Body Language. A term often used to backup theories of a player’s discontent.
During Rafael Benitez’s last season as Liverpool manager, a game would not go by without a thorough investigation carried out regarding the body language of star players Fernando Torres or Steven Gerrard. When the pair exchanged a shrug and a stare at Birmingham City, the press jumped upon it as proof all was not well at Anfield.
When Roy Hodgson took over the managerial reigns, the scrutiny became even more intense. As results got worse, each Torres frown or Gerrard grimace piled on the pressure for Hodgson. Even us fans started to take an interest, with Hodgson’s facerub widely translated as “he hasn’t got an ‘effin clue what he’s doing!”.
The arrival of King Kenny created a feel good atmosphere, with performances and results improving beyond all recognition. Suddenly, body language was not such an issue anymore.
Last weekend, a 4-0 hammering at Spurs meant it was back on the radar, with some quarters of the press amazingly claiming Dalglish was losing the plot!
On Saturday, the reds returned to winning ways with a 2-1 win over Wolves. Star striker Luis Suarez was inspirational in the win, involved in everything good about the reds’ display, capped by scoring the second, and ultimately decisive, goal.
But when the Uruguayan was subbed in the 81st minute, replaced by returning skipper Gerrard, Suarez mumbled angrily to himself as he left the field, before using his supremely talented right-foot to kick over the water bottles in front of the home bench.
As soon as the water bottles left the floor, those two familiar words came into my head; Body Language. Liverpool’s star striker, substituted for the third game running, having a fit; I can see the press loving it. Combine it with Suarez’ on-the-field behaviour flailing of the arms, dissent and moaning; surely it can only mean one thing; he isn’t happy. The hacks of Fleet Street will be writing their headlines as we speak... Suarez on his way to Real/Barca/Manchester City/[insert big club here]. Already, Manchester United fans have commented to me that Dalglish won’t stand for that attitude and that our No 7 will soon be on his way.
But, they couldn’t be any further from the truth. Whereas Torres’ body language was correctly deemed to be down to unhappiness and disenchantment with where Liverpool were heading, Suarez actions were nothing more than those of a footballer desperate to play every possible minute for his club. Dalglish won’t be angry with El Pistolero, he will love it.
Off the field Suarez is said to be a quiet, well-mannered family man, devoted to his wife and young daughter. On the pitch, he‘ll do anything to win; just ask PSV’s Otman Bakkal, whom Suarez bit on the ear whilst playing for Ajax. For 90 minutes, Suarez is focused on winning and on scoring. He demands perfection from both himself and his teammates. When he spurns a chance, the anger and disappointment is clear for all to see with his arms flailing and profanities spilling out of his mouth. A number of times already this season, after failing to play in the Uruguayan, teammates, Jordan Henderson in particular, have felt the full force of a Suarez verbal. Officials aren’t safe either. Upended at home to Sunderland, kicked from pillar to post against Bolton and denied a last-ditch penalty at Stoke, Suarez has given the referees and linesmen more than a piece of his mind. At White Hart Lane last week, such was his frustration at how the game was panning out and already on a yellow card for dissent, Suarez was a ticking time bomb, one stony-glare at referee’s assistant away from a Liverpool’s third dismissal. Dalglish identified this and with the game over as a contest, Suarez was rightly subbed, with the relatively mild-mannered Craig Bellamy his replacement.
On Saturday, after running the show for 81 minutes against Wolves, the sight of the No 7 flashing on the fourth official’s board saw Suarez frustrations surface again. But, regardless of what some have pointed out, it wasn’t him having a go at Dalglish. Instead it was the reaction of a winner. With nine minutes still to play and the three points not fully assured, Suarez wanted to play on, to score another goal and cement the reds’ victory. When he later addressed the fans via Social media, he confirmed his winning attitude:
“Happy for the winning and scored again! Is important to gain more points in this championship! I felt really sad and sorry because I always want to help my team to win the match!! Thanks for your support!” – Luis Suarez
So ignore anything you read in the press about possible Suarez discontent. Ignore any rival fans saying he will do a “Torres”. The kicking of the water bottles in front of Dalglish signalled a will to win. Instead of reprimanding Suarez, Dalglish will wish more of his squad displayed the same hunger and desire. Whether it be kicking water bottles, flailing his arms, berating teammates and officials or performing miracles on a football pitch, we wouldn’t change Luis Suarez for the world.
As the song goes....”Just can’t get Enough!”