Category Archives: Luis Suarez

On the transfer merry-go-round, will Suárez’s ban ruin the fun?

It’s official: FIFA has banned Luis Racist McBitesAlot Suárez for four months and nine international matches for Uruguay, and this also includes nine Prem matches and three Champions League matches for Liverpool, which all but dooms Uruguay’s chances this time through and does the same to Liverpool—although it must be noted that Liverpool did quite well to start the 2013-14 season when Suárez was banned for ten games—wait for it—biting an opponent, winning seven, drawing two, and losing once. They’re hardly toothless without him, I’ll say that. While his suspension may seem harsh to some, I’m not sure it goes far enough. After all, he bit an opponent. For the third time. However, these antics and the fact that Suárez won’t even be available until the end of October, has apparently not deterred Real Madrid or Barcelona from pursuing him. Fine. If we can ride the transfer merry-go-round again, let’s give it a spin, shall we?

A season ago, after all, we sold Gervinho on to Roma. Roma sold Erik Lamela to Spurs. Spurs sold Bale to Real Madrid. Real Madrid sold Özil to us. The short version: we swapped Gervinho for Özil. With apologies to Elvis Costello, this year’s model might offer a shorter version of events, one that only includes Liverpool, us, and one of the two La Liga behemoths. For one, FIFA has confirmed that Suárez can still switch clubs. For another, Barcelona has appealed its transfer-ban, meaning that it can sign players this summer as the appeal wends its way through the no-doubt fully-transparent appeals process. Long story short: Suárez may have finally forced his way out of Liverpool, using the World Cup as his Archimedean lever, and his long-anticipated move to Spain could very well pave the way for Barcelona’s Alexis Sánchez or Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema to come to England.

Without dwelling on the more-sordid elements of the clubs involved, it’s worth a quick mention: if Liverpool are willing to sweep Suárez’s assaults under the rug, shame on them. If Barcelona or Real are still willing to put their money where their mouths are, well, shame on them. Should one of the two clubs swoop for Suárez, even at a price discounted from £40m+1, they’re probably going to have to at least pretend the balance the books, even if only to keep up appearances. Barcelona may feel this pressure a bit more than Real, what with FIFA’s ban, pending that appeal, for repeatedly breaching transfer regulations.

If this means that Alexis Sánchez is offered up, rather than Karim Benzema, fine. Dandy. He’s looked sharp during the World Cup, playing atop Chile’s 3-4-1-2 formation, while also impressing as a right-forward in Barcelona’s 4-3-3. If Karim Benzema is the one who becomes expendable, so be it. I’ve not been a big fan of his, I’ll admit, what with concerns over attitude and effort lurking just beneath the surface. Between the two of them—Sánchez at 25 and Benzema at 26—they each are entering that Goldilocks phase of their careers, that nifty balance of youth and experience that could see each one surge forward from their already-intriguing-if-not-yet-/fully-impressive performances. Neither seems to fully fit in at his current club, each one deferring to others or playing second- or third-fiddle to others. At Arsenal, they would vie for the starting position with a better-than-even chance at becoming the out-and-out starter.

No offense to Liverpool (fig-leaves are sometimes necessary), but a swap between Liverpool and one of the Spanish clubs seems highly unlikely. Would Benzema or Sánchez really sanction a move from their worldy, cosmopolitan environs to the likes of Liverpool? It’s hard to envision, to say the least.  There’s something to be said for the allure for the bright lights of the big city. Suffice to say, it was enough to entice one La Liga player who shall remain unnamed.

We’ve been on this ride before. At its end, it brought us a galáctico by the name of Özil. A league-rival’s talisman played his way out of town and into La Liga. This time ’round, a league-rival’s cannibal may have bitten his way out of town and into La Liga. May the spoils again fall in our laps…

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Dracu-luis strikes again: The Chewllini Chronicles

Just when you thought it was safe to walk the streets, a daemon so foul, so unholy, so unspeakably vile in his bloodlust that none shall escape his leering gaze has returned: DRACU-LUIS! You thought he had learned his lesson after biting Otman Bakkal in 2010. We thought we had learned our lesson in after he bit Branislav Ivanovic in 2013. Now, the unholy trinity appears complete as Suárez seems to have bitten Italy’s Giorgio Chewllini—excuse me, Chiellini. The incident apparently escaped the attention of referee Marco Rodriguez (who himself appears a bit vampire-ish), but FIFA has already begun an investigation and will likely issue a ruling before Uruguay’s next match on Saturday against Colombia. For myself, I’m going to spend the time counting the £40,000,001 we’ve just saved by not signing Suárez last summer.

