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Does Arsene Wenger really want Luis Suarez?

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19.19K   //    15 Jul 2013, 15:21 IST
Arsene Wenger's (C) Arsenal have been heavily linked with Real Madrid's Gonzalo Higuain (L) and Liverpool's Luis Suarez (R). (Getty Images)

Arsene Wenger’s (C) Arsenal have been heavily linked with Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain (L) and Liverpool’s Luis Suarez (R). (Getty Images)

Do Arsenal really want to sign Luis Suarez? When the story first broke, a little over a week ago, it seemed absurd, yet still the talk continues with Arsene Wenger insisting the bid is genuine. It remains baffling, though: Suarez had made clear his desire to leave was less to do with frustration with Liverpool than with England in general.

Suarez wants Champions League football, which is understandable, but he also wants to get out of the Premier League, where he felt he had been “victimised” by the football authorities and the media. If that’s the case, and if the interest from Real Madrid is genuine, then why would Suarez want to swap one English club for another?

But the proposed deal also marks a major departure for Arsenal from their usual policy. It’s true that the old philosophy of buying young talent cheaply to develop has been compromised in recent years, but the record fee paid for anybody, even when all add-ons are considered, is only the £15million paid for Andrey Arshavin in 2009 (not including add-ons, it’s still, amazingly, the £13million paid to Bordeaux for Sylvain Wiltord in 2000). It appears Arsenal have already offered Liverpool double that and that they may up the bid this week.

It’s true that Arsenal are almost certain to break their transfer record during this window – personal terms have been agreed in principle with Gonzalo Higuain, who would cost around £23million to bring from Real Madrid – but why Suarez? He has the technical ability and the game intelligence to fit the Arsenal style but is another diminutive forward really a priority, particularly one who brings such baggage, including six games of a ten-game ban still to serve?

With the Higuain deal still on hold, seemingly as Real Madrid consider their options as Carlo Ancelotti takes over from Jose Mourinho, it’s been suggested that Suarez is an alternative to the Argentinean. They are such different players though that, if that is true it suggests Arsenal are desperate to make some kind of statement signing – and he has said Wayne Rooney is (or was at some point) a “realistic target” that they just want to prove that they do have cash and are prepared to spend it rather than looking to improve specific aspects of their squad.

That may be unfair – it could be that Wenger has allocated, say, £50m to sign one schemer and one more muscular forward and isn’t bothered how the budget breaks down; maybe he actually genuinely wants both Higuain and Suarez/Rooney – but there is a sense of a greater game being played here. The question is what?

Is it as simple as making a noise about big names to encourage season-ticket holders and to persuade other potential targets or players who may leave that they will be a serious force? Are they using Suarez to pressure Real Madrid over Higuain? Or is this what it appears to be on the surface? Arsenal have not exactly lacked firepower in the past, but a front pairing of Higuain and Suarez would be mouth-watering. The danger for Arsenal is that if they end up with neither, the season will begin with a sense of anti-climax.

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Jonathan Wilson is the editor of the football quarterly the Blizzard and writes for the Guardian, the National, Sports Illustrated, World Soccer and Fox. He is the author of six books on football, including Inverting the Pyramid, which was named Football Book of the Year in both the UK and Italy.
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