A couple of scary reminders; the question of Suarez's weight
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It is remarkable that professional soccer players, with two games a week, daily training and professional trainers and dietitians monitoring their bodies, can get fat. But in his time at Rangers, Adam showed it could be done. One of the reasons the Scotsman is enjoying a second bite at the big time is he seems to have learned his lesson and now has almost no body fat.
Suarez starts with a stocky physique. He is built like a barrel. And it's not as if he has had a slothful summer. He led Uruguay to victory in the Copa America, where he was voted player of the tournament, which is why Dalglish is facing questions about resting him. Maybe Suarez is trying to bulk up. After all, Harry Redknapp, when excusing his failure to buy Suarez for Spurs, reportedly said he doubted the Uruguayan had the physique for the Premier League. There have been issues about Suarez's eating habits. He was banned last year while still at Ajax after taking a bite out of Otman Bakkal of PSV Eindhoven.
On one level, it doesn't matter if that really is a spare tire tucked under his rib cage. Suarez again showed that he has the close control, awareness and quickness of thought to stay one step ahead of defenders. On the other hand, the victory put Liverpool top of the table but there are 35 games to go. That's a long way for a player who had no summer vacation to carry any extra weight.
The game itself ended 0-0. Even though Wolves fielded a starting 11 made up entirely of players born in Britain and Ireland and Aston Villa started with eight, it was a match that lacked not only atmosphere but also the traditional abrasive physical edge. These are two well-drilled, hardworking, cautious teams with little spark or flair. Both passed the ball nicely enough until they reach the business end of the field. Wayne Hennessy, the Wolves keeper, had to make a couple of saves, but that was about it.
Wolves were the away team. They should be happier with a draw that briefly put them on top of the league. Their fans can have few illusions. Wolves are not going to win the title. Their seven points after the first three games simply offer hope that, unlike the club's three previous Premier League seasons, this one might not be fight to avoid relegation.
The banks of empty seats said more about the home club. Villa is historically a huge club. It is the biggest team in Britain's second-biggest city. It finished second in the first Premier League season. Now, it is a finishing school for Liverpool, Manchester United and Manchester City. Fan frustration boiled over when Alex McLeish has hired from despised and relegated neighbor Birmingham City. The fundamental problem is not that McLeish is a "bluenose." It's that his hiring suggests that Randy Lerner, the club's owner, has given up hope of breaking into the top four. The two previous appointments, Martin O'Neill and Gerard Houllier, suggested the club thought it might be possible to go toe-to-toe with the big boys. McLeish did win a couple of Scottish titles during his checkered reign at Rangers. Yet nothing in his recent past, or in Saturday's display, suggests that he will break Villa's soul-sapping 12-season streak of finishing somewhere between sixth and 16th. What we learned Saturday was what most Villa fans already knew, this team is not going to be in contention nor is it in danger of relegation. It doesn't have any thrilling stars. Why bother watching?
Managers gesture and grimace and sometimes kick a water bucket, but they never kick a ball in a way that influences the result. If the director is lucky, he may catch a manager poking an opponent in the eye. (Take a bow, José Mourinho.) But really, the quick glimpses of generally grumpy middle-aged men on the sidelines only raises questions. What is David Platt saying to Roberto Mancini? Why is Mancini pretending to listen? Is Harry Redknapp really asleep? What has Roy Hodgson done to his hair? Can Alex Ferguson really not tell the time? What else does Neil Warnock have in his pockets? On Saturday, the burning question as Wolves and Villa scuffled to a 0-0 draw, was: why does Mick McCarthy (like younger Owen Coyle later in the day) insist on wearing a soccer kit rather than a suit on the sideline? If he wants to play, then he should write his name on the team sheet. Maybe he's trying to show solidarity with his players. But, if there is one thing we learned when the camera panned to McCarthy, it's that while fit young men can just about get away with wearing soccer short if they are chasing a ball, a 52-year-old man, standing there with arms akimbo and naked knees, looks like a complete dork.