First things first: would we have won the Prem with Suarez? Perhaps. Then again, Liverpool had him, and they didn’t win the Prem. We’ve had prolific scorers in the squad in recent years without finishing much higher than fourth. Before getting your panties in a twist, remember also that buying Suárez probably would have precluded buying Özil. What impact might that have had on Giroud (early season, a least) or Ramsey, among others? It’s not like we could simply copy Suárez’s stats and redistribute them on top of existing results here and there: three goals against Aston Villa on opening day, a goal at Old Trafford, etc. Who knows what impact Suárez might have had playing for a new club, for good or evil?
Even if he had helped us win the Prem, I wouldn’t be able to shake the queasy, squirmy feelings of distaste and revulsion that his misdeeds have inspired, which included any number of dives, the handball against Ghana, two confirmed bites, and the racist row. No, I’d rather go another decade (and more) before winning the Prem on the back of a player like Suárez.

As to what happened and might happen, it’s hard to say. Video evidence shows Suárez from behind as his head dips suddenly towards Chiellini’s shoulder. Chiellini falls to the ground clutching his shoulder, and Suárez holds onto his teeth. Chiellini pulls his sleeve down to reveal what might be teeth-marks. It’s hardly as conclusive as Suárez’s bit on Ivanovic, but the circumstantial evidence is damning, to say the least. FIFA’s investigation will include not just the available video evidence but the previous incidents and bans handed down by the FA and KNVB (10- and 7-match bans, respectively). From FIFA’s point of view, it just banned Alex Song three matches for his elbow-scything of Croatia’s Mario Mandžukić. A quick look at FIFA’s Disciplinary Code fails to address biting, assuming in its quaint naïveté, that biting doesn’t happen during matches. Section 2.48.1 comes closest, calling for a ban of “at least two matches for assaulting (elbowing, punching, kicking etc.) an opponent or a person other than a match official”.

Of course, Suárez didn’t receive a red card, but FIFA does have the authority to issue a retroactive ban that could be as long as two year or 24 matches—this is normally limited to international games but could include club games as well. Bigger but more nebulous questions loom in the background—regardless of the actions FIFA takes, will any club aside from Liverpool want to associate itself with Suárez? At what point do clubs say to themselves, enough is enough? It’s one thing to commit an infraction and get penalized for it, such as when Suárez’s handball denied Ghana a goal, only for Asamaoah Gyan to miss the ensuing penalty. To an extent, that’s a win-at-all-costs mentality that can be debated. It’s another matter entirely to bite an opponent. Did it unsettle Italy? Did it play a role in Uruguay’s go-ahead goal minutes later? Perhaps.

I’m not a win-at-all-costs kind of guy. If I were, this blog would be named something like or—but no. I love this club because of its history and, yes, its dignity. I’m no aristocrat, so don’t start in on me there. I want the club I support to go about winning the right way, and if that sometimes takes longer than cutting corners, biting Branislavs, or chewing on Chiellinis, so be it.

As concerns Suárez, the FA did what it could with a 10-game ban. Here’s hoping FIFA ups the ante. Suárez is an unrecalcitrant recidivist. He will continue to mar the beautiful game until we drum him out of it. He bit Ivanovic and was banned—but not before scoring the game-winning goal. He may have bit Chiellini and could be banned—but not before Uruguay scored the game-winning goal. At some level, he seems to see biting not just as acceptable but perhaps strategic, on a par with shirt-tugging or flops in the box. Whether that’s the attitude of a remorseless winner or a mindless thug is beside the point.

