Arsene Wenger pursued Suarez with intent this summer, attempting to make him Arsenal’s record signing. However, the release clause the Arsenal manager thought would permit the deal to go ahead turned out to be far more complex than the Gunners had imagined. Liverpool held on to Suarez, and Arsenal were forced to move on.
Given that Suarez is comfortably the top scorer in the Premier League, one would imagine that Wenger would be rueful about the collapse of the move. However, according to David Hytner of The Guardian, he sounded relatively sanguine:
No, there are no regrets. You have sometimes regrets when a player played for you, and scores goals or does well somewhere else [but] he was never our player. It is just a situation that did not come off and that is it.
Wenger is right to be relaxed about the situation. Had he signed Suarez, the shape of his team and subsequently its destiny would have been significantly altered.
Had the Uruguayan arrived, it’s unlikely Wenger would have broken his transfer record for a second time in a single summer to add Mesut Ozil.
Ozil’s metronome-like passing has become synonymous with Arsenal’s style this season. It’s increasingly difficult to imagine Arsene Wenger’s team without him.
Olivier Giroud has also flourished.
Wenger is insistent that Suarez was never intended as a replacement for the Frenchman, but his arrival would certainly have threatened Giroud’s first-team place.
For all Suarez’s gifts, though, he can’t match the immaculate hold-up play of the towering No. 12. Giroud’s physical strength and deft first touch allows him to bring the midfield into play in the final third, bringing out the best in the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Santi Cazorla.
Perhaps that’s why Wenger insists he will not be returning for Suarez this summer.
Asked about the possibility of a renewed bid for the South American hitman, Wenger told The Guardian, “at the moment, no”.
First and foremost, Wenger must know that Liverpool will be no more willing to sell Suarez next summer. If they qualify for the Champions League, as appears eminently possible, they will surely hold on to their star player. If they don’t, they will emulate what Spurs did with Gareth Bale and attempt to sell him abroad. The Anfield club have no interest in strengthening a rival.
Wenger will also be keen to avoid the embarrassment caused by last summer’s Suarez affair. Bidding one pound over an imaginary release clause made Arsenal appear incompetent and equally made relations between the clubs unusually sour.
However, the primary reason for Wenger’s volte-face is what unfolds on the field. Since missing out on Suarez, Wenger has found a formula that works. Surrounding Giroud with more mobile attacking midfielders gives his team a varied threat that is not reliant on any one goalscorer. Wenger still needs a striker this summer, but he’ll presumably look for someone capable of replicating Giroud’s superb link play. The system is more important than any star striker.
The deal to bring Suarez to Arsenal died in August 2013. Wenger has moved on. Looking at the table, it’s hard to argue with his logic: For all Suarez’s brilliance, it’s the Gunners who sit top of the Premier League.
James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.