When I think of why I love this club, I think of class, quality, and aesthetics. I want caviar again. I want my mind and heart to scroll through names that will stir my blood and grow goosebumps all down my arms, making me shiver in the moment and again in the memories those moments evoke. I’ll admit that Suarez is capable of creating those moments; he’s done it for Liverpool and he’s done it for Uruguay and he did it for Ajax. However, I’m still not convinced that he has The Right Stuff© to play for Arsenal.
After all, when I think back on more-glorious days and venerated names—and I’ll admit that some of this is probably down to myopia or ahistoric amnesia—those memories are untinged by any unpleasantries. In the recesses of my mind, I’m sure there are instances that I’m not proud of, that Henry or Bergkamp or Adams got away with something, but those feel like little, lurking moments that can safely and legitimately be swept away by the passage of time, dwarfed as they are by the larger canvas of accomplishments that each player has created.
Now, I know that footballers are not called on to be saints, whether they play for Arsenal or anywhere else, but we do claim to play by certain values—speaking in Jakarta the other day, Arsène said, “I still believe that, even if we are in a stronger financial position, all of our values still have to be the same.” He went on to focus on developing young players (which is still important), but he also admitted that “for years, we were out of the race for the top-level transfers, but we are coming back now”. When it comes to statistics, it’s hard to argue against Suarez being a top-level transfer. He scored 23 league goals and might have won the Golden Boot if he hadn’t bit Ivanovic.
And that’s just it. I worry that there’s always going to be an if or a but to follow each Suarez goal. I don’t want to climb to the top of the Prem or advance deeper into the Champions League on the back of a guy whom I have to defend with some flimsy excuse (“race is different in Uruguay”, “that handball was a spontaneous reflex”, “his saliva produces unique antibodies that immunize people against anthrax”, and so on). I don’t want saints or priests or angels, but I don’t think it’s wrong of me to expect a little character, a little class. Maybe something like Robbie Fowler denying that Seaman touched him. Yes, Liverpool got the goal anyway, but maybe that’s how karma works.
Sometimes, very, very good players are personally unpleasant. I don’t think I’m a snob for saying I don’t want them on my squad. Cole. Adebayor. Nasri. Please don’t ask the question, “would you rather have kind and gentle but bad players?” That’s a false dichotomy, so don’t pose it. Great players don’t have to be jerks or cheats, and nice guys don’t have to finish last—look at Messi, to cite just one example. He might be the most-fouled player on the planet, but he still plays beautifully, rarely if ever dives, and never seems to lose his temper.
When I look back on the 2013-14 season and on seasons beyond it, I want memories to cherish. I don’t want to have to look past incidents that make my skin crawl or that I have to rationalize. This is the beautiful game, after all, and Arsenal is known for playing it beautifully. I see us winning silverware this year, and I don’t want to have grubby feelings about who helped us get it. I’m coming to terms with us smashing our transfer-fee record more than once this summer, but there is no way on Earth I would want Suarez to be our most-expensive signing. If we’re to sign Higuain in the mid-20’s and Rooney for something similar, we would be in fantastic shape (my doubts about Rooney were put to rest by Jack Wilshere, for what that’s worth).
I’m not of the “win at all costs” mindset, and if you see that as a flaw, I guess we’ll just have to disagree. I want my Arsenal to win and to win with panache, not gall. When I say “I can’t believe he did that,” I want to be responding to a jaw-dropping display of skill not to a head-slapping insult against the game. Suarez, clearly capable of the former, is all too willing to commit the latter. Let’s not do him any favors, then, by giving him £40m (or more) and inviting him into the Champions League. Wouldn’t this prove to him that he was unfairly targeted by referees and the press and that he didn’t really do anything all that bad?
No, thank you. I dream of restoring Gunner glory, swash-buckling, marauding men who inspire fear in their opponents through sheer skill and style and a growing, inevitable feeling that Arsenal is going to win and win again. It’s gonna happen. I can feel it. When it happens, and we’re all delirious with joy, we’ll know we did it right.
I hope you’re with me. If you’re not, I hope we can disagree without being disagreeable. In either case, I hope I’ve given you something worthwhile. If I have, please consider voting for Woolwich 1886 as a “Best New Arsenal Blog” in the 2012-13 YAMAs Awards. Thanks!