The man has no business playing the game anymore. I won’t hear the defenders, some of whom are absolutely blinded to his “flaws” and some of whom care less about bites and more about goals. How can you defend a player who seems willing to bite people? I can’t even believe there’s a debate over it. He might be an immensely talented player, but once you start weighing a person in those ways, you’ll find yourself in some sticky situations. How many goals-per-game justifies biting, after all? If the biter isn’t a scorer but a defender, how many tackles, clearances, and interceptions would he have to register to earn similar kid-glove treatment? Speaking of gloves, how many clean-sheets would a keeper have to claim before he could bite an opponent?

Ugh. This all leaves a bad, bad taste in my mouth. I just wish that Suárez could say the same.

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Could Suarez to Real Madrid pave the way for di María to Arsenal?

This post promises to be 99.9% Fábregas-free. In fact, that was the only mention of him. I hope. News out of Madrid suggests that Real Madrid’s gluttony for galácticos has apparently compelled them to bid some £70m Luis “Dracu-luis” Suarez, because, it seems, they have suffered in the goal-scoring and insufferable d-bag department, what with having netted “only” 104 goals while finishing second in La Liga while winning the Copa del Rey and la Decima. Far be it from me to criticize their wheelings and dealings. After all, they have of late been among our best friends and allies. Modrić. Bale. Özil. And on and…okay, so that’s about it. Still, it’s a far-better record than our so-called kindred spirits at Camp Nou.

While we’ve been obsessing over certain creative, attacking midfielders of the central variety and how he might fit into an already-crowded area, we’ve been guilty of neglecting a more-pressing need, that of striker. Speaking of strikers, Suarez is, despite my protests to the contrary last summer, among the best in business (my protests had largely do to with issues beyond scoring, like biting, racism, diving, and the like). Water under a bridge. Let bygones be bygones. Suarez tried to burn a few bridges last summer but couldn’t quite pull it off. Liverpool’s failure to win anything despite all of that scoring and scoring and scoring, coupled with the cold, hard reality that the Scousers will likely struggle to replicate their almost-memorable performance while also contending in the Champions League, could be enough to urge the Uruguayan to pack up and leave for greener pastures. Fine by me.

Of greater interest is the idea that Real Madrid, once again looking to spend like a drunken sailor on someone as surplus to their needs as is Suarez, might have to look around at whom to sell. With attacking options like Suarez (potentially), Ronaldo, and Bale, would they really need someone like Ángel di María? Methinks they think they don’t. After all, who needs a pacey, dogged, creative midfielder when you’ve got Ronaldo and Bale and Suarez who can simply score at will? If the likes of Özil was so precious, after all, wouldn’t Ronaldo’s scoring have dropped? Well, he did score four fewer goals from last year to this, but maybe that’s more because of the arrival of Bale’s greed than the absence of Özil’s generosity.

Savor the potential irony. ‘Round about 10 months ago, Tot’num sent Gareth Bale to the Bernabeu for a princely sum and promptly went out and bought…a fair number of halfway decent footballers who helped them almost qualify for Spuropa League play. Could we see a replay, a sequel of sorts, this time involving the Liverputians? Once again, a double-swoop could be rivals of ours sell off their talisman while the buyers sell to us in order to square away the books. Should the Suarez-to-Spain deal come through, it could very well grease the wheels for a di María move to the Emirates. After all, even Real Madrid have to pretend like they’re balancing the books.

Who knows what is happening with Fábregas? Are we playing ‘possum only to pounce after some other club triggers this clause that allows us to swoop in? I don’t know. I have much more faith in the idea that a club like Real Madrid would go all-in for someone as superfluous to their needs as Suarez is than I do in the hope that our club would go any distance for someone as sentimental as Fábregas (not to mention the strategic considerations, such as denying our rivals access to such a player). We may not see the return of Arsenal’s prodigal, but if Suarez’s departure from Liverpool smooths the arrival of a di María (or maybe Benzema) at the Emirates, well, I can live with that. How ’bout you?

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Ask Cavani, whither the brasileiros or argentinos at Arsenal?

