|"I am look-eeng for top, top quality but it is very hard |
to find ze right pla...." - Arsene Wenger, since forever.
(Pic : New York Daily News)
Arsenal's big weakness last season was up-front.
Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny found a level of consistency that hadn't been present in defence since the Invincibles season's Sol Campbell and Kolo Toure partnership.
Mikel Arteta played an understated role in stopping and starting counter attacks, Aaron Ramsey had a very strong end to the season, while Santi Cazorla provided Fabregasian levels of creativity.
Lukas Podolski has power, but isn't a consistent number 9. Olivier Giroud has the advantage of being a ridiculously attractive Frenchman, but frustrated last season (he's since shown glimpses of promise on the Asian tour). Theo Walcott started well, but faded, and I doubt I'm the only one who doubts if he can be an out-and-out striker.
Say what you want about the Whore of Rotterdam and his contract, but Arsenal missed him last season, desperately needing an Henry-type "bang goals in for fun" centre forward.
The truth is Arsenal are running out of world-class strikers to target. Gonzalo Higuain has gone to Napoli, Cavani to PSG, Falcao to Monaco, Rooney would smash the wage structure and Robert Lewandowski will probably join Bayern next year. There's always Bendtner, eh?
So making a move for Luis Suarez – one of the Premier League's most prolific strikers - makes sense. He's pretty much the only option left if we're talking "established world-class players".
I'm sure Suarez would make the step up, going some way to making Arsenal serious title contenders for the first time since 2007-08 – but only if defensive consistency is maintained, and there's at least one more midfield or defensive addition.
Liverpool are a big club - bigger than Arsenal - but despite the Scouse old-guard's bluster, they have to overhaul both Gareth Bale and Everton to even think about challenging Arsenal for the Top 4 (at present).
They were barely able to do that with Torres, and haven't with Suarez – two of the best players in the world at their disposal - in addition to consistent performers like Steven Gerrard. They've got a mid-table squad loaded with expensive dead weight, led by an inexperienced manager.
Selling Suarez to Arsenal – without a quality replacement lined up – would easily end Liverpool's hopes of Champions League football in 2014-15. Liverpool also have every right to demand as much as possible for Suarez, as it's not as if his contract's running down.
That's probably why I have doubts as to whether this will happen.
When you look at Arsene Wenger's record at signing established names, you've got to wonder if this is really his doing, or if he's had some sort of personality change caused by a traumatic brain injury.
It's not his style. He has very firm principles – not just "gut instincts" - about what players are worth, and I don't think a sudden injection of cash will be enough for him to change tact.
To put things in perspective, Swansea City recently signed Wilfried Bony for £12million – their record signing.
Arsenal's record up-front signing is £13million Sylvain Wiltord in 2000. £12million now might be the equivalent of £4-5million in 2000, but it underlines Wenger's historic reluctance to pay big fees for any player. Receiving big fees is a different matter.
I'd be stunned if Arsenal match Liverpool's £55million+ valuation, I think £45million is the maximum Arsenal would pay (not including add-ons) and Liverpool would probably be pig-headed enough to reject it, even if Suarez submitted a transfer request.
I question where the money's coming from. It's unclear if it's previous "warchests" rolled over, the new Sky deal, or if Arsenal are doing it based on reported Puma and Emirates deals from 2014-15.
I think Real Madrid is a more likely destination for Suarez (should Real fail to sign Bale this summer), and Arsenal will end up signing 2 or 3 players in the £7-12million range during the last two weeks of the transfer window.
I think next season will be the "big summer" us Gooners have been waiting for, and waiting for and waiting for....So it goes.