Opinion: Arsenal, Suarez and the end of football’s moral high ground

by Adebayo Kareem

Luis Suarez

However footballing ability alone has never been and should not form the basis of signing a footballer, especially for AFC. There must be other higher and purer considerations and in this regard… He has a history that makes Joey Barton looks like a saint!

On the 19 June 2011, one of UK tabloid newspapers, Daily Mirror, ran an ‘exclusive story’- Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal Football Club (AFC) manager had decided that it was time he reinforced his club’s midfield with some bite and combativeness and that Joey Barton, who was then in the last year of his contract with Newcastle United, ticked all the boxes and a bid of £1.5 million was in the offing.  The blogosphere and other UK newspapers then picked up the story, adding various slants of ‘exclusiveness’ into it.

The recurring argument though was that since Arsenal lost Vieira and Fabgregas, their midfield had become very lightweight and less belligerent and that Barton, a man who could start a fight in an empty room, was the perfect fit for Arsenal. The rumour was growing in stature every day until Martin Samuel, one of UK’s more informed football pundits poured cold water on it: there was no way Arsenal would sign Barton, he wrote,  because ‘Baton is not an Arsene Wenger type of player.’ And that, by and large, ended the speculation.

So who is an Arsene Wenger-type of player?  Generally speaking there are two accepted criteria for identifying the type of players Wenger loves to sign. First they must be technically excellent and possess the ability to adapt to various playing roles. Secondly and perhaps more importantly, it is not enough for a Wenger-type player to be technically excellent—he must also represents all that is beautiful in the ‘Jogo Bonito’—such player must imbibe the impeccable ethos of the club— be clean cut, well-behaved and be a professional per excellence. It is within the context of this second criterion that makes the on-going pursuit of Liverpool’s Louis Suarez perplexingly intriguing to many Arsenal supporters. Why should a club of Arsenal’s class and gravitas be keen to break their transfer record fees four times over in order to buy a serial cheat, a diver, a racist and a cannibal? Why is AFC keen on Louis Suarez?

From purely footballing perspective, it is easy to understand why AFC covets Suarez. He clearly will add considerable value to the football club. Suarez scored 23 premiership goals last season— only United’s RVP (with 26 goals) scored more goals than him and had Suarez not been banned for chewing part of Chelsea’s Ivanovic anatomy for the last four matches of the season, he might have outscored RVP. Putting that figure in context, the highest league scorer for Arsenal for the same period was Theo Walcott who scored  14 goals. Similarly Suarez scored 16 of the 30 clear-cut chances he was presented with whilst Arsenal’s striker, Olivier Giroud converted only 4 of the 22 clear-cut chances that came his way.

In addition to his goal-poaching ability, Suarez will also bring additional crucial values to Arsenal. According to whoscored.com, Suarez also played the most key passes from open play in Europe’s top 5 leagues (80) whilst Carzola, himself a master of exquisitely placed passes, was the closest to Suarez amongst Arsenal’s current players with 67. Again putting this in context, the next player with crucial passes in Arsenal after Carzola was Aaron Ramsey with 43. This statistics is particularly crucial since it indicates that not only will Suarez offer more goal-scoring threat for Arsenal, he can also create plenty of chances for Arsenal’s already formidable strike force.  Finally, in the 2012/2013 season, Suarez completed the most successful dribbles in the EPL with 95.  None of Arsenal’s players came anywhere close to this figure. Thus we can agree that a Suarez to Arsenal will make a lot of footballing sense.

However footballing ability alone has never been and should not form the basis of signing a footballer, especially for AFC. There must be other higher and purer considerations and in this regard, Suarez despite his undoubted footballing ability will most probably cause damage to Brand Arsenal. He has a history that makes Joey Barton looks like a saint!

Right from his playing days with Groningen Football Club in The Netherland, he acquired a reputation as a diving and petulant cheat who has scant regard for his contractual obligations. He started his playing career with Groningen and at some point his skills attracted the interest of Ajax Football Club. However Groningen did not want to release him and demanded a particular amount for his release. Suarez however believed that a clause in his contract with Groningen allowed him to freely move to Ajax and thus a tug of war started between Suarez, Groningen and Ajax in which Suarez invited a Dutch court to adjudicate in the matter.

The court ultimately ruled that Suarez was under a contract with Groningen and that if he wanted to leave Ajax, he had to pay the price requested by Groningen. By that time, his relationship with Groningen had irreparably broken down anyway and he eventually had his way and moved to Ajax. Already there are talks that Suarez believes that a clause in his current contract with Liverpool entitles him to leave the club once a bid of over £40 million is made. There is speculation that he will refer the matter to the FA for adjudication— It is Deja vu all over again!

Suarez infractions of course go beyond that. The following are some of his various other ‘sins’- Nov 2007: in a game involving Ajax and Feyenoord, Suarez was involved in a dressing room fight with his fellow Ajax team mate, Luque and both were subsequently suspended by the club; July 2010: In the World Cup quarter final match between Uruguay and Ghana, Suarez was dismissed for a blatant handball, etc. However what happens if AFC does manage to sign Suarez? Well, there is a degree of hypocrisy that can be validly levelled against most football supporters.

We vehemently crucify infractions committed by other clubs players whilst ignoring the ones committed by ours. Readers of certain ages will remember players like Tarila ‘Superbrat’ Okorowanta and Etim Esin who despite their off-field misdeeds were still adored by the supporters of the Super Eagles. This is why I will celebrate goals scored by Suarez for Arsenal, even if such ‘goals’ are scored by that part of his anatomy that is not supposed to be used to score football goals.

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Read this article in the Leadership Newspapers
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (2)

  1. What a nice article you have here!!! Let arsenal sign him and see how Mr Wenger the great coach rehabilitate and reform Lious…. Then critics will now leave us alone.

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