Could it really be possible that Arsène Wenger, renowned for revolutionizing English football by bringing in foreign players, has completely missed the boat that brings South American footballers to the Continent? I was watching some older clips when I caught a brief glimpse of Silvinho and I muttered to myself, “he might just be the only inho to have ever played for Arsenal”. He was no Ronaldinho, and that only serves to reinforce the point. The pipeline that has sent the likes of Ronaldinho, Messi, Falcao, and Agüero, among others, to Europe seems to have almost completely bypassed Arsenal. Arsenal’s South American starting XI would be short a few players, and we’d have to argue over whether Silvinho or the “legendary” André Santos starts at left-back. For a manager who has built a large part of his reputation on finding and developing diamonds in the rough, how could we be left with such slim pickings?

Silva eluding Scholes and Keane. It’s been that long…

It’s not been for lack of trying, at least recently, as we spent large chunks of last summer’s tranfer-window pursuing Gonzalo Higuaín, Luis Suárez, Luiz Gustavo, and Ángel di María only to come up short on each for various reasons. Looking back to the start of Arsène’s 17 years at Arsenal, I would think we’d have seen a few more brasileiros or argentinos come through, what with the reputation/stereotype for being technically superior to their European or African counterparts. It is the land of joga bonito, after all; even more, Arsenal under Arsène have often striven to play a similarly technical, aesthetic game (even to the point of neglecting defense and, at times, losing beautifully instead of winning ugly).

However, we can almost count the South Americans to have made an appearance at Arsenal with one hand. Wellington Silva. André Santos. Damían Martínez. Eduardo. Baptista. Pedro Botelho. Denílson. Gilberto Silva. Edú. Silvinho. Perhaps alone among them is Silva, who did distinguish himself in his time at Arsenal, Pressed to another who has left an impression, much less impressed, we might just have to shrug our shoulders and go with, I don’t know, Denilson. Some of them, to be fair, haven’t yet had much of a chance, such as Wellington Silva, Botelho, and Martínez. Others looked promising only to have injuries cut short their time and opportunities. Eduardo, for example, Edu, or Denilson. Where might their careers have gone were it not for those injuries (especially Eduardo’s, whose injury rivals that of Aaron Ramsey for gut-turning horror-shows)?  Others, like Baptista and Santos, just never impressed.

How can this be? We see South Americans making immense contributions to other clubs, whether it’s Ramires, Oscar, Willian, and Luiz at Chelsea; Agüero, Fernandinho, and Zabaleta at Man City; Suarez and Coutinho at Liverpool…heck, even Tottenham have Paulinho, for crissakes. Why not Arsenal? Has Arsène have been put off by previous experiences, such as with Santos, deciding instead to focus on Francophone countries and England? There have been countless rumors linking us to all sorts of Brazilian or Argentinian players, for what that’s worth, but nothing has come of any of it. It seems a that Arsène, once a vanguard for introducing players to the Prem from across the Channel and further afield, hasn’t been able to replicate similar successes across the Atlantic. There have been flashes of potential, moments of brilliance, but all too few success-stories. As we bemoan the lack of a clinical striker, someone who is deft but also lethal with the ball at his feet, we’re left to gaze wistfully at Suarez, Higuaín, Agüero, and others. Similarly, for as much as we may loathe Ramires or mock Luiz, it’s perhaps no accident that the grit and tenacity we lack in the defensive midfield was once provided by Silva and Vieira (admittedly a bit of stretch from his Portuguese background via Cape Verde, but bear with me on that).

As we look ahead to the summer-transfer window and assess our needs, I’m not calling for a plethora of South American signings just to keep up with those we’re chasing in the Prem, but each of them has at least one difference-maker who hails from Brazil, from Argentina, from Uruguay. There’s something in that, to be sure. Mr. Cavani, if you’re reading this, would you give Arsène a call? We’d be ever so grateful…

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An irrational rage at Robben-esque theatrics…

First things first, Szczesny fouled Robben, clear and simple. Second, the rule in this situation is clear. Sort of. Szcz’s foul denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity; thus, the red card came out. I’m not going to get into whether or not Robben would have actually recovered the ball (doubtful) or Sagna would have gotten to it first (likely), nor am I here to complain that the rule itself change. No, instead, I’m here to explain my own personal and, yes, irrational rage when it comes to the histrionics that Robben and others so often resort to to draw attention to their finely tuned if warped senses of justice. It all stems from my own brief experience as a footballer here in the United States.

