Should Arsenal have offered £42m for Suarez – will lessons be learned?

Luis+Suarez+6kfrToVimIPm

Looking back on the season at this point at the beginning of March, one can say that there have been positive signs in terms of us being competitive with Manchester City and Chelsea, two clubs backed by enormously wealthy owners. Some say that this was a season of opportunity with management of Chelsea and both Manchester clubs in transition, but at this point it could also be said that we could have been standing in a much worse position at this juncture, not least taking into account the mood of the club after our season opening loss at home to Aston Villa. The 2013/14 season as a whole is now very much in the balance following the disappointing away loss to Stoke, but we still have a decent shot at a trophy, most likely the FA Cup, with the Premier League title still an outside shot.

Over the weekend we have had a revelation courtesy of Liverpool’s club owner, John Henry, who said this in a filmed panel discussion at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference:

“Luis Suarez is the top scorer in the English Premier League which is arguably the top soccer league in the world”

“And he had a buy-out clause – I don’t know what degree I should go into this – but he had a buy-out clause of £40million – more than 60 million (US) dollars. So Arsenal, one of our prime rivals this year … they offered £40million and one pound for him and triggered his buy-out clause.”

“But what we’ve found over the years is that contracts don’t seem to mean a lot in England – actually not in England, in world football. It doesn’t matter how long a player’s contract is, he can decide he’s leaving.”

It is very rare for us fans to know details of the ins and outs of backroom dealings, but by John Henry being so clear in his own words we now have some explicit clarity with regards to the Luis Suarez transfer saga last summer.

One can only imagine where we would be placed at this point in the season if we had pulled off the signing of Suarez. It is largely water under the bridge now but I do think the rare clarity of information we have received courtesy of John Henry enables a revisit of what likely happened from our side, as a club, in attempting to pull off the Suarez signing, but ultimately failing. The most important thing is that there are lessons to be learned, and perhaps justifiable calls for some accountability.

Obviously at some point last summer we had been tipped off about a £40m release clause in Suarez’s contract, most likely by Pere Guardiola, his agent. One would suggest timing linked with a rather suspect flurry of betting activity in Spain, reported in various media sources in early July of that summer. The fact that we were tipped off indicates that Suarez was at that time very interested in a move to Arsenal. Based on this information our club proceeded to the infamous £40m + £1 bid which we rightly expected would trigger the release clause. However, John Henry refused to cooperate and Liverpool used the media to embarrass us regarding the nature of the bid, and by doing so the suits in executive offices of our club (our executive management) were instantly rocked back onto their heels; a position from which they never recovered in regaining an upper hand.

Refusing to allow a player to proceed to negotiate personal terms with a club that has triggered a release clause is pretty unprecedented. John Henry has boasted that words in Suarez’s contract counted for little, but I take this as bluster. Liverpool would have been left wide open to pressure, be it from the PFA, the FA, UEFA, FIFA, or even a combination of these bodies because challenging the whole framework of contracts is not something that authorities can readily accept, as it would ultimately risk chaos in the professional sport as a whole, in England, and possibly globally. One has to ask, when it was clear at the time that Luis Suarez very much wanted to join Arsenal for Champions League football, why pressure, with or without legal recourse, was not exerted on LFC. I will explain why it probably was not, at least not to any significant level.

For all we know, there could have been some action behind the scenes, at least a lot of discussions amongst executive management at Arsenal as to potential strategies of how to outmaneuver Liverpool. However, this tracks back to our bid of £40m + £1. The nature of this bid was an overt admission that we had been tipped off on Suarez’s release clause, and by the letter of the law of professional football such tip offs are illegal. Although technically illegal, it is pretty widely known within the football community that players’ agents talk with clubs and divulge contract details, and such communications reside in a gray area which is largely tolerated. Murky gray area notwithstanding, there was no way that we could deny that we had been tipped off regarding Suarez’s release clause and that very likely put our executive management in a bit of a legal straightjacket.

In hindsight, although we know that any money included in a bid over and above a release clause is perhaps unnecessary money spent, if we had put in a bid of £42m there is no way that it could have been definitively proven by Liverpool that we had put in a bid for Suarez after gaining inside information. A bid of £42m in all likelihood would have secured the signing of Suarez in my humble opinion. Arsenal’s backroom were outfoxed by Liverpool’s backroom despite having a strong upper hand initially because of poor strategic thinking that allowed an opportunity to slip through our fingers. Remember Arsenal did not reveal the +£1 bid, that was John Henry and Liverpool, in a very high profile manner, i.e. they used the media to outfox us.

I wanted to share this revisiting of the Suarez transfer saga last summer, because it is very rare that fans know all the ins and outs of transfer dealings; but in this case, we have John Henry in his own words as firm evidence. The opportunity for signing Suarez has in all likelihood come and gone. While we hope that the suits in our executive offices have reflected on how they were likely outfoxed, I believe it is right for fans to have confidence that indeed lessons are being learned moving forwards. We should demand some accountability, so that improvements can be built into our overall approach, and perhaps a review and reorganisation of individual staff responsibilities. Doing so can only help, in terms of future transfer dealings.

