Luis Suarez has hit the target more times than any player in the league this season, but do statistics such as these give him a strong case to win the player of the season award?
One hundred and sixteen shots on goal - this statistic has put the Liverpool striker on a par with Europe's two most talked about football stars - Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But, unlike the maestros of Spain, Suarez has achieved that number with less impressive support staff, who share the blame for Liverpool’s shameful inconsistency. His 21 goals in the league have great variety, from the physics defying free kick against Manchester City to the intended deflection against Everton. The tally includes two hat-tricks, most recently against Wigan.
His two closest competitors - Robin Van Persie and Gareth Bale - are understandably happier, owing to the fact that their hard work has led to formidable leads in the race for league title and Champions League qualification spot respectively. Nevertheless, the player of the year award should end up in the Uruguayan's cabinet for he has seen more than his share of adversity in the English game. The biggest difference between no mercy Van Persie and super Suarez is that the Dutchman is aided by a more dynamic and error free midfield while Suarez can constantly be found scurrying about the pitch, looking for support.
Van Persie had spent eight seasons with Arsenal before donning the number 20 shirt at United, whereas Suarez has barely spent two seasons at Liverpool. His rise in the Premier League cannot be matched by Van Persie who took three seasons to reach the tally of 20 goals. Suarez has created more chances, heck; he could have been the player with most assists this season had it not been for the poor finishing of his team mates.
In contrast, Van Persie’s claim to the award is best supported by the fact that he is the most clinical finisher in the competition having scored against most of the nineteen teams this season - and he's the league's top scorer. On a different note the FA might be tempted to hand the award to Suarez just to keep him in England, in attempt to slow down the declining popularity of the Premier League.
The wild card in this debate is Gareth Bale. His style, strength and pace is unmatched anywhere in the country. Even though he is not a striker, his goals are jaw-dropping to say the least and among one-man teams, he has carried the burden in the most awesome manner. However his form has been relatively recent, which might be the only fact that weakens his candidature for the best player of the season. Suarez , individually, has been more consistent. There is no denying that Bale will end up being the costliest export in Tottenham’s history, but player of the season? Hmm, let’s see.
The Suarez-Van Persie goal tally chase is arguably the best thing to come out of the United-Liverpool rivalry in ages. Even if Suarez ends up on the losing side, he can look to this season of individual glory as a great comeback from the previous season, which was marred by controversy.
In a season where the title race has ended prematurely, the top striker race might be the thing to savour.
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