On-song Suarez should simply be enjoyed

Posted by Kristian Walsh

Forget those who sit in warm, comfortable studios in front of giant television screens mounted on walls; disregard the column inches and opinion polls. Those who know Luis Suarez best have spoken.

Discourse positive and negative will always rest alongside the Uruguayan. For now, focus on the positive. There is so much of it. Football, for all the machinations and melodrama, is fun and there are few more fun to watch than Suarez, especially at his inspirational best in Liverpool's 4-0 win against Wigan.

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He is in a three-way race with Gareth Bale and Robin van Persie for the Player of the Year awards -- it is a race he can't win, won't win. Writers will not vote for him, for he is not as clean-cut as the archangelic Bale, nor does he play for a team as successful as Van Persie's. Players will not vote for him, either; those who would do so are unable to, as they still sit in a darkened room, rocking back and forth, tormented.

Whether he deserves those accolades or not is immaterial. During Liverpool's victory, he received something far more important: recognition of the highest esteem from the 4,000 Liverpool fans who stood attentively inside the DW Stadium.

This is not necessarily anything new -- Suarez has always had recognition from those who flock to watch him. A canal could bear his name in Groningen and few would protest; a statue of him could stand outside Ajax's Amsterdam Arena and people would queue to touch it. There is something so inviting about Suarez, he leaves nothing left to wonder, his intentions always clear. He plays as any supporter would if they were born with such demonic talent.

But this was recognition of a different kind. As he sprawled in front of the away support with his hat-trick confirmed, he received short, sharp claps before the sharp, short shout of his surname: Suarez. This simple chant is -- simply put -- reserved for the finest forwards Liverpool fans have seen. Kenny Dalglish and Robbie Fowler's surnames were forever prefixed by those nine short bursts of applause. Even Fernando Torres received such adoration when Anfield didn't bounce to his other merry tune.

Liverpool fans have chanted his name before, of course, but never with such gusto, such gratification, such gratitude. An unspoken bond between all behind the goal on which he scored his third strike, one that should be acknowledged by all: It is time to ignore the rumours about his departure and the peripheral nonsense that surrounds Suarez. It is time to enjoy him and fall into the clutches of hedonism. Most importantly, it is time to let him know all this, because running, scuttling, scoring before them is someone who is fast becoming one of the best Liverpool players in a generation.

This game was not meant to be about him.

This was meant to be about the way Philippe Coutinho looked so comfortable on the ball in his first start away from Anfield, drifting inside from the left wing and providing both Suarez and Stewart Downing with easy finishes. This was meant to be about Downing and the fortitude he exhibited to put Liverpool in control just 100 seconds into the game. It was meant to be about Pepe Reina finding form once more, Joe Allen's first crucial step toward redemption or Steven Gerrard and Lucas Leiva striking the right balance in the midfield.

But this is what Suarez in all his controlled frenzy does, rewriting narratives in the blink of an eye. He was not even as devastating with the ball as other times this season, simply devastating in front of goal, his off-the-ball movement leaving Emmerson Boyce a jittering wreck. Boyce also jabbed team-mate James McArthur in the face midway through the first half, the heated words exchanged no doubt relating to whose turn it was to attend to Suarez next. Few people bound up the gallows voluntarily.

The 26-year-old will look at this hat-trick ball -- his third of the season -- with fondness. His first goal was clinical, his second devilishly fortuitous, his final one caressed with the outside of his exceptional right boot and between Ali Al Habsi's legs. How apt that a player who delights in the nutmeg would enjoy his most celebrated finish in the same manner.

Suarez has now scored 21 league goals this season, 28 in all competitions. With just 90 appearances so far for Liverpool, he is just one goal away from his half century. That more than half of his goals for the club have come this season is a sign of the side's new-found attacking verve. The striker will be keen to tip his hat to the team-mates who habitually fall to the wayside because of his brilliance.

So it proved again at Wigan, where he kissed Coutinho upon his unblemished cheek, high-fived Downing enthusiastically and joked with Glen Johnson throughout. What you see of Suarez is not just individual brilliance, but a collective effort to bring the best out of him.

The worry that Daniel Sturridge's absence would be felt in the same way it was at home to West Brom a fortnight previous evaporated within two minutes. Coutinho looks a player capable of taking responsibility to create chances. Fresh from his fine cross for the opener, the Brazilian's ball to Suarez for his first goal was perfect synchronicity. Ball leaves foot, ball finds foot, ball finds goal. Football can be a simple game sometimes.

On the other side, Downing helped the side keep their shape and constantly moved infield when defending, covering spaces left by Gerrard and Allen. Though the midfield trio of Gerrard, Allen and Lucas has failed to work throughout the season, here it seemed reinvigorated, no doubt attributed to the nine-day break in between matches. Behind those three, the full backs were impressive in tandem, while Reina edged nearer to the form that made him so revered on Merseyside.

This was a clinical Liverpool, something that has not been easy to say in recent years. There was none of profligacy that slightly soured other resounding wins recently. Liverpool took just eight shots in 90 minutes, seven on target. In truth, they needed little else -- Wigan were the poorest side Liverpool have faced in the Premier League this season, their meagre surrender two minutes in a worrying sign as they prepare for another struggle with relegation.

Do not take anything away from the visitors, however -- they have played worse and lost. It is too soon, too folly, to talk of pennies dropping and corners turning, but there does seem to be a new intent to Liverpool's attacking play. This is now 12 goals in the past three games; their past six league victories have seen 24 goals with no reply. There are lies, damned lies and statistics twisted at every turn, of course -- but then there is also seeing the likes of Suarez, Coutinho, Gerrard, Downing and the absent Sturridge working together to great effect.

With 10 games left, all eyes will be on Suarez to see what he can achieve. Top of the league's scoring charts and just seven short of equalling Fowler's haul of 28 -- the best Premier League total from a Liverpool player. It is no surprise that after 28 games, this is Liverpool's best goal-scoring season since 1996-97.

Brendan Rodgers and his squad will be quite happy for the focus to remain on Suarez as they try to climb up the table, reintroducing a winning mentality at the club along the way. Likewise, Suarez will be happy to keep getting the plaudits. Some would say Suarez and Liverpool make a lovely couple, though others would claim it is one destined for heartbreak.

For now, it's just a partnership worth enjoying, for it is one bringing the best out of both. And there are few things more fun in football than a Liverpool side with such swagger and a Suarez with such marvel.

That, above all, will always be more important than any Player of the Year award.

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