Over here, of course, “football” refers bizarrely to a sport in which players only touch the ball with their foot maybe a dozen times in a match. I’m referring to proper football; any references to the American variation will be dubbed “American football.” Anyway, we have to travel through the misty, cobwebbed decades, arriving in the early 1990s to visit Chicago, Illinois. More specifically, we have to check in with my tenure as a member of the St. Ignatius Wolfpack soccer team, for which I played as a left midfielder. At my biggest, I was maybe 5’6 or 5’7″ (1.7m) and 130 pounds (59 kg). I like to remember myself as being Walcott-fast but this probably exaggerates a bit (I did anchor a 4×100 relay, so there’s that…). However, for as fast as I was or wasn’t, the fact was that I was a puny, wisp of a lad who wouldn’t see the inside of a weight-room or the other side of 140 pounds (60kg) for several years.

The league in which St. Ignatius plays, the none-too-imaginatively named Chicago Catholic League, consisted variously of around ten or a dozen high schools. Two or three of these schools’ teams regularly competed for state championships and sent their players off to play at the college-level. St. Ignatius was usually that third- or fourth-place team, behind wealthier, larger schools. Beneath us, the remaining seven or eight teams struggled to fill their rosters with actual footballers and ended up recruiting players from the ranks of those cut from the American football squad—hulking, menacing, troglodytes who hated soccer, didn’t know how to play it, and wanted to destroy anyone who did. Some of them were easily twice my weight. No matter how fast I was with or without the ball, these goons and gorillas flattened me with enthusiasm and style. I remember getting concussions (I think), flying seven or eight yards in the air, pinwheeling like a rag-doll, and worse. I don’t remember many fouls being called.

I learned quickly that the fouls—or calls—just wouldn’t come.

I decided not to go down, no matter what. Of course, it’s not like the plan succeeded, as I was still frequently and remorselessly sent in all directions by many means—trips, shoves, stomps, body-checks, elbows, forearm-shivers, punches to the nuts and gut…I learned that I had to work through all of that or pick myself up and get back in the match. The whistle stayed in that ref’s pocket.

With this little autobiography in mind, I fly into a rage when I see guys flop to the ground in all of the stages and versions of agony they can concoct. Like Robben. Suarez. Busquets. Ronaldo. To be fair, they sometimes get fouled, such as when Szcz fouled Robben on Wednesday. However, the flailing, the wincing, the flopping around like a meth-addled fish on a boat-deck, it’s enough to drive a man mad. Part of me wants to appeal to these sorry simulators: how many penalties do you earn compared to how many you miss out on because of your reputation? Sadly, the answer probably turns out in their favor. This makes it all the more pathetic. It’s a strategy to them, a skill, perhaps, just as much as a favorite dribble-move. heck, some of them may even practice it.


When I saw Robben pinwheel in a direction very nearly opposite the one that Szcz’s impact might have sent him, I wasn’t even thinking of the looming red-card. I was so enraged at Robben for the theatrics that I didn’t even care about the implications for Szcz or the rest of the game. In my darker moments, a not-small part of me wanted him to pull a muscle during the flailing and have to come off.

I’ll save the “it’s a stain on the game” sermons for someone else to intone. I’m not here to moralize on the sanctity of the game. I’m just here to vent my gut-feeling, my almost-instinctual disgust, that there are footballers out there, many of them blessed with preternatural talent and skill, who go so far out of their way to fall all over themselves when I spent so much of my own brief, benighted career getting bounced around like a pinball without so much as a by-your-leave, not to mention a spot-kick or a red-card. I watch these marionettes go flying through the air, and I say to myself, “nah, that’s not how it feels or looks when a guy really crashes into you, I mean really crashes into you.” Save it, you sacks of shite, for the stage.

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