Despite much talk over recent months about signing a replacement for Luis Suarez or dropping him from the starting eleven, the Uruguayan showed once again in today’s 5-0 win at Levante why Barcelona is a much better team with him on the pitch. Beyond his own performance, which was impressive in its own right, the impact Suarez has on other players and the team’s style of play continues to be significant. This impact makes the rumor of his chronic knee problem particularly concerning for the club and will hopefully convince Valverde to do his utmost in ensuring that he is fully fit for the knockout Champion League matches next spring.
Suarez’s impact has on the team has been especially evident when is unavailable. For example, when Munir has filled in for him in matches like the loss at Leganes, the loss of Suarez’s presence up front is glaring. Having Munir instead of Suarez in the team has almost looked like playing a man down at times this season. Although the sample size has been limited this season, using Messi at false 9 has also been a clear downgrade from having Suarez through the middle. Although Messi has excelled in that role in the past, he was far less active and more easily neutralized when played there recently against Tottenham and Villareal. Using Messi in that position also slows the team’s play down as he is frequently dropping off to receive the ball with nobody making runs in behind.
However, with Luis Suarez in the team, Barcelona has a player always occupying defenders and making threatening runs in behind. Not only does this allow the team to play at a higher tempo, but it also creates passing angles and space for Messi in particular to capitalize on. With Ousmane Dembele also coming into form over recent weeks, Barcelona have a fairly formidable front three emerging with him alongside Suarez and Messi, who has been special even by his standards in his last two starts. Despite his inclination for some immensely frustrating finishes and first touches, Suarez has bounced back well from his terrible start last season to be one of the team’s key players this campaign. Given the importance of the role he plays and rumors of his knee issues, it is no surprise that Barcelona is looking at signing someone like Alvaro Morata who can provide some of that presence up front.