Although a rapturous standing ovation greeted the Liverpool debut of Luis Suarez at Anfield against Stoke City on Wednesday night, there were no huge welcoming banners to herald his arrival.
Maybe it was because the supporters didn’t want to tempt fate (Alberto Aquilani was hailed as a conquering hero when he was introduced, and we all know what has happened with regard to the unfortunate Italian), but it is just as likely that it was due to circumspection on their part.
After the painful exit of he-who-shall-not-be-named, the Anfield faithful may now have taken a huge dose of cynicism and reserve, meaning that they will not give their hearts so quickly and easily to new players, no matter how much they profess their undying, everlasting love for the club.
However, all that aside, the early signs are good. Very good. After he replaced Fabio Aurelio just over an hour into the game, Suarez immediately showed us evidence of why Kenny Dalglish paid over £22 million to bring him to Merseyside. He positioned himself on the left of the Liverpool attack, leaving the middle to Dirk Kuyt, and wasted no time in running at the Stoke defence.
He was soon moving all over, trying his luck and feeling his way around the pitch and into the game. He was full of hustle and bustle and movement and easily linked up with other players, which was pleasing for us to see, and which we hope opposition defenders will find unsettling in the months and (hopefully) years to come.
The Uruguayan also displayed his creativity, for example neatly back-heeling the ball in the box towards Martin Skrtel after being put through by Steven Gerrard.
The icing on the cake, of course, was his goal, albeit an arguably dubious one. Despite looking tired by this point, Suarez coolly rounded Stoke keeper Asmir Begovic and shot at goal. The ball travelled very, very slowly towards the line, and as I began to think it might not even make it across, I began willing it to do so, along with those on the Kop, who were standing in expectation. Meanwhile, opposition full back, Andy Wilkinson had anticipated what Suarez would do, and slid in manfully in an attempt to clear the ball.
He only served to deflect it onto the post, however, and after what seemed like minutes rather than seconds, the ball was in the net. Cue euphoria in the stands, and a beaming smile and enthusiastic clapping of the hands from Dalglish.
Due to suspension, Suarez had not played for Ajax since the beginning of December, and Dalglish revealed that prior to the match the new signing had not even done any work with his new team mates either, explaining: "He had not even had the opportunity to train with us because of administrative stuff which had to be sorted out.” He added: “When he starts training with the lads I think we might see an improvement."
Those two words ‘an improvement’, speak volumes for me. They are simultaneously vague broad, and tantalising, and beg the questions: how much of an improvement?’ and ‘after scoring when he has not played for two months, what will he be liked when he has had several weeks of training with Gerrard and the ever-improving Raul Meireles?
Only time will give us the answers to these questions, but at the moment mulling over the range of possibilities is something exciting for us Liverpool fans to look forward to. Perhaps more importantly, after the past painful few days, it provides something to gladden our hearts.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.
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