Put simply, Drogba, and perhaps Suarez—perhaps—is the kind of player one hates because he plays for an opponent but becomes the player one loves when he switches sides. He’s divey and dirty and seems to get away with murder (this is Drogba I’m focusing on, by the way), but his fans absolutely love him because he delivers when it seems no one else can. Arguably, Suarez has done this at least once in a while, such as with his handball-save against Ghana, but I’m not yet ready to anoint him with the same kind of crown that Drogba wears. There are players who know how to win. Drogba seems to be one of them. Whether Suarez is that kind of player is another question that remains unanswered, at least in my mind. Personal stats? Sure, he appears to be great, but personal stats are only part of the story.
I mentioned precedent in my own life. In 1995, the Chicago Bulls signed Dennis Rodman, once a member of the famed Detroit Pistons’ Bad Boys. Up until he joined the Bulls, Rodman epitomized the kind of basketball I hated: rough, dirty, brawn over brains, etc. In fact, of Detroit’s Bad Boys, no on seemed like more of a cheat and a flopper than Rodman. He was funny-looking and unashamed of the dirty tricks to which he resorted to get an upper hand. His nickname summed him up pretty-damned well: The Worm. Nothing was beneath him.
However, once he joined the Bulls, I found myself coming to terms with his antics. I told myself that if Pippen and Jordan can accept him, so can I. I hope I can honestly say that I never embraced him, but I might be lying to you and to myself as well. I’ll save you the convoluted twists and turns my conscience took as Rodman helped the Bulls to an unprecedented record of 72 wins and 10 losses as well as a playoff run that saw them win 17 of 20 games on their way to a 3rd championship in five years.
It’s with that backdrop that I’ve looked on Drogba’s antics and performances against us, whether it was in Sunday’s Emirates Cup match or over the years when he was with Chelsea, and I’ve looked closer at our squad and what we’re lacking. We have plenty of talent and potential; we even have bucketloads of skill and charisma. What we’re lacking, maybe more than a world-class striker (or such a player at any one position), is the kind of cunning and guile and ruthlessness that separates the merely good from the great. I’m not claiming that Drogba is among the world’s greats by any means, simply that, in addition to the many skills he does bring to the pitch, his ability to change a game, regardless of method, is remarkable. He sees an advantage and seizes it remorselessly. Was his brush with Miquel within the bounds of fairplay? It’s debatable. After all, we’d have to be careful how loudly we complain barely 24 hours after earning a soft penalty against Napoli. The difference, of course, is that Drogba went down like a sniper had hit him square between the shoulder-blades and Gibbs did take a bit of an ugly knock on the knee.
To us, Drogba’s penalty is rank simulation and deserving of a yellow-card, if not red; Gibb’s penalty is justice served for putting his body on the line. I’m sure that fans of Gala and Napoli have their own interpretations.
This, however, is not an argument for signing Suarez. I’ve come to the end of this with my resistance intact, if nothing else. Sure, some of his antics would fall under the same banner as Drogba’s or Rodman’s, and I might feel fully comfortable in glossing Suarez’s future indiscretions should he commit them in an Arsenal kit. However, I’m taking a longer view in hopes that I can bypass that uncomfortable moral accommodation. Too many of his choices have been selfish and have sabotaged his team rather than advanced it. He doesn’t just have a killer-instinct that impels him to succeed or carry his team to victory in the same way that Drogba so frequently has.
There must be someone out there who strikes the balance between the paladins we have and the assassins we need, someone cold enough to submarine a team other than his own in pursuit of glory. Villains don’t always wear black (although Galatasaray and Liverpool frequently do), and good guys don’t always finish last, but I’m sure getting tired of finishing fourth. Let’s hope that there is something to celebrate before week’s end.
That’s all for now. I hope you’ve had a chance to vote in the 2012-13 YAMA Awards for Arsenal bloggers and writers. Woolwich 1886 is honored to be nominated as a Best New Arsenal Blog. Go over and vote! Thanks!