We can’t quite work Mario Suarez out yet.
One school of thought, from a former Premier League coach we have spoken to, is that his legs have gone, which is why Atletico Madrid let him go in the summer and why he lasted only six months at Fiorentina. It’s not the most outlandish of theories but when we sat down with Suarez when he first arrived and chewed the fat, he said how he feels he has looked after his body so well that he can carry on playing until he’s 35. He turned 29 last month.
Another theory, held by Quique Sanchez Flores, who knows Suarez better than most, is that, like most under his watch, he’ll take time to adapt. This is backed up by a senior figure based at the training ground who believes we’ll see the best of the Spain international next season. Another club official doubts whether Suarez has ever played as one of a central midfield two, believing he has probably had two others buzzing around him while he plays the quarterback role.
Whatever your viewpoint, it’s fair to say Suarez has hardly pulled up any trees since he arrived amid huge excitement (yes, that includes from us) in January. Granted, his wife is expecting their first child and he’s had to settle into a new home near Heurelho Gomes but he would have been expecting to play more than 365 minutes out of a possible 810. We had him nailed on to start the big games at Old Trafford and the Emirates. He’s started only three matches, one of which ended at half time against Tottenham Hotspur, and only seen Watford score four goals in the eight games he’s stepped onto the pitch.
“I’m enjoying it,” he said. “It’s very competitive and it’s very physical. I feel very good. With every game I feel better. I want to play every single game, as many as possible. When I play two or three in a row I give my best version.”
Suarez has yet to start back-to-back games for the Hornets but he only played 90 minutes four times for Fiorentina this season and only featured in 13 of their 27 games. Either Paulo Sousa, the Fiorentina coach, didn’t fancy him or his then 28-year-old legs struggled with games in quick succession. He didn’t play at all for Fiorentina between December 21 and January 16, which is perhaps why he’s appeared off the pace since he turned up here to sign a four-and-a-half year deal. Watford’s head of sport science Gianni Brignardello is sure to get some miles into his legs during the international break.
“The ones who don’t go with the national team will work hard every single day,” Suarez said. “The staff tell us to train very well, prepare well for Arsenal. That will be a difficult game.”
It did not really help Suarez’s cause on Saturday that Gianelli Imbula, Stoke City’s own high-profile midfield recruit in January, was imperious at Vicarage Road on Saturday. Adaption period? What adaption period?
“It was a very difficult game,” said Suarez. “We didn’t make a good game and they work better than us. We have to believe always in ourselves and do 100 per cent. We didn’t play at our best, and we were a bit unlucky too, so we have to keep pushing and working. If we don’t give 100 per cent then we cannot do good things. Stoke are a really good team, they play really good. They started better than us and we have to learn from this. We have to be focussed for the 95 minutes, from the first until the last. We need to now forget about what we did in the past and focus on the present.”
With only eight points since the turn of the year, it’s probably best we draw a line under the recent past as soon as possible.
• Additional reporting by David Anderson