Sport360° analysis: A look at Suarez’s seminal season

James Piercy 29/04/2014
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Super Suarez: The Uruguayan has fired a staggering 30 goals in 31 league games.

Even in personal triumph, Luis Suarez remains a player that polarises opinion. Within moments of the Liverpool forward being named the PFA Player of the Year, the question was being asked: is he a flat-track bully?

Despite an astonishingly prolific season of 30 goals in 31 matches, plus 12 assists to help the Reds to the top of the Premier League table, one glaring statistic remains – in six games against Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal he has failed to score once.

The timing of Sunday night’s ceremony at Grosvenor House in London couldn’t have emphasised the point any better as it came hours after Suarez, along with the rest of the Liverpool side, huffed and puffed against Chelsea at Anfield.

However, while it’s possible to pick holes in Suarez’s season no individual has had more of an effect on his team’s fortunes.

Eden Hazard – the PFA Young Player of the Year – and Yaya Toure are considerable forces for Chelsea and Manchester City but are surrounded with team-mates of equal stature and similar influence.

There is also the consideration that Chelsea and Manchester City were expected to be challenging for the title this season, Liverpool, who finished seventh last year, were not.

Such was the pessimism surrounding their chances of securing top-four football, Suarez publicly requested a transfer. Had it gone through, he would be currently battling for fourth place with Arsenal.

Instead, it marks a remarkable transformation from pariah to the league’s top player, as Suarez missed the first five games of this term as he finished his 10-match ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

Suarez said: “The Premier League is full of really great players and so it is a great honour when these players recognise your work on the pitch.

“I always try my best for the team and it is nice to get awards but really this is for my team-mates and the staff at Liverpool because without their help I wouldn’t have this prize.”

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Arsenal gun down the Toon to inflict sixth-straight defeat on Newcastle

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Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger refused to get carried away despite his side taking a major step towards Champions League qualification with a convincing 3-0 Premier League win at home to Newcastle on Monday.

Goals from Laurent Koscielny, Mesut Ozil and Olivier Giroud at the Emirates Stadium handed the fourth-placed Gunners a routine victory that moved them four points clear of fifth-placed rivals Everton with just two league games of the season remaining.

FA Cup finalists Arsenal require one more domestic league win to achieve their 17th successive campaign in Europe's premier competition, although an Everton defeat by Manchester City at Goodison Park on Saturday would also suit the Gunners.

But Wenger was not ready to start celebrating just yet despite a decent performance against Alan Pardew's struggling outfit, who lost a sixth successive English top-flight match for the first time since 1986-87 season amid calls for the Newcastle manager to be sacked from the north-east club's travelling fans at the Emirates.

"It's a step forward and one more win will be top four, for sure. But it's not done," said Wenger.

"I'm long enough in the job to know to get over the line is difficult.

"We have suffered enough this season in some periods not to be complacent. The pain we went through will help us focus to do the final job well. We are in a strong position now.

"We have another home game and another opportunity to win again. What is important is our performances and, game by game, they look strong and convincing and show we have the potential to play very good football."

Wenger allayed fears Arsenal and England midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, missing with a groin problem, would be unfit for England World Cup duty in Brazil in June, while Jack Wilshere should return from a fractured foot before the end of the season.

"He has an inflammation of his groin," Wenger said of Oxlade-Chamberlain.

"He couldn't practise… We decided to give him a complete rest for two weeks.

"Will he be involved with me? I think he has a chance. But will he be ready for England? I think so."

Turning to Wilshere, Wenger said: "Jack is training already. When will he be ready? Honestly I cannot tell you exactly. Next week or the week after. At the moment the progress he's making is good."

As the game wore on, Newcastle fans vented their anger towards Pardew, but the Toon Army manager accepted the criticism and insisted he's solely focused on beating Cardiff on Saturday to secure a top-10 finish.

"They (the supporters) are frustrated," said Pardew.

"We had 2,000 here making this long trip. Although we're playing a good team, they expect us to win. They've seen us lose again and they're not happy, and I have to respect that.

"It puts pressure on the team and myself and I have to do my best to protect the team and the performance. But all I can do is do this job to the best of my ability. We've been top 10 all year. We should have performed better in this run.

"We've got to finish in the top 10 and a win on Saturday will guarantee us top 10. If Cardiff think it's important (to avoid relegation), it's important for us to finish in the top 10, believe me.

"All I can do is get my team in the best possible place. At 2-0, we could have copped harm, but we came out with our dignity still there.

"Our stadium has to give us the atmosphere. We've got the best fans in the world, and they don't deserve the run we've given them. Our focus is to get that win as quickly as possible."

