After spending most of his career treating free kicks as an afterthought, Luis Suarez points to practice, the support of his teammates, and Brendan Rodgers' film review as the secrets to his new-found success.
In years past, Luis Suarez had never been a regular free-kick taker. Not at Liverpool, not at Ajax, and not for the Uruguayan national team. Now, after spending his first 18 months in England without a single such marker, he has scored five goals from free kicks since Brendan Rodgers took charge of the club. According to Suarez, that's down to practice.
"I practice," he said, "because it's one skill that I never really mastered. I think it just needed practice and you can also learn from watching players of the class of Steven [Gerrard] and how he strikes the ball, as well as watching players from the past, it all helps. The more you practice, you grow in confidence, and it's also a boost when your teammates encourage you to have the confidence to shoot."
Having scored three in the past two matches, confidence from dead ball situations will be at all all-time high for Suarez as the season winds down. What's almost as surprising as his goals, though, has been Gerrard's willingness to hand over many of Liverpool's free kicks to the striker after spending much of his career as Liverpool's main—and at times only—man when it came to them.
Suarez, though, insists that hasn't posed a problem and that Gerrard has been happy to hand over a free-kick here and there now that he has "one or two teammates who are up for taking them." He also credits much of his sudden success as a free-kick taker to Brendan Rodgers, who goes over goalkeeper and defender tendencies from dead ball situations with Liverpool's likely takers ahead of the match.
"Every player has his own particular skill and technique when taking a free-kick," he said, "but sometimes you might have to study the 'keeper's technique when making a save, the position of the wall, whether they jump in the wall, if the defenders are tall and if you can get the ball up and over them. The manager is really good at this preparation. Before a game he shows the free-kick takers footage on dead-ball situations."
Whatever Suarez and Rodgers are doing in training and ahead of matches, it's working. Though even then, sometimes you just need a little bit of dumb luck, as when when Suarez slipped yet still saw his mishit free kick deflect in off defender Shaun Maloney on Saturday. And no matter how they go in, it certainly wouldn't hurt Liverpool's chances of climbing the table if Suarez could continue his free-kick form on Sunday against Tottenham.
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