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DEBATE: Manchester United's Robin van Persie or Liverpool's Luis Suarez?
With over half of the Premier League season been played, the Premier League Golden Boot award looks to be heading to one of two places, Old Trafford or Anfield. Luis Suarez and Robin van Persie are currently on 16 and 18 league goals respectively after 23 games played. Which leaves the question;
Who is the current number one striker in the Premier League?
Now, this question may be a bit pre-mature. Robin van Persie could carry Manchester United to the Champions League & FA Cup final, as well as guide Sir Alex Ferguson's men to a 20th Premier League title.
Similarly with Luis Suarez; his goals, work rate and commitment could see Liverpool obtain their own personal holy grail which is Champions League qualification. Liverpool haven't qualified for the top tier of European football since 2009, and Champions League football at Anfield will be crucial in keeping the likes of Suarez at the club.
According to ESPN.net, Robin van Persie has 18 goals from 84 shots, and 6 assists in the Premier League. The Dutchman moved to Manchester United from Arsenal in the summer and has admitted himself that he is 'surrounded by champions'. The Man United squad boasts world-class talents among the ranks, and is arguably the strongest squad in the Premier League.
The site also states that Luis Suarez has 16 goals, from 127 shots. With 3 assists to his name, his stats are marginally less impressive than Robin van Persie. However, there has been no recent mention of Liverpool's 'world-class squad, full of champions.' Manchester United have the likes of Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick, Shinji Kagawa, Tom Cleverley and Antonio Valencia who have all assisted goals of van Persie this season.
The aforementioned quintet all have the ability to unlock a defence with a pass for van Persie, whilst Luis Suarez really only has Steven Gerrard.
In fact, Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher recently labeled Steven Gerrard as Liverpool's greatest ever player, due to his world-class ability and the squad he has been playing in over the years.
Now, before I go off into a tangent of how great Steven Gerrard is; this is what Jamie Carragher had to say about Gerrard and the current Liverpool squad.
“There are guys like Kenny [Dalglish], Graeme Souness, Ian Rush, all world-class players, but the difference was they were in a world-class team - and Stevie has not played in a world-class team.”
Luis Suarez is playing in the same squad as Steven Gerrard right now, and for a man of Jamie Carragher's stature to come out and admit this Liverpool squad is 'not a world-class team' highlights how important Luis Suarez has been this season.
Both players have been pivotal this season for their respected sides, and are crucial for each team's objectives.
But if Robin van Persie played for Liverpool, would he get as many goals as Suarez? Probably not. The same can be said of Luis Suarez at Manchester United. Where Manchester United play to Robin van Persie for the lethal, prolific Dutchman to score their goals, Luis Suarez almost plays for himself to score. You tend to find that if Luis Suarez plays well, so do Liverpool.
Allow me to elaborate. Van Persie has a plethora of attacking, world class talent around him who nine times out of ten will find him with the right pass, cross or through ball. Which nine times out of ten, van Persie will score.
Luis Suarez's goals however are usually the complete opposite. Suarez is the driving force behind the Liverpool attack, as well as the goal-scorer. The Uruguayan tends to work single-handedly for his goals. But as I mentioned earlier, he does have Steven Gerrard. The Liverpool midfielder does have the ability to find Suarez and create a goal-scoring opportunity. In fact, the game against Sunderland highlights the difference in goals Luis Suarez has had to score this season.
His first goal, he brushes off Carlos Cuellar and advances to goal. Suarez shoots at an acute angle towards Simon Mingolet's goal, and managers to squeeze it past the Belgian, despite being fouled in the build up.
His second goal is all Steven Gerrard as the midfielder spots the intelligent run of Suarez from deep in his own half. Gerrard, who is almost in at right back he's that deep, plays a long field pass which takes both of Sunderland's defenders completely out of the game. Suarez brings the ball down decisively, before once again slotting it past Simon Mingolet. Where Luis Suarez gets a pass of that quality every couple of games, van Persie might get that once a game.
Skip to one minute to see Luis Suarez's brace, or watch from the beginning to see Raheem Sterling's goal as well.
No-one can deny the difference in goal-scoring burdens the two have. Manchester United have had 16 different goal-scorers this season, so van Persie will know that if he perhaps has the odd, off day - someone like Wayne Rooney, or the super-sub Javier Hernandez will come up with the goods. Manchester United's second top scorer is in fact Javier Hernandez with 12 goals in all competitions. Wayne Rooney comes in at third with 9 goals, despite sitting out for long periods this season with injuries.
Liverpool's second top scorer is Steven Gerrard with 6 goals, whilst youngster Jonjo Shelevy sits third with 5 goals. Liverpool do have 13 different goal scorers in the league this season, but out of the 13, only six have more than one league goal this season, according to the BBC website.
Luis Suarez for the majority of this season has single handedly carried the Liverpool attacking threat. The Uruguayan is in his richest run of goal-scoring form this season, and will no doubt be relieved that Daniel Sturridge has joined to take the weight off his shoulders. But is it the fact that because Suarez has been the only forward in the squad, he has been so proficient?
A key factor to take into consideration is the shots to goals ratio. With Robin van Persie scoring 18 goals from 84 shots this season, that works out to 4.6 shots per goal. Luis Suarez on the other hand has 16 goals to 127 shots, which works out to around 7.9 shots per goal. It would take Robin van Persie 46 shots to score 10 goals, whilst Luis Suarez would need 79. Robin van Persie is a much better finisher, but should we praise the Uruguyan for creating 127 chances to score from?
Manchester United paid £24million for the complete forward. At the age of 29, many thought it'd be a major risk for Manchester United. With 22 goals in all competitions, van Persie may be Ferguson's greatest signing. United lost the league last season on goal difference, and van Persie was bought in to bolster the attacking threat of the side. If United go on to win the league, van Persie will no doubt of justified his hefty price tag.
Ultimately, the two are on the complete opposite ends of the goal-scoring spectrum. Suarez dribbles more than Van Persie, deploying his balance, burst of pace and sudden change of direction on his runs towards goal. Whilst Van Persie is more two-footed, more cerebral in his movement and relies on his world class finishing for his goals. The movement of van Persie is crucial behind many of the Dutchman's goals, but that topic is for another day.
Personally, I think Robin van Persie is technically a stronger forward than Luis Suarez. The Manchester United forward has more goals and assists this season than Luis Suarez, and that's what strikers are paid to do. However, in comparing the current squads, Luis Suarez has done a magnificent job in keeping up with the Dutchman, and will no doubt battle the Manchester United hit-man all the way for the Golden Boot award at the end of the season.
I want to know who you think is the better forward?
Do you prefer the grace of van Persie or the graft of Suarez?
Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know!