Arsene Wenger has made Luis Suarez his most wanted this summer – but is the Arsenal manager risking the house on the controversial Liverpool striker? Is Wenger blinded to Suarez’s faults by his desperate search for a top class forward to deliver Champions League football again?
Make no bones about it, Suarez is a phenomenal player. There aren’t many, if any, in the Premier League, who can run with the ball quite like the Uruguayan. His low centre of gravity makes him almost impossible to knock off the ball, his agility means he can turn through gaps that suddenly open up and his acceleration is such that even if the defender can think as quickly as him, he probably can’t run as quickly.
Signing Suarez guarantees goals. But it’d guarantee something else too – trouble. It’s not a coincidence that Suarez is involved in controversy after controversy, and it’s not bad luck either. Whether it’s going on strike at Groningen to get his move to Ajax, biting an opponent while playing for the Amsterdammers, cheating Ghana out of a World Cup semi-final place or one of the myriad incidents in his Liverpool tenure, Suarez is a problem child.
Is he worth the hassle? Liverpool obviously thought so, and it seems Wenger does too. Not only is it out of line with recent Arsenal policy to spend £40m on one player, but it’s a while since Wenger had a character like Suarez in his squad – if he ever did.
Patrick Vieira was forever in bother with the FA, but it was more for late tackles than anything else. Robert Pires was heavily criticised for diving, much like Suarez has been, but the Frenchman never took a chunk out of an opposition player’s ear. Thierry Henry handballed against Ireland while playing for France but it was a rare blemish on his otherwise dignified career – not part of a pattern, as in the case of the Liverpool player.
Maybe that’s what Wenger wants, though – Suarez’s win-at-all-costs mentality. He doesn’t do those things because he’s a bad person, but because he’s so desperate to come out victorious he gets carried away, and when things aren’t going well he lashes out – physically or verbally. When Vieira, Pires and Henry were at their pomp so were Arsenal, and so was Wenger. Perhaps he has allowed his squad to become too nice. Suarez would change that in a heartbeat – and score 25 goals a season.
It’s an enormous gamble, though. What if Suarez doesn’t click with Wenger’s squad? What if Arsenal spend £40m on Suarez and all they get is a series of headaches and another scramble to finish fourth? Then Wenger has damaged the image of his club by allowing Suarez to wear the Arsenal colours, given a Premier League rival an enormous financial boost, broken the team’s wage structure and gone against his principles, and for what?
Maybe it’s a gamble worth taking. But if it backfires, the repercussions will be widespread and painful.