December 9 2013 Latest news:
Thursday, October 31, 2013
It goes without saying that Arsene Wenger would prefer not to see any Liverpool player finding the back of the net on Saturday.
But should the man wearing the Reds’ number seven shirt hit the target, Wenger – and many Arsenal fans – may be tempted to begin pondering what might have been.
The Gunners’ protracted pursuit of Luis Suarez was one of the summer’s more bizarre transfer sagas, culminating in Liverpool’s rejection of their extraordinary £40,000,001 offer.
The failed bid for Suarez divided opinion among the Gunners’ faithful, with some desperate to see the club land an expensive big-name signing as proof of their desire to compete for the Premier League title.
Others were very much in two minds about the prospect of seeing a man with several ugly stains on his reputation – at the time he was serving a lengthy ban for biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic – play for Arsenal.
Ultimately, of course, Liverpool turned down the bid and persuaded the Uruguayan forward to stay at Anfield, while Wenger put the cash to an alternative use – luring Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid.
So what would have happened if things had turned out differently, if Liverpool had decided to pocket the money and let Suarez become a Gunner?
It’s actually hard to see how the talented South American would have fitted into Arsenal’s line-up, with Wenger sticking firmly to a system that includes only one orthodox striker.
Olivier Giroud had already made that spot his own in pre-season, banging in a hatful of goals and taking that form into the current campaign, where his scoring ratio has been overshadowed by Aaron Ramsey’s incredible scoring run.
Suarez would surely not have joined the Gunners to act as back-up – so they would need to have fitted him into the attacking trio that feeds off Giroud.
With everyone fit, Arsenal already had a wealth of options to fill those three places. So, with Suarez on board, it seems inconceivable that they would have forked out again so soon to sign Ozil.
Suarez would probably have brought more goals to Wenger’s table. He has netted six times in four league games since his ban expired, including a hat-trick in Liverpool’s 4-1 win over West Brom last weekend.
Yet it is hard to imagine that he would have fitted into Arsenal’s team as seamlessly as Ozil has done, pulling strings and helping to influence the players around him such as Ramsey, Giroud and Jack Wilshere.
It also seems unlikely that Suarez could, or would, have been so willing to forsake his natural attacking game when circumstances demanded it – as they did at Selhurst Park last weekend.
With Mikel Arteta red-carded, Ozil dropped deeper to help shore up the Arsenal midfield in the last 20 minutes – and he did the job well as they protected their lead and eventually snatched a second goal on the break.
There may be a few wistful glances cast in the direction of the Liverpool forward on Saturday. But in the long run, the Gunners’ failure to land Suarez has probably worked out for the best.