Asking the wrong questions

In light of the news that Suarez was charged for using racist language against Evra, people have been divided on whether Suarez intended to cause offence to Evra, and whether Suarez is a racist. Most Liverpool fans that I know have said that because Suarez did not mean to cause offence, and because the word he allegedly used is not taboo in his home country, he should be forgiven. The other opinion is that he did use racist language and thus should be punished. Gus Poyet came out and defended Suarez saying that he was anything but a racist and that such usage was acceptable in Uruguay, and Liverpool fans are using Javier Hernandez’s previous usage of the word to talk about one of his teammates while he was in Mexico to further support the point.

However, this is the English Premier League, and just like foreign workers and immigrants are expected to live by English law, so too are footballers. You cannot use ignorance of the law as an excuse, or the fact that things are different in your home country. The question that should be asked is not whether Suarez is racist or whether he meant it – even if Suarez did, in the heat of the moment, say something extremely racist, it would be not clear-cut whether he is. Some people go to any lengths to wind up the opposition, and some feel that since racism is more offensive to some, it is an easy route. Suarez’s intentions may have been good, too. After all, Javier Hernandez, in praise of his Mexican teammate, used the same word Suarez is alleged to have used. However, that too, is not the issue.

The issue is not whether Suarez is a racist, or whether he intended to cause offence to Evra; it is where we draw the line in the Premier League as far as racism goes. The FA has to decide whether Suarez’s alleged use of ‘negrito’ is within or outside the boundaries of what is acceptable. If Suarez is not punished for his transgression, it could open up a can of worms regarding the treatment of racial issues in the Premier League. And what does this say about where footballers are in society? We would not tolerate such language in daily life, so why should footballers be exempt from it?

Lastly, while I feel Suarez should be punished, I feel the FA also need to take into consideration the intention behind the language. The maximum punishment for racial abuse is six games, and if it is shown that Suarez did not use the language in an abusive manner, or in a manner intended to cause offence, then he should not face a six-match ban. That way, the FA will have done their job well by both punishing use of racist language, and understanding the context it was in.

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Looking ahead to the Swansea game

Liverpool must win tomorrow’s game against Swansea if they are to establish their credentials for the top four. Like Kenny said, this game is not done and dusted, and Swansea must be given their due respect. If Swansea have shown us anything this season, it’s that they can play, and they will make life hard even for the biggest teams. Arsenal needed a freak goal to beat them 1-0 at home, and despite playing Chelsea and Man City as well, they have a decent record with 12 points from 10 games. Their team likes to keep the ball moving, and they have actually completed more passes per game than either Liverpool or Arsenal. They are disciplined for the most part, and decent in attack as well, with all of the front three, especially Graham showing top form of late. So let’s take a more in-depth look at the Welsh team.

Most used formation: 4-2-3-1
Swansea like to play with a traditional back four with Angel Rangel the more attacking of the two full-backs, providing the threat on the right side. The two players in the “defensive midfield” roles are not the destroyers that one would expect from a newly promoted side, but more all-round players who seek to move the ball to the wings or ahead, and keep possession for the Swans. Allen is tucked in behind Graham, and plays as a trequartista. The wingers, usually Dyer and Sinclair, like to run at the defenders, and will usually run straight at goal and take a shot.

Strengths
1. Playing as a unit – One aspect of Swansea’s game that stands out is the cohesion of the passing and movement, and the natural chemistry that exists between the players. Nothing about their style of play says “promoted side”. Their formation allows the natural triangles to be created that enable good passing, and all the players, even the centre-backs and the defensive midfielders look very comfortable on the ball.
2. Form of the players – 3.5 million pound striker Danny Graham has scored four times in his last four games, and is in excellent form. Allen, Dyer, and Sinclair, the other attacking players, have also contributed to Graham’s recent goal glut, and they will be a tough proposition for Liverpool’s defence in the upcoming game. It will be very important to offer as little space as possible to the forward players – Swansea play intelligently, and exploited the amount of space Wolves were giving them. Angel Rangel, their right back, has been in good form throughout the season, and looks to play precise lofted passes up to the strikers on the break.
3. Defensive discipline – What has made Swansea a decent team this year is the stability and understanding between the back four (and the two ahead of them), and how well they’ve played a very disciplined game for the most part. When on the defensive, Swansea tend to cramp the middle, and allow the opposition to move the ball to the wings, and if the ball is crossed in, they usually have the players in numbers to deal with it. Their defence is usually unlocked with good passing, as it would be with any team, but they will make a team work very hard for their chances.

Weaknesses
1. Giving up possession in the middle – Swansea have looked slightly weak in the centre of midfield, and possibly because of their commitment to a more attractive style of football, have shied away from making tough tackles. This is a very big mistake to make at this level, and Arsenal created four goal-scoring chances from a direct turnover of possession in the first half of their game against Swansea. In fact, most of the goals against Swansea have come from plays that started in midfield. Liverpool need to capitalize on this.
2. Making Championship mistakes in the league – As Alan Hansen pointed out on MOTD, in the game against Wolves, Swansea pressed the panic button as soon as they conceded their first goal, and their defensive organization completely fell apart, which led to them throwing away 2 points. The goal against Arsenal came from some terrible misunderstanding by their goalie. All of their good work could be undone if they do not stop making these mistakes.
3. Poor away form – Swansea have picked up only 1 point (against a lacklustre Wolves team) out of 15 on the road, and although this has something to do with the fact that they’ve played Chelsea, City, and Arsenal, they have looked different at home and away. This may have something to do with the fact that they tend to play the same way home and away, and other teams adjust their styles. Their formation and attacking intent remains the same, and while this must be applauded, it is foolhardy, especially when Liverpool will throw everything at them at Anfield.

Important Players for Liverpool
Charlie Adam, Lucas Leiva – Like I said above, the game will be decided in the middle, and Swansea’s middle two are certainly there for the taking. Lucas will need to be on the top of his game to help out the defenders in dealing with Allen, and also in winning the midfield battles. Adam will need to play quick incisive passes as Swansea have had lots of trouble with those all season long, especially on the break.

Line-ups (Predicted)
Swansea: Vorm; Rangel, Williams, Monk, Taylor; Britton, Gower; Dyer, Allen, Sinclair; Graham
Liverpool: Reina; Johnson, Skrtel, Agger, Enrique; Henderson, Adam, Lucas, Downing; Suarez, Carroll