The perceived decline of Luis Suarez is nothing of the sort

Last season, Luis Suarez was the best striker in Europe, with 40 La Liga goals to his name, he managed to beat the continent’s best forwards to the European Golden Shoe.

But this season, he has been lacking. So what has happened to the Barcelona striker?

Ineffective over two games against Juventus in the Champions League and absent in Barcelona’s win over Real Madrid, his performances have raised questions. This season he has just 23 goals, putting him outside the top ten strikers on the continent.

Many believe his individual performances have fallen but actually, most of it comes down to the fact that Barcelona simply haven’t been their old selves this season.

The Catalan giants may sit top of La Liga at this moment in time but they have not been at their best. It’s part of the reason Luis Enrique is leaving in the summer. Suarez’s so-called disappointing season has been a side effect of his surroundings.

See also: Barcelona: the phasing out of Andres Iniesta

More specifically, those around him have underperformed and he has suffered as a result. Take Barcelona’s midfield creators, Andres Iniesta and Ivan Rakitic, for example.

This year they are both creating fewer chances and playing fewer key passes per game compared to last season. Without the usual exquisite service from those behind him, Suarez has struggled to replicate his numbers.

He’s not the only Barcelona player to have suffered from this fact. Neymar, who managed 24 league goals last season, only has nine this year.

His own playing style has also undergone something of a transformation. While last season was all about the goals for him, this year he has become more of a creator.

While Iniesta and Rakitic are creating less, he’s doing the opposite. Suarez is playing more key passes and creating more chances per game than last season.

In contrast, he’s taking fewer shots per game and enjoying fewer successful take ons. It’s easy to see why his goalscoring numbers have fallen.

Heightened expectations are also playing their part. Suarez managed 59 goals in all competitions last season. Those are numbers that Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo attain and it set a standard. However, it was one he couldn’t stick to.

In his 12 seasons, Suarez has only scored 30 or more goals in four of them. Excluding this season, he’s only managed to do it in consecutive seasons on one occasion.

In comparison to most strikers, the Uruguayan has still been in exceptional form this season. He was still the first player to reach double figures for goals and assists this season. It’s only when comparing it to last year, which was his best ever season, that it appears things are going badly.

There’s no denying Suarez has not been at his best this season. But neither have his team, though and that is the crucial point. Given he’s fought back from bigger falls than this, it’s easy to imagine him bouncing back next season.

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