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Ligue 1 round-up: Bedimo stars as Lyon close in on Champions League berth

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Premier-league bound? There is plenty of interest in Lyon's attacking full-back Bedimo.

Cameroon international Henri Bedimo (29) proved he is one to look out for in the summer transfer window as he helped Olympique Lyonnais overcome Bastia to keep his side's Champions League hopes alive on Sunday.

One-league man Bedimo has spent his entire career in French Ligue 1, leaving his native Cameroon in 1999 at the tender age of 15 to ply his trade in Toulouse, Le Havre, Chateauroux, Lens, Montpellier and finally Lyon since last summer.

Outstanding performances for a side that dominated the league from 2002 to 2008 have attracted the interest of numerous European sides.

On Saturday against Bastia, he delivered his ninth assist of the season to help Bafetimbi Gomis score the opener in Lyon's 4-1 victory against Bastia.

This win sees Olympique Lyonnais – Champions League semi-finalist in 2010 – retain distant hopes of landing  the fourth spot currently occupied by arch-rival AS Saint-Etienne which secures entry to the competition's playoffs.

Mere Champions League qualification would have been perceived as a disappointment just a few years ago when Lyon ruled over Ligue 1, collecting seven straight league titles. However, mismanagement led to the side's progressive decay in parallel to newcomers PSG, and lately AS Monaco coming to the fore.

Today, Lyon have to content themselves with an outsider status when they face their higher-ranked opponents who registered at least one win against them this season (Monaco in October, PSG in December, Saint-Etienne in March).

The main reason for OL's demise was the side's constant failure to upgrade the squad. Karim Benzema, Eric Abidal, Florent Malouda, Mahamadou Diarra, Michael Essien left year after year only to be replaced by marginally worse players each time.

The likes of Fabio Grosso, Mathieu Bodmer or Fred (now a full Brazil international) failed to maintain a team harmony which once had legendary France full-back Bixente Lizarazu call Olympique Lyonnais "the French Bayern Munich". 

This season, Bedimo has emerged as the one exception to this general rule that witnessed Lyon cash in on its best players and replace them with more economically viable (and less technically proficient) alternatives year in, year out.

His arrival from HSC Montpellier (where he collected the league title in 2012) for a paltry €2 million is one of the steals of the season in France, such was the full-back's impact on his left wing.

Solid in defence, dynamic pushing forward, he has quickly become a stalwart for a side that boasts the third best attack in France behind PSG and Monaco.

His bursts forward and pin-point deliveries from long range have long been on display; however the consistency he now has singles him out among his peers.

There are indeed numerous talented left-backs in France : Monaco's Kurzawa, PSG's Digne, Lorient's Guerreiro or AS Saint Etienne's Tremoulinas may all claim to have reached higher heights than the Cameroon international this season.

However, none can argue to have achieved the consistency with which he is putting out excellent performances every week. 

These regular performances now see him targeted by several European sides.

Back in January, he admitted his fascination for the English Premier League where his countryman (and competitor for the left-back slot with Cameroon) Benoit Assou-Ekotto plays.

"The intensity of games, atmosphere in stadiums, desire to push forward really attract me," he said hinting he will not see out his contract tying him to Lyon until 2016.

The World Cup is generally a good opportunity to witness under-the-radar players burst to the fore and earn their big move.

In 2006, the brilliant Franck Ribery emerged with France. In 2010, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira grabbed the headlines with Germany. With his Cameroon side set to face Brazil in the group stage, who knows whether World Cup 2014 might not be Bedimo's time to shine.

Elsewhere in Ligue 1…

– PSG were meant to have sown up the league title by now and were supposed to be parading their success during the final few games of the season. However, their glorious run-in has been derailed for the second week running and they must wait to lift the Ligue 1 trophy. A disappointing draw at Sochaux (1-1) highlighted the lack of confidence of a side deprived of its natural leader Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and which has failed to impress since going out of the Champions League to Chelsea. 

– After his incredible goal last week in the derby of the French Riviera against OGC Nice, Dimitar Berbatov scored a brace on Saturday against Corsican outfit Ajaccio. The Southern shores clearly appeal to the former Manchester United striker who now has five goals and one assist to his name since joining ASM as a stop-gap replacement for Falcao back in January.

 – One of the most entertaining coaches in world football looks set to join Ligue 1 as former Athletic manager Marcelo Bielsa is on the verge of agreeing a three-year deal with Olympique de Marseille. His tactical onus will be of great help to a side currently ranked sixth on the league table.

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