This summer, Luis Suarez was Arsene Wenger’s dream signing.
Not every Arsenal fan shared that sentiment: Many saw a swoop for the controversial Suarez as risky and ethically questionable.
However, Wenger had done his homework. He admitted to Telefoot (h/t Graeme Bailey of Sky Sports) that he undertook extensive background checks on Suarez to ensure that he would not be a disruptive influence should he arrive in North London:
He has a strong, provocative personality. From the information I gathered on him it appears that on a day-to-day level he is really easy to work with.
Also that he's respectful, he loves training, he's an angel. He turns into a demon when he's on the pitch.
We all dream about having players like that.
It's a dream that is now unlikely to ever be realised.
The Gunners' summer pursuit of Suarez was met with fierce opposition from Liverpool. Arsenal hoped their offer of just over £40 million would trigger a release clause in the Uruguayan's contract. Instead, it merely triggered irritation and intransigence.
Liverpool kept hold of Suarez, and they have now secured their star striker on a new long-term deal. Even if he were to become available, he would now surely be out of Wenger's range.
Arsenal fans can't be blamed for wondering what might have been.
Suarez's performances this season have lit up the Premier League. He is the division's top scorer, with 19 goals in just 12 starts.
The reason he has made so few appearances is that he was suspended for the first six domestic games of the 2013/14 season. Had he joined Arsenal, their start would have remained much the same, as Suarez would have been unavailable in the Premier League until the Gunners' match away to Swansea on September 28.
By then, Olivier Giroud already had several Premier League goals to his name and had cemented his place as Arsenal’s centre-forward.
Given Giroud's excellent start to the season, Suarez’s early appearances in an Arsenal shirt would most probably have come on the wing. From a wide starting position, Suarez would be free to cut inside and link up with Giroud.
Suarez's Squawka heat map from Liverpool's most recent victory against Cardiff demonstrates that he is comfortable dropping wide on to either flank to receive the ball:
Suarez is also the sort of intelligent footballer who could potentially form an instantaneous understanding with the one major summer signing Arsenal did make: Mesut Ozil.
Some might suggest that Arsenal would not have completed a move for both Ozil and Suarez, but the signs are that Arsene Wenger always intended to add a striker as well as the playmaker: he was still pursuing a move for Chelsea's Demba Ba late in to deadline day. Furthermore, the Gunners' off-field commercial resurgence means they had the resources to do two big deals within the same window.
Acquiring Suarez and Ozil to accompany Giroud would have given Arsenal a devastating attacking trio, especially when supplemented by the pace of Theo Walcott on the other flank. Having both Suarez and Giroud in the team would enable Arsenal to offer a varied and powerful threat. Giroud is dominant in the air and able to hold the ball up, while Suarez is a dribbling maverick who can score goals from nothing.
Playing as a wide forward, there’s no guarantee Suarez would have scored quite as many goals as he has while playing through the middle at Liverpool. However, Arsenal’s diverse strike-force and superb combination play would certainly give defenders plenty to think about. At times, Mesut Ozil has shown noticeable frustration at Arsenal’s lack of runners off the ball in the final third. Adding Suarez would instantly alleviate that problem.
Having Suarez would also have enabled Wenger to afford Olivier Giroud the occasional rest, preventing the likelihood of him suffering from fatigue and eventually injury.
Finally, a Liverpool team without Suarez would certainly not be topping the Premier League table. As the team currently sit in second place, an augmented Arsenal would surely be the likely leaders. With 19 of Liverpool's 42 goals, Suarez accounts for almost half the Anfield club's Premier League tally. It's an irreplaceable contribution.
Wenger's dream of signing Suarez may be over, but it’s easy to see from whence it came. With the Uruguayan in their ranks, Arsenal would surely be Premier League title favourites.
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