his plans (“he can fit into how I want to play…I’m certainly not wishing to push him out of the door”) has come off as indecision from a man who only last week implied that Carroll had no place in his tactical vision for Liverpool and would be better off seeking a loan route out of the club.

It is all very well for Rodgers to wish to stamp his authority on Liverpool early on by demonstrating firm commitment to his cherished 4-3-3 and acting decisively regarding the club’s most contentious player, but if Carroll cannot be moved on to everyone’s satisfaction and Liverpool fail to make a winning start, Rodgers’s unnecessary granting of the impression upon the public that there is an unsolvable problem between him and Carroll will be held up as the reason for his failure. Every occasion on which Carroll comes off the bench, fails to perform on the pitch, or doesn’t even make the squad, will haunt Liverpool’s team and Rodgers for as long as it needs them to adapt to a radically new system in 4-3-3 and start silencing critics with results. Doubt is easier and faster to spread than faith, and it would be catastrophic for Rodgers if the fans or players began forming opinions of him based on the media’s negative portrayal of his problems with Carroll. That would translate to a critical reluctance on the part of the players to help inculcate the 4-3-3, and the longer that takes, the more chance the swell of criticism would grow and the potentially exciting things Rodgers could offer Liverpool could be buried under their £35 million problem. Carroll does not look like a person who makes things easy for those who stand up to him, and after Rodgers’s ill-advised comments, his continued presence at Liverpool could overshadow everything he seeks to build at his new club.

Andre Villas-Boas’s travails at Chelsea serve as a useful reminder to Rodgers of the pitfalls of being a young manager at a club with history and an inclination for snap judgements. As a young manager seeking to implement a drastically new system, he needed players on his side and results to go his way for belief to grow and conformity to follow. Instead, Chelsea had an indifferent first half of the season and his falling out with Frank Lampard and other senior players became more of an issue than the good work he had to offer. Rodgers needs to avoid the same impulsiveness on all fronts of his management approach if he is to bring longevity and change to Liverpool.