Luis Suarez and the struggle to settle at Barcelona

On Sunday evening, Barcelona were once again indebted to the brilliance of Lionel Messi, as the Argentine genius scored another superlative winner in a 3-2 La Liga victory over Villarreal.

A thoroughly enjoyable game was notable for Villarreal’s rapidity while counter-attacking, Messi’s stunning right-foot finish, but also Luis Suarez’s ineffectiveness once again.

Suarez is struggling to adapt to the requirements expected of him, which is also directly effecting Messi’s positioning and influence on matches.


At the weekend, Luis Enrique started his superstar front three of Messi, Suarez and Neymar. Despite all three scoring and communally celebrating in an elaborate PR stunt against Atletico Madrid a couple of weeks ago, the forward line has not functioned properly in tandem.

It would be facile to criticise Neymar, who has had a wonderful season, chipping in with 22 goals already. In the same vein, Messi has 32 goals plus ten assists.

The Messi/Neymar axis has evolved into just that, an actual partnership in which they score and assist each-other. There also appears to be an innate awareness and understanding of the others movement. With Suarez on the bench, Messi and Neymar tore through Deportivo, almost playing their own personal game together.

Suarez was reinstated for the arrival of the yellow submarine. Neymar was on the left, Suarez back through the middle and Messi deployed from the right. Villarreal congested the central areas, Ruiz, Musacchio and Bruno formed a shield around their penalty area.

It was simple for them to suppress Barca though, as Suarez was too easy to contain. Messi is more than capable of causing danger from a wide right berth, but when cut inside onto his left foot he was met with a swarm of defenders in yellow.

Too often Messi was faced with sheer numbers in his way. That was mainly because Suarez struggled to produce the runs required. Basically, his movement hinders Messi.

Some would argue that shifting Messi to wide right from his central false nine position takes away from his game, but Messi scored 38 goals largely from that wing in Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge. That was primarily because Barca’s forward system was a cohesive and intrinsic force. Thierry Henry occupied the left side, with Samuel Eto’o as the centre forward.

Eto’o’s contribution in that treble winning season is underplayed. His movement was exceptional and he picked the right areas to move into. When receiving the ball from either wide man or central midfielders, Eto’o shifted the ball quickly or darted in behind the opposing defenders. He did such a good job occupying centre backs, Messi had ample space to exploit.

The issue is Suarez, as the Uruguayan is a totally different proposition to Eto’o. While excellent in tight spaces, Suarez lacks the nimble control, or the ability to act as a decoy like Eto’o. The task handed to Suarez at Barca is at odds with his Liverpool role.

On Merseyside, the system was built to accentuate Suarez’s strengths. He essentially had the role Messi has at Barca. Suarez is certainly a much better player when allowed more attacking responsibility.

The freedom of expression and space to dribble into works for Suarez. Messi is just better though and the Barca system caters to him, understandably.

Messi is still in phenomenal goalscoring form, but his overall influence on matches is diminished. It remains to be seen if Luis Enrique persists with Suarez. The performances of Neymar and Messi as a duo only intensifies the pressure on Suarez.

Barcelona face some huge games in the coming weeks, including a Champions League tie with Manchester City. Will Enrique go with the South-American front three or would Pedro offer more balance?

It is up to Suarez to adapt or perish. He is finding that the bedding in process in La Liga is more of a difficult prospect than expected.

The Author

Conor Kelly

Conor Kelly is a Dublin based football writer and podcaster. He can be heard on the Final Third, a Dublin football podcast on soundcloud and iTunes. He has written for numerous sites including French Football Weekly, Premier League Owl and Has been writing for Back Page Football occasionally since May 2013.

5 thoughts on “Luis Suarez and the struggle to settle at Barcelona

  1. Clearly written by an adolescent with little understanding of how football is played nevermind a lack of comprehension on the massive impact Suarez has had

  2. Why someone who have no clue how soccer is played talked about it.The author fail to see the impact create by presence of Suarez on the field.

  3. This writer is literally one of the most ignorant and biased tools out there. I could go on and on about all the ridiculousness in this article, but I’d be writing a novel and the kid is not worth that amount of time. I will say his facts are incorrect. For example, Suarez was on the bench for the Elche match, not the Deportivo match. Another thing…Somehow Suarez was “ineffective” in Barca’s 3-2 win vs Villarreal, even though he was largely responsible for creating Barca’s second goal and assisted Messi on the winning goal. This article lists stats of Messi and Neymar, but not Suarez. In all competitions Suarez has 13 assists, just 3 behind Messi’s team-leading 16. Neymar has 4. Suarez is struggling with the goal scoring at the moment, but he’ll eventually bounce back. A world-class striker always does and he IS a world-class striker. In the meantime, he’s still making a huge impact in front of goal. Between his assists and the chances he creates, not to mention the space he creates for his teammates all over the field, he has become an important part of the team. Like it or not, Conor Kelly, Suarez isn’t going anywhere. So maybe it’s up to u to adapt or perish.

  4. No mention of Suarez’s conviction for racist abuse? Strange how this man is forgiven for abusing a black player. Only a matter of time before he does it again or bites a 4th player.

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