It's a question that Arsenal fans will love debating, a question that may be wishful thinking even to broach and a question that very well could define next season:
By this point, you've heard all about Arsenal's interest in Suarez. But on Tuesday night the saga took another turn as Suarez publicly announced via The Guardian that he wanted to leave Anfield, claiming that Liverpool promised him they would let him go if they didn't qualify for the Champions League and, gosh darn it, a man shouldn't renege on his promises.
Now he's ready to take it to the courts (via ESPN) so, yeah, he's probably not going to be sticking around Liverpool much longer.
Meanwhile, Rooney recently re-entered his name into the Arsenal transfer target bin, according to Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph:
Rooney most attracted by Chelsea, who have made the only two bids, but would consider Arsenal and is set on leaving— Jeremy Wilson (@JWTelegraph) August 5, 2013
Either player is a distinct possibility for Arsenal and each would offer a dramatic upgrade for the team. So which player should Gooners be hoping their beloved Arsenal signs?
Let's quickly compare the production from the two players in Premier League play since Suarez joined Liverpool three seasons ago:
Of course, we live in a "What have you done for me lately?" world and Suarez was amazing last season. Along with his 23 goals, WhoScored.com gave him an average match rating of 7.89 in league play, tying him with Gareth Bale atop the Premier League.
Rooney wasn't exactly chopped liver in that regard, registering a 7.25 average match rating, but Suarez was clearly the better player last season. Of course, Rooney enthusiasts will argue that the United star was played out of position last year due to the arrival of Robin van Persie and point to his 29 goals two years ago when he was the focal point of the Red Devils' attack.
Fair points, Rooney fans. Either way, Arsenal would be getting upgraded production from the forward position.
Here's where I think the biggest difference lies. While both players are very versatile, they are quite different in their approach to the game.
Suarez is very effective as a lone striker, though he likes to peel out wide and attack from angles. He makes brilliant runs off the ball, is a tireless worker and can score goals in any number of ways.
Really, for Arsenal he could play as the lone striker, as a centre-forward in the hole behind Olivier Giroud or even out wide on the left. The potential of an attacking trio of Theo Walcott, Giroud and Suarez—with Santi Cazorla operating as the central attacking midfielder—is enough to make any Gooner salivate.
Still, that type of formation would probably be more of a 4-3-2-1 than a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1, since both Walcott and Suarez would look to cut inside regularly on the attack. Thus, it's possible Arsenal could lose width going forward, though it would afford both Suarez and Walcott a lot of horizontal freedom.
If Wenger felt Suarez was better playing off another striker, he'd probably start him out wide in the aforementioned setup. If he felt he needed the freedom afforded a lone striker, Arsenal would stick with a more traditional 4-2-3-1, with Cazorla playing behind Suarez and Lukas Podolski reprising his role as the left winger.
Rooney, on the other hand, would remain central. He'd likely start out as a centre-forward behind Giroud, sending Cazorla to the left wing. From there, he would be given freedom to orchestrate the attack, dropping deep to find the build-up play or interchanging with Giroud or Walcott as he saw fit.
Or he could play as the lone striker, a position that could see him return to his 29-goal form from two years ago. Without doubt, he doesn't have the pace of his younger days, but he's still a clinical finisher when given a good look at goal.
Still, Rooney has always liked to find the play, so I imagine he'd play behind Giroud. That would push Cazorla to the wing—where he's not as effective as he is when played centrally—and Podolski to the bench.
And that is why, from a purely tactical standpoint, I think Suarez would be the better fit for Arsenal.
No doubt, Suarez brings character concerns. He can't seem to stay out of trouble and isn't exactly the model citizen that Arsene Wenger tries to bring aboard. Plus, we've now seen this summer that once he's done with a club, he's really done with a club, contract be damned.
But on the pitch, Suarez is everything you want. He works hard, he's smart and he's a true game-changer. He was a one-man show for Liverpool in the first half of the season and his ability to grab a match by the scruff of the neck and shake it about as he pleases is pretty rare in a player.
Still, at his best, Rooney is the better player. He's both a facilitator and brilliant finisher, a man once spoken of in the same breath as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
But he too brings his own concerns.
He's no diva, but if he dressed up as one for Halloween he'd probably find himself a natural at playing the part. He wants to be the focal point of an attack (though given his talents, it's understandable why) and isn't pleased when he's utilized otherwise.
Oh and this isn't the first time he's tried to force a move away from United.
He didn't always seem fully fit at times last season and, oh yeah, his wages are astronomical. For Arsenal to sign him, they may have to make a mockery of their strict wage scale.
He's yet to bite anyone, however. Still, those wages would be tough to swallow for Arsenal.
From a production standpoint, Rooney is the safer bet. Even if he isn't scoring, he'll set up plenty of goals. And at Arsenal, he'll be the focal point of the attack, so I imagine the goals would come frequently.
But Suarez is the better tactical fit for the club. He's comfortable playing as the lone forward and probably would start there for Arsenal. He could also shift wide and play off Giroud, and while he isn't a playmaker of Rooney's ilk, he would fit in just fine in Arsenal's technical, possession-based system.
Who is the better fit for Arsenal?
You may think Rooney gets the edge in intangibles, but... that goes for Suarez, too. Yes, there will always be the concern with Suarez that he will do something dumb on the pitch and get himself suspended. But I just can't imagine Arsenal paying Rooney's wages, even if the actual transfer fee would be much lower.
Rooney would likely have to cut his United wages in half at Arsenal. Can you really picture Rooney doing that?
I can't. Thus—and taking everything else into account—I think Suarez is the better fit for Arsenal.