Did Liverpool's SAS really have an outstanding season?
Let me begin by telling you what the abbreviation ‘SAS’ stands for. Contrary to what your television sets, the internet, newspapers and your friends have told you, SAS stands for ‘Selfish and Selfish’. Sure, they’ve taken the Premier League by storm this season, scoring goals left, right and centre. Sure, they have conjured up rabbits (that don’t bite, surprisingly) from their hats. The fact that they have accrued a whopping 53 goals between them this season makes their contribution this season all the more clearer.
The phrase ‘individual brilliance’ among many others figure at the very top of their dictionary. However, their dictionaries seem to be lacking a couple of very important four letter words (don’t get me wrong) which include ‘team’ (mostly Raheem Sterling) and ‘pass’. They have irked all (mostly Raheem Sterling) with their go-for-goal-but-don’t pass approach, exasperated team-mates (mostly Raheem Sterling) with their reluctance to make the final pass, and the only person who has stood to gain from their erratic, ostentatious shooting from outside the box (save a handful of spectacular goals) has been the opposition goalkeeper.
Their haul of 19 assists this season may seem impressive to one who has not watched their performances. But to me, and all others who have watched these two brilliant individuals at work, that figure is but a façade.
Let us delve deeper into Suarez’s and Sturridge’s “me, myself and I” approach this season, via a few graphic representations.
Luis Suarez has been nicknamed El Pistolero mainly because he loves to shoot, shoot, shoot and shoot. He makes strikers like Diego Costa and Edinson Cavani look like they never really put on their shooting shoes, when, in actuality, they are extremely inclined to unleashing shots at goal (which is why they’re a part of this diagram).
Sturridge too, since his Chelsea days, has had this affinity towards shooting. Note that the number of shots Sturridge has taken is not nearly as high as it should be as he missed a good many matches this season owing to injury. Olivier Giroud, who has taken the second most number of shots in the Premier League this season, is only a mere 69 behind Suarez.
Here, we take into account the best dribblers in the world and Suarez. Having attempted the maximum number of dribbles in this chart, he has a paltry success rate of 39% in contrast with Eden Hazard (63%), Neymar (47%) and Cristiano Ronaldo (55%). In terms of ability to beat his defender, Suarez is just as good as any of these three attackers.
The difference, therefore, arises because of his lack of judgement in differentiating a winnable dribble and an impossible one, as he egotistically backs himself to win these impossible dribbles. Which again comes down to his selfishness.
DUO GOALS/TEAM GOALS
All four strike partnerships included in this pie diagram have been the highest scoring pairs (or trios) in their respective leagues this season. In the case of Real Madrid (Ronaldo and Benzema), while they have scored at will (48% of Real’s goals) this season, they have not been the only scorers for their team. Gareth Bale, Angel Di Maria, Isco and Luka Modric have also been among the goals. Similarly, while Lewandowski and Reus have formed a formidable partnership for Borussia this season, they have scored only 45% of their team’s goals.
Suarez and Sturridge on the other hand, have scored between 52-53% of their team’s goals this season, which is unhealthily high. By scoring more than half of their team’s goals, they have, often, restricted their own team mates’ (mostly Raheem Sterling) chances of scoring, by simply not playing the decisive pass to an unmarked man (mostly Raheem Sterling), and going for an exquisite finish instead. How many times have we seen their team mates frustrated as they debilitated defences and celebrated, never willing to share the spoils, with any (mostly Raheem Sterling), but themselves?
OUTSIDE THE BOX ATTEMPTS
This is the only area where SAS do not come out on top, courtesy Balotelli’s penchant for letting rip from outside the box. While Suarez and Sturridge have taken a couple more shots than Ronaldo and Benzema, both of whose long shots are world-renowned, they are 10 shots behind the Rossoneri pairing .
Note that the Premier League’s style of play, unlike the Serie A, is box-centric. While taking a shot from 30 yards out in Italy is not considered unusual (which explains why Balotelli has taken 95 shots from outside the box compared to only 57 from inside), the English game does not see too many shots on goal from outside the area. Keeping that in mind, SAS’s 112 shots from outside the box is grossly outrageous.
Still don’t believe what SAS stands for? Ask Raheem Sterling.