So where should accountability lie?

Personally I do not lay any blame with Arsène Wenger. Where we fell short in the Luis Suarez saga was in poor strategic thinking, and although the football manager may play a role, responsibility for such strategic thinking should lie within a core team within the club’s executive management. If the football manager overtly oversaw the process then that is not necessarily his fault; he is an employee of the club and those higher up in the club’s structure should understand his limitations and recognise the need to assert themselves more. Ultimately in this case, I believe we have clarity that points us to our Chief Executive, i.e. Ivan Gazidis (IG). One could perhaps consider Dick Law, but IG should have been in the loop of details every step of the way. If IG wasn’t, one has to question his oversight as Chief Executive. One could perhaps consider Stan Kroenke, but I don’t believe Kroenke should be expected to know every detail; he employs IG and should trust him to perform competently with a degree of autonomy in the lofty, well paid, position of Chief Executive.

To make it clear, I am not asking for IG to be sacked. Indeed, one can point to much good that he has done for the club in enhancing commercial revenues. Perhaps what is needed is a little restructuring of our executive management with someone with ultimate responsibility for transfer dealings, at an organisational level in between IG and Dick Law. Many clubs nowadays employ a Director of Football, but I do not recommend one. I prefer a football manager to have full responsibility for players he wants to sign because he has to manage those players. A person in between IG and Dick Law wouldn’t be a Director of Football; indeed, he would be more like David Dein. Last summer we hired Chips Keswick as Chairman, as successor to Peter Hill Wood. I do not know what Chips Keswick exactly does, but perhaps we can question this hire and whether we should have brought back David Dein (or someone similar to David Dein) at that juncture. Nevertheless, there is room for IG, Chips Keswick (as successor to PHW), as well as a David Dein. This would take any ambiguity of transfer dealing oversight largely away from IG, so that he can focus largely on continuing to grow commercial revenues.

On a side note, obviously John Henry felt free to divulge details at this juncture because Liverpool are in a good position in the Premier League table, Luis Suarez appears fully satisfied there now, and they are in a good position to secure Champions League football for next season. John Henry had an up close and personal view of effectiveness of our executive management in transfer dealings last summer, outsmarting them in the process – one could argue very easily. He used the media very well in going so public with our £40m + £1 bid, perhaps with a level of faux outrage.

Ultimately, he made our executive management look like a bunch of amateurs, and in saying what he did in a filmed panel discussion at MIT over the weekend it was the equivalent of him smoking one of his cigars while enjoying how he got one over on Arsenal Football Club. We should perhaps see the glass half full and draw on this as motivation as fans to demand from the club’s executive management some transparency of lessons learned and associated adjustments, in line with my humble suggestions, or otherwise.

Iceman_10

Arsenal vs Liverpool Pre-Match & Predicted Line-Up

Big big test this one. Really need to pull out a win to stop the moneybag clubs from overtaking us. Liverpool have some key players out but so do we so no excuses, we must be on top of our game.

Our last 12 meetings have seen Liverpool win just one solitary game. Arsenal has won the last two at Anfield.

Predicted line-up:

ars v liv Oz

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Theo, Verm and Diaby (knee), Ramsey (thigh), Kim (back…missing and presumed dead due to TW supporter rage), Flamini (suspended). Jack the lad and Arterta face fitness tests and should be in the squad.

Pool: Agger (calf), Lucus and Enrique (knee), Johnson (ankle/groin), and Sakho (hamstring)

Previous Encounters:

– Arsenal vs Pool 2-0

Arsenal vs Pool 2-2

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbCvTSj8p_U

Form Guide:

Arsenal: WDWWW                          Pool: DWWDW

One to watch:

suarez diver

Definitely has to be Suarez! If you strip away all the ridiculousness you have a top top quality footballer. On his day he is one of the best strikers on the planet. What makes him even more troubling is his PhD in diving (graduated from the same school as Bale and Ronaldo so we know he is good). Kozzer has beaten him before but Suarez is having the best season of his career so far (23 goals in 19 appearances) so he’ll need to be switched on for the entire game.

Who are we going to play in central midfield??? Shit shit shit what do we do??? ALEX OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN!!! He was called upon and boy did he deliver. Injury has impacted his season and robbed us of his services but against Palace he came back with a bang. Arsene says it’s where he’s destined to play, I agree; but I also think he can play anywhere he wants. If he’s deployed there again he may not have the same freedom but with what he can deliver it may be worth the roll of the dice.

Pre-Match finger:

kid finger

The winter transfer window. What a bloody fiasco. It really is the blue balls of football. We fawned all window over Draxler, he was dangled in front of us…but to no avail. Anyway enough has been said on this; lets push on.

Pre-match pat on the back:

pat on the back

This week it goes to Gerv. Glad he’s settled in Italy and has found some form again. All the best for the remainder of his career. Also a pat on the back to our very own BJ, glad everything is coming good for you mate, you’re brave face through it has been an inspiration to us all.

Arsenal Archive (1)

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s Szczesny’s brilliant double save for our 2012 encounter. Jesus did I jump out of my chair after that one.

