As 2015 nears its end, we have picked the top 50 players of 2015 – with our selection based on the players’ performances during the year, not their individual skills. Out of these 50 players, we have created four different teams, each of which you will be able to read about during the month of December. Our third team is captained by Barcelona forward Luis Suarez.
Just like Uruguay’s star player this team brings a perfect mixture of flair and strength, ofensive threat and defensive grit, all wrapped around one key word: teamwork.
Suarez City is built to be equally good when it defends and on the attack. Its versatility enables it to adapt its strategy to whatever an opponent throws at it, while at the same time it can open up defenses in many different manners.
This team was built to wait for their opponets and then move the ball quickly up the field. The first attacking option is to bring the ball to Kevin De Bruyne, as the team’s primary plamaker. The Belgian has shown immense ability with the ball, both increating chances and turning them into goals. His senior career record of 35 goals and 51 assists in 130 competitive matches for club(s) and country speaks volumes. His ability to exploit the necessary channels is critical in the early phase of attack.
From then on it depends on the opponent’s setup. If any team is brave enough to press high, it would leave space for the likes of Suarez and Bale. If they defend too deep, the squad includes many top class long range shooters.
The attacking duo of Luis Suarez and Harry Kane has been extremely prolific recently. Since 1 November 2014 (in less than 60 games) Suarez scored 41 goals and assisted on a further 22 occasions in a brilliant Barca side. Kane’s 39 goals and 9 assists for Spurs look even more impressive.
Their value is not merely stat-related. Both players have a high work rate, enjoy taking part in the buildup of play and creating opportunities for others, especially with so much talent around them.
When up front, Kane can keep the opposing defense busy, giving Suarez enough time and space to make his trademark runs. Since Luis Enrique’s tactical switch in January 2015, Suarez has shown he can be just as effective when he is the closest player to the opponent’s goal, which would in turn give Kane space to attack from deeper positions.
Additional threat may be created through outstanding mobility, as both forwards, both wingers and De Bruyne are well versed in playing in different positions, which helps in creating openings.
The alternative attacking option is to use the two wide players who are both able to run in defense and provide quick chances for themselves or other players. Another possibility is using Paul Pogba’s strength and shooting ability to bring the ball right through the middle.
In case slower buildup play is necessary, Mascherano brings the ball out of defense, connecting the midfield duo before moving the play to the front five.
Defense starts from the front and the inclusion of Suarez and Kane means that rivals would be harrassed right from the start. Both forwards would be given task to provide enough time for the players behind them to organize and send the opposition straight into the central wall of Matuidi and Pogba. The pair works very well as a central unit in the team that is hoping to bring glory back to France this summer.
The two hard and strong French central midfielders form the base of Suarez City’s defensive strategy. Their very presence should guarantee that most opponents avoid the central route towards the goal. Even if opponents do get past Blaize & Paul, it means that they’ll be up against a formidable three-man defense that combines physical and technical ability, so it is fair to assume that the only way forward for the opposition is down the flanks.
In most cases the wing route will give the rivals their only real possibility to get near the goalkeeper. That calculated risk is worth taking, but it doesn’t mean that there will be no defense from the flanks.
Gareth Bale has long been primarily an attacker, but in his early days his favored position was left wing back, and his defensive qualities are still way ahead of those posessed by most forwards or wingers. Out of all of Chelsea’s attacking midfielders in the Abramovich era, Willian is surely the one that works hardest in defense, and the fact that Mourinho played him regularly even during his offensive struggles shows how much he gives the team on the other side of the pitch.
When facing top class teams that enjoy possession and have very strong forward lines, both the central midfielders and the wingers drop even deeper, in order to deny space. With so many tall and strong players, defending set pieces should prove to be an easy task, so that the only realistic threat would come from close range free kicks.
The only player with no specific defensive duties is Kevin De Bruyne. The ginger wizard’s defensive play has always been his weak side, so his free role in defense makes sense as it should give him energy to organize the attack.
The choice to put De Gea in goal was by no means accidental. Man Utd’s style under Van Gaal makes sure their opponents don’t get too many opportunities to shoot, but when they do get them, these are usually high quality chances, or to use the language of modern statistics, they have a very high xGA/TSA (expected goals against to total shots against ratio). This leaves De Gea with a difficult task and his reflexes and shot stopping ability are put to a serious test game in and game out.
With a strong midfield block and wide players high up the pitch it would be reasonable to assume that Suarez City would have similar stats to Man Utd, eg. their keeper would be called into action rarely, but he would need to provide minor miracles to keep his sheet clean.
Among the current crop of goalkeepers no one is anywhere near De Gea in that role, while simultaneously his relative weaknesses are ideally covered by other team members. His comparative insecurity at set pieces would surely be offset by the team’s aerial strength. David’s ball playing ability is some way behind the likes of Neuer or Bravo, but all of his central defenders are very good at building from the back, when such a strategy is needed.
Another facet to De Gea’s game is his excellent positioning against long shots, which would come in useful when the midfielders lie deeply.