Suarez makes strong case for player-of-the-year award
Luis Suarez celebrates scoring against a lamentable Wigan at the DW Stadium. photograph: nigel roddis/reuters
Wigan Athletic 0 Liverpool 4:The match ball rewarded another show of ruthless efficiency from Luis Suarez and strengthened the case for the player-of-the-year award to follow.
Two factors count against him: one is that Robin van Persie has shaped the destiny of the title rather than a club’s modest rise from the lower reaches to seventh in the table. The other is Luis Suarez.
Liverpool’s leading striker became the Premier League’s leading marksman with a hat-trick in this excellent away performance from Brendan Rodgers’s team. It is 21 league goals and counting for the Uruguay international, 28 in total for the season.
Premier League record
Three more from the final 10 league matches would equal Fernando Torres’ haul of 24 for the club in 2007/’08. A further seven would bring Suarez level with Robbie Fowler’s Premier League record of 28 from 1995/’96.
The Liverpool manager’s ideals were stamped through this victory at the DW Stadium where, with the new signing Philippe Coutinho enhancing the performance and displaying immediate rapport with Suarez, they pressed and passed a hapless Wigan defence into submission.
With Suarez producing his second hat-trick of the season from Coutinho’s perfect pass, a deflected free-kick and following a fine run and release from Glen Johnson, Rodgers reiterated his belief that a failure to qualify for Europe will not turn the striker’s head away from Anfield this summer. The second prevalent theme is Suarez’ candidacy for player of the year.
Even Rodgers conceded the controversies attached to Suarez this season might cloud the final judgment.
Asked if voters would take a dispassionate view, Rodgers replied: “I am not sure. Everyone understands his passion and he has got himself into trouble a couple of times. But . . . He is a class act and a genuine world-class player.”
Suarez had the game settled within 34 minutes when he produced Liverpool’s third. The visitors were en route to victory thanks to a Stewart Downing header from Coutinho’s delightful cross and a calamitous first-half Wigan display.
They were a shambles defensively, careless and outfought in midfield and at each other’s throats when Emmerson Boyce and James McArthur almost came to blows following another error. And yet it showd Liverpool’s defensive vulnerability that Pepe Reina made four good saves to preserve his first clean sheet away from Anfield this year.
“It was an outstanding performance and he made saves at critical moments,” said Rodgers. “Sometimes these goals away can change . . . the game. His pass for the first goal was outstanding and he was deserving of his clean sheet.”
Liverpool’s first win at Wigan since 2007 suggested it will require a greater escape than usual for Wigan to avoid the drop. Disharmony was not restricted to the spat between McArthur and Boyce. Franco Di Santo headed straight down the tunnel when substituted, before being ordered back out, and Gary Caldwell received a verbal volley from supporters when he was replaced.
“We are in a dangerous situation,” said Roberto Martinez. “For the first 20 minutes we weren’t anywhere near the level you need to be to play against a team like Liverpool.”
The severity of the defeat will shape Martinez’ thinking for the FA Cup quarter-final at Everton on Saturday. “It is an important game . . . We want success in the cup but never at the price that it would affect our league campaign. That’s something that I will never allow to happen.”