After a perfect start to the season, there cannot be many complaints hurled at this Barcelona side.
The defence looks formidable, the hard-working element has been thrust back in and, so far at least, the team has proved unbeatable.
However, with the insertion of Lionel Messi into a central role, one drawback can be seen in the form of another world-class player in the team, Luis Suarez.
Since the beginning of Suarez’s European career, at Ajax, the striker has always shown a work-rate that can be classified at times as unbelievable.
Throughout the years, the number 9 has always been seen sprinting toward the ball in order to win it, or to create space for his team-mates. This year though, Suarez has not found his form yet and we are left to wonder – have we have already seen the best of Suarez at Barcelona?
Similar to the beginning of his first year in a Barcelona jersey, Suarez seems to lack his usual striker’s confidence.
In 2014, Suarez was initially drawn as a winger in the side by Luis Enrique, a tactic that has been employed by Ernesto Valverde as well.
While Suarez certainly has the capability of playing on the wing, his true talents and goalscoring exploits occur in the centre of the pitch. Suarez lacks the touch and passing ability of Neymar, Messi, or even Ousmane Dembele.
Countless times this season already, we’ve seen his evident frustrations at a misplaced pass or his inability to influence play.
As a natural striker, Suarez’s best moments come when he has the ability to attract and control the ball in a dangerous area. His body movement and ball flicks allow him to consistently keep defenders guessing.
This year though, with Messi more central, Suarez has had to keep the ball at his feet and influence games with more passing than we are used to.
Due to this, not only is Suarez scoring less, but it seems that when given an opportunity to shoot on goal, his confidence has dipped as well.
Ultimately, Valverde has made the right choice by playing Messi in the middle and freeing up the entire Barcelona squad. But, one drawback is the negative influence this positioning has on Suarez.
While Messi certainly should be accommodated, Suarez’s natural movements and goalscoring exploits should not be undervalued.
It is integral that Valverde finds out how to accommodate both players, because as seen in Barcelona’s treble- winning season, Suarez’s impact can effectively free up more space for the entire team.
When thriving, as he was that first year in the central position, in crucial Champions League games against PSG, Bayern, and Juventus, his movement, natural ferocity, and confidence gave each defence a huge amount of problems.
At 30 years of age, we can confidently say that a physical decline has not started, but it seems that a mental adjustment is necessary.
We have seen the greatness of Luis Suarez for several years and will continue to see it demonstrated as well, but it is up to Valverde to provide the correct situation for his greatness to shine.