Imagining an Arsenal Future with Luis Suarez Leading Their Team
Arsenal have been linked with Liverpool's Luis Suarez in recent weeks, including this report from The Telegraph. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that the much-sought-after Uruguayan international signed for Arsene Wenger. What would the Gunners' future look like?
Would Suarez Bring Chaos or Cups to Arsenal?
Would Arsenal romp to the Premier League title, or would the capture come back to haunt them?
Cue harp music and wavy vision, because, you know, they are the most essential elements when dealing with predictions of the future or flashbacks...
The Gunners had been tracking Stevan Jovetic, Gonzalo Higuain and Wayne Rooney before they eventually turned their attention towards Liverpool's want-away striker Luis Suarez. Chelsea's, Manchester City's and Tottenham Hotspur's quick-fire transfers heaped pressure on Arsenal to respond in kind as their fans' impatience with inaction in the transfer market grew.
Arsenal's answer was a double whammy. They would sate the appetite of their fans and try to improve the team in one huge swoop: They would make a club record bid for Luis Suarez.
Liverpool were only too happy to move the troublesome striker on, after some negotiation, and after Arsenal paid £50 million he was on his way. In an action to replace Suarez, the Reds then launched a £28 million bid for Valencia's Roberto Soldado. Spurs' technical director, Franco Baldini, had already negotiated his transfer to White Hart Lane, however, for £26.8 million.
Suarez's transfer had the unfortunate effect of splitting Arsenal's fans in two. One half felt the signing was inspired and that a Premier League challenge, if not a title, was guaranteed. The other half, however, felt their club had been rash in the transfer market and had paid over the odds for a troublemaker.
Both sets of fans would have to wait until the season's end to see who was right.
Suarez's capture meant that Arsene Wenger now had the clinical striker he needed at the pinnacle of his patented 4-3-3 formation. Theo Walcott would provide the width on the right while Santi Cazorla was edged out towards the left of center as Mikel Arteta, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey took up the midfield berths.
As the season wore on, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Tomas Rosicky would become more and more important to the Arsenal cause. Towards the end of the campaign, the Ox became a regular as he rotated with Arteta and Ramsey in central midfield, while Rosicky was utilized as Walcott's and Cazorla's relief.
The two players to miss out most were Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud. The Frenchman had been inspired during preseason and seemed to be scoring for fun, but Wenger's decision to bring in Suarez relegated him to the bench. It also ended Giroud's slim chances of making the French squad for the World Cup.
As a result, he put in a transfer request. Podolski, on the other hand, started off the season on fire and decided to stay quiet and became an important squad player as he flitted between left-wing, center-forward and, on occasion, right-wing.
The defense really picked itself. Thomas Vermaelen continued his dour form from the 2012-13 season and was little more than a peripheral figure. Laurent Koscielny's importance to the cause could not be underestimated, as he became the very heart and soul of the Gunners' team. His partnership with Per Mertesacker was the main reason for Arsenal gaining three points on more than one occasion.
In what would turn out to be his final season with the club, Bacary Sagna was simply brilliant. The Frenchman had a great season and provided great leadership to both Kieran Gibbs and Carl Jenkinson.
The season started off in a spectacular fashion for Suarez and the Gunners.
They hammered Aston Villa 4-0 in the first game of the season, with Podolski grabbing a memorable hat-trick. The German then followed up his unforgettable treble with a brace against Fulham at Craven Cottage a week later as Arsenal came from behind to win 2-1.
Their two wins and six goals put the Gunners on top of the table as August ended. As a result, the Gunners' odds for winning the league title shortened dramatically.
Suarez's capture was hailed as a superb piece of business, in some quarters, as he was adapting to life easily with Arsenal, with Liverpool struggling to score, and almost everyone was admiring Arsenal's play. In others, it was questioned severely as Podolski was scoring goals for fun as the Uruguayan sat through the rest of his 10-game suspension for biting Branislav Ivanovic last season.
The downside of the Luis Suarez transfer to Arsenal was that the 26-year-old was now the most hated man in the Premier League. Manchester United fans loathed him, Chelsea's fans despised him, Liverpool's fans called him a Judas and Tottenham's fans hated him because he played for Arsenal.
