Awful conversion rate means Suarez must go to finishing school

There is no denying he is supremely gifted, but a top striker must net more than five out of 76 goal attempts

The problem with making a saint of someone is that it can be hard to accept he might be a sinner, too. Somewhere beyond the martyrdom which has engulfed Luis Suarez, there must be space for him to be assessed for what he is – a supremely gifted player with a heart of darkness – without that being read as an accusation that he is predisposed to racial prejudice.

Click HERE to view graphic

When the dust had settled on another cold, goalless night on Monday with Suarez crackling at its centre, Kenny Dalglish was left to reflect yesterday on the hard fact that, for all the anticipation and excitement which has come to surround the current holder of Anfield's iconic No 7 jersey, he is a player with a painfully poor chance-conversion rate – to quote the statistical reference point which Liverpool are dragging around the Premier League with them. There have been a staggering 76 attempts on goal from him this season, of which he has put away only five: at a 6.6 per cent success rate, he actually trails Andy Carroll.

It is not Suarez's fault that he carves out so many chances and his ability to do so is part of the quality best defined by the Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, earlier this season. "He never does what you expect him to," McCarthy said. "You think he is going to pull the trigger, then he cuts it back. You think he is going to come short and he cuts in behind you. He is something else." Yet it is hard to avoid the sense that now, with the controversy over his ban behind him, he needs a calm space to construct the kind of scoring record – 81 goals in 110 Eredivisie games – which left Ajax resigned to his departure months before he left for Merseyside. Liverpool fans sing that they "just can't get enough" of Suarez but when he plopped a comfortable header into Brad Friedel's arms in the dying seconds of the goalless draw with Tottenham Hotspur on Monday, you felt that less mental energy might have meant more football focus.

"He has had a long break now and, hopefully, he will be fresh and ready to put in a performance [at Old Trafford next weekend," his team-mate Glen Johnson said of Suarez yesterday, though in Dalglish's scrutiny of Monday night's match DVD, there was much evidence that Suarez will not discover goals through his own endeavour alone.

Suarez had been on the field for less than a minute on Monday before he and Steven Gerrard linked in a way which was treacherous to Tottenham's Benoît Assou-Ekotto and it was also Gerrard who dished up the header with which he ought to have prevented his side's eighth home draw in 12 ("when you hear stats like that it doesn't sound good at all," Johnson admitted).

It was when Gerrard disappeared into his long struggle with groin trouble, a few years back, that Fernando Torres entered into the lonely, barren place which he has not vacated at Stamford Bridge, and amid the understandable anticipation of how Suarez and Carroll – Liverpool's two most expensive signings – might combine, it has rather been forgotten the really significant axis is Gerrard/Suarez. It is the combination in which many of the most astute observers you find around Anfield, John Aldridge and Tommy Smith among them, see nascent echoes of Keegan and Toshack: not the kind of label which is applied lightly around here. "I am about to pay Luis Suarez a major compliment..." ventured Aldridge, before discussing him as a prospective Keegan. Gerrard and Suarez have been on the field of play together for only 248 minutes in the Premier League this season – fewer than three full games.

Dalglish has a part to play, too. His indefatigable support throughout the race case has undoubtedly created a bond which will be needed if Suarez is not afforded the chance to parade his skills on Europe's highest stage next season, but now there is a requirement to cease the noise which has sounded since the names Suarez and Evra became so inextricably bound up – and to be still. Every new protestation of innocence stirs the matter up.

Perhaps Dalglish is aware of how Suarez's days at Ajax ended after he had bitten PSV Eindhoven's defender Otman Bakkal on the shoulder, in November 2010.

His manager, Martin Jol, made a dreadful attempt to cover the incident with humour ("maybe he was hungry...") but the near universal dismay felt by a Dutch nation, for whom Ajax are a virtual extension of the Dutch national team, created an immediate sense that this incident, which brought a seven-game ban, was his point of no return in the country. Ajax were too preoccupied with a dreadful run of league form to expend the same energy on him that Liverpool have.

But if Dalglish has examined Suarez's Ajax days, he will also have learnt how Jol got perhaps more out of him than any other manager. When Jol took over from Marco van Basten, virtually his first decision was to make Suarez his captain, to the Uruguayan's own surprise. The result was an extraordinary spree in Jol's first half-season at the helm which began to take his goalscoring ratio – 111 in three and a half seasons by the end – through the roof. "Martin made me a better player," Suarez later reflected. "He made me feel important."

The lesson being that Suarez needs to be loved but he needs also to be managed. It was when he felt responsibility becoming a burden, as Ajax proved themselves a selling club and began to fall apart, that his frustrations grew visceral and he left.

Liverpool are already thinking of Old Trafford in three days' time. "It is a tough place to go to, Old Trafford, and Luis is a strong character and he will try to let his football do the talking," Johnson concluded. But it is a conversation that Suarez requires with those around him, and a more grown-up one at that.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game