Prediction:

I’m going with a tough 0-1 victory to the good guys. They are dangerous offensively but we have been a tough defensive unit all season and I don’t see it changing at Anfield. Liverpool will be too weak at the back to stop us (plus Kolo likes to give goals away to the opposition, why wouldn’t he do it for us?!). Our run spanning back to 2007 at their home ground will continue.

What team would you go with?

Score line prediction?

Suarez or Drax + Reus – Which would you prefer?

sign da ting

Written by: Oz Gunner.

Time to show Suarez what he missed out on: Liverpool pre-view

Arsenal vs Liverpool Pre-Match

Intro:

Come on liverpool edit

Both teams have had a great start to the season but also have been handed a kind fixture list until now. Time for Arsenal to show the competition why we belong at the top of the table. A resurgent Liverpool? I don’t think so: time to shut them down at the Emirates on Saturday.

Let’s get in to it shall we:

Missing in Action:

Diaby sick bay

Arsenal: Podolski (Hamstring) – back in training, Ox (Knee), Diaby (Knee), Sanogo (back), and Walcott (abdominal). Not too sure what’s going on with Flamini (groin). There have not been any noises coming from the medical department, is he unavailable? Are we just supposed to presume that he is? Or was he sent to a different medical centre to Diaby…one that actually heals injuries quickly?

Liverpool: Coutinho returns to the squad, left back Enrique Iglesias is in doubt for this one because of a knee injury.

Predicted Line-up:

Arsenal v Liverpool Oct 13

Szczesny, BFG, Giroud, and Ozil should return to the starting line-up. Arteta returns following a one-match suspension and should line-up next to Ramsey if Flamini is injured. I’m not too sure if Santi is ready to go again. If he is then he should play out on the left, if not I’d give Wilsher/Rosicky a go. Gnabry should start on the right and could cause problems if Enrique doesn’t get up for this fixture.

Previous Encounters:

Arsenal v Liverpool 2-2

A ripper from Walcott saw Arsenal come from 2 goals down to share the spoils against Liverpool. It was a rather dull encounter but after Henderson scored on the 60′ mark we shot to life and scored two goals in 3′. Both of their goals were a complete joke and as lucky as they come!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbCvTSj8p_U

Allah Theo, Allah!!!

Liverpool v Arsenal 0-2

Two new signings bring two goals away at Anfield. Santi and Podolski started their Arsenal careers with a bang. Deserved the win after we controlled the midfield all game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIXYU8-EITU

EPL Form Guide:               Arsenal:   : WWDWW         Liverpool: WDWWL

We slipped up midweek against Chelsea but our EPL form has been solid, yet unspectacular. Time to kick in to gear again and stop a premiership contender in their tracks.

Although they lost points to Newcastle they’re on a good run of form. Suarez was blistering against West Brom in their last fixture, netting a hat trick. A win will see them jump above Arsenal on the table.

Arsenal Archive

This week I’ve dipped into the Arsenal Archive and pulled out this video clip. It’s the famous 4-2 victory against Liverpool during our ‘invincibles’ season. in the week preceding this game we had been beaten in the FA Cup semifinal by Manchester United and the Champions League quarterfinal by Chelsea. A patched-up Arsenal twice went behind to Sami Hyypia and Michael Owen goals, but stormed back, inspired by Thierry Henry, as he scored a hat trick to seal the win and preserve the unblemished record. Brilliant clip!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=er5vVCVbVsw

One to Watch:

Recent transfer target ‘El Pistolero’ Luis Suarez. His suspension has been served and boy has he hit the ground running! In no time at all he’s netted 6 times this season after just 4 games. I know I’m being greedy when I say this…but Jesus I’d love to see him in our team! Suarez really would slot in nicely up top with Giroud wouldn’t he? ‘El Pistolero’ means ‘the gunner’…he was a perfect fit. Oh well what could have been huh, let’s just hope he’s firing blanks this weekend.

This week’s one to watch has to be Ozil. Truly great players stand up in the big fixtures and I have no doubt Ozil will do just that. 2 goals and 3 assists make Ozil a very dangerous player for Liverpool to match up against. It’s also interesting to note that he’s currently got a 88% shooting accuracy and we’ve all seen just how long he needs to pick his target.

goal stats

Key-Match up:

Giroud vs the Liverpool CB’s

Our midweek game showed just how important Ollie is to our side. He’s stepped up a gear this season and his self-belief is coming along in leaps and bounds. 7 goals 4 assists and an average of 5.1 aerial duels won per game makes Giroud a handful wherever the ball is. Who he’ll line up against is anyone’s guess. Skrtel, Sakho, Agger or Toure, or all four as has happened on one occasion this year. Whoever it is will have to keep close watch on Giroud.

Pre-Match Finger:

kid finger

This week’s finger goes to Foy for sending off Mikel Arteta’s. Fair enough a decision was needed in real time, but why not throw out the ridiculous one match suspension? Sort it out rules committee! How can a bunch of grown men on a football site be left scratching their heads after the game when asked what Arteta’s outcome would be?! Because the