Add in the rest of the fan groups that did not like him, and he was easily the most hated player in EPL history.
The furore surrounding the striker did little to upset him or his team. In the third game of the new EPL season, the Gunners welcomed a new-look Spurs side for their first major test of the season.
Suarez, still sitting on the sidelines after receiving a 10-match ban last season, lived up to his billing as the top draw in this match. His attention grabbing seemed to ease the pressure on his team, as Podolski grabbed another two in a five-goal romp for Arsenal.
Spurs had Paulinho carried off early with a hamstring injury before Gareth Bale missed a penalty and then received a yellow card for fouling Koscielny at a corner.
Having scored 11 goals and just conceded one goal in three games, Arsenal were easily the best team in the country.
The Spurs win was followed up by easy victories over Sunderland, Stoke and Swansea before a last-minute goal by Shane Long gave West Brom an undeserved draw. The poor result was offset by Suarez's first goal for his new club. His first was the simplest of goals.
The Gunners cut West Brom to pieces on the right as Walcott and Jenkinson combined to great effect. Walcott then got to the byline and chipped a wonderful cross to the back post where Suarez could only score.
Two more routine victories over Crystal Palace and Norwich followed to leave Arsene Wenger's team unbeaten and on top of the league by the end of October. Those wins came from the boot of Podolski, continuing his fine form, and Suarez, who grabbed another two.
The Arsenal pairing of Podolski and Wenger claimed both player and manager of the month awards in September and October such was the Gunners' dominance of the EPL. Their run to the top had most fans and pundits wondering if we were witnessing another unbeaten season.
That dream came to an end on November 2 in a bad-tempered game at the Emirates as Liverpool came away with a 1-0 win. Up until this game, the Reds had won just twice and were struggling to find the back of the net.
They beat Arsenal for only the second time since 2008 thanks to a Steven Gerrard blockbuster after just two minutes. For the rest of the game, Liverpool played with 11 men behind the ball and used Raheem Sterling's pace to keep Arsenal's back four from playing a high line.
Suarez, in just his fourth game, was kicked from pillar to post by Daniel Agger, Martin Skrtel and Martin Kelly, who received a late red card.
In the aftermath of the match a furious Arsene Wenger verbally assaulted Brendan Rodgers on the sideline as he felt his team were robbed. The two managers continued their tirades against each other in the press conference after the game. In the end, the FA had to step in and caution both managers on their future actions.
The loss to Liverpool was followed up by another defeat to Manchester United at Old Trafford. This time, however, the difference between the teams was startling. Suarez, carrying an injury from the Liverpool game, was anonymous and offered his team nothing at all. He was replaced by a deeply unhappy Olivier Giroud as the first half came to an end with United two goals up.
United would go on to win by an easy 4-0, and all of a sudden Arsenal's season was beginning to stutter.
The Gunners' were still on top of the table, but their lead had been cut to just one point as Chelsea and Manchester City gave chase.
Meanwhile, in the Champions League, Arsenal continued to hum, but at a cost.
They were top of the group with three wins from their first three games, having beaten CSKA Moscow, Galatasaray and Molde. The win over mold, however, an easy 6-1 win at the Emirates came after Suarez dived in the fifth minute to earn his side a penalty.
After the match, Wenger defended his player, saying that there was contact between the striker and the goalkeeper. But as with his arguments concerning Eduardo's dive against Celtic in 2009, few believed him bar the most diehard Arsenal fans.
UEFA did not sanction the striker, but they did agree to take a look at the EPL's retrospective panel at the end of the season. If the results were conclusive, they would bring a similar approach to all UEFA games going forward. By the season's end, UEFA and Michel Platini were embracing the initiative to such a degree that Platini was using it as an electioneering ploy for the upcoming FIFA presidential elections.
The Gunners then moved into one of the most important parts of the season in December when they played Everton, Man City and Chelsea with a final Champions League match against CSKA Moscow thrown in between.
The Toffees, playing a new look 5-3-2 formation, made life incredibly difficult for Arsenal all afternoon as Leighton Baines and Seamus Coleman cut the Gunners to pieces on the flanks. Roberto Martinez's team eventually won 1-0 thanks to a Baines free-kick. Arsenal followed up the loss to Everton with a win over Manuel Pellegrini's Man City as Suarez returned to form, with the Uruguayan again the match winner.
By this stage, Arsenal's record signing had scored seven goals in 10 games, and Podolski was unfortunately relegated to the bench.
Chelsea came to town the week before Christmas in a real top-of-the-table clash.
In one of the matches of the season, Suarez scored as Arsenal clawed a draw from 2-0 down at half-time. A jubilant Arsene Wenger claimed after the match that his team were now showing true title-winning credentials. Jose Mourinho, on the other hand, berated his team for their poor defending.
In retrospect, this was the game that ended John Terry's time as one of Chelsea's most important players. Mats Hummels was then signed in January from Borussia Dortmund as the Blues' captain became a peripheral figure for the rest of the season.
A grueling Christmas period saw West Ham and Newcastle United both beat the Gunners before five wins on the trot set Arsenal up perfectly for what was being billed as the battle of Anfield.
And a battle it was.
Liverpool won 2-0 over Arsenal as the Gunners had both Suarez and Wilshere sent off in an extremely bad-tempered first half. Suarez's red card was the first time he had received a suspension for a foul in English football.
Without Suarez and with Giroud demanding a transfer, Wenger had to go with Walcott up front against Manchester United the following week. Their defeat to United was made all the worse as the winning goal came from the boot of ex-Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.
Suarez's three-game suspension finished just as Arsenal visited Spurs.
With his every touch booed and jeered, Suarez became the focal point for everything that would go wrong for his team.
Paulinho and Mousa Dembele dominated midfield to an incredible extent in a very one-sided game that saw Spurs win 3-0. The defeat was hugely demoralizing for the Gunners, as it ended the slim hopes of challenging for the title. The following week a number of unnamed playing sources went public and castigated the club for bringing in the Suarez and for ruining team morale.
His goals had dried up from the opening weeks of the season, and now he was becoming an unwanted problem for the team as fans, both home and away, got on his and their team's back. He had lost form, lost his touch in front of goal, and now his contribution to the rest if the team was dwindling.
The Tottenham loss was followed up by defeats to Chelsea and Manchester City alongside draws to Everton and West Ham. The Gunners' 10-game run without a win came to an end on April 19 at the Kingston Communication Stadium over relegation-threatened Hull.
The victory, courtesy of a two-goal salvo from Laurent Koscielny, was the start of a mini run that saw wins over Newcastle and West Brom and a draw at Norwich on the final day of the season.
Having been top of the table in November, Arsenal slumped to fifth place and missed out on the Champions League for the first time in 17 years.
The irony of Suarez's £50 million capture was not lost on Arsenal's supporters, who campaigned for Arsene Wenger to resign following the season's end.
They argued that Le Prof had lost his touch in the transfer market in recent years and that the club had stagnated since 2004. They also argued that Suarez was an over-expensive and troublesome gamble.
To make matters worse for Arsenal's fans, Wayne Rooney was named player of the year for Manchester United, Gonzalo Higuain guided Napoli to the semifinals of the Champions League with 10 goals, Stevan Jovetic turned out to be one of the players of the season at Manchester City and Spurs' Roberto Soldado scored 23 goals as Andre Villas-Boas' team finished fourth.
Wenger, an honorable man to the end, offered his resignation, heartbroken at Arsenal's fans' anger. His resignation was rejected. Suarez was eventually sold to Real Madrid in a player-plus-£20-million-cash deal involving Karim Benzema following the Uruguayan's seven goals in the World Cup in Brazil.
This, of course, most probably will not happen.
However, Multiverse theory states that every time a decision is made another parallel universe to our own begins.
With that in mind, there is a universe where this will happen. There is also, therefore, a universe where Arsenal will win the league with Suarez bagging 40 goals.
There is also a universe where you are Batman.
It was once said that there were eight million stories in the Naked City.
There are endless stories in the sports world, and this is just one imagining.
What do you think will happen to Arsenal if Luis Suarez signs?
Will the Gunners crash and burn, or will they romp to the title?
Leave your Suarez/Arsenal thoughts and predictions in the section below.
You can follow me on Twitter @WillieGannon.
And listen to me on the Hold the Back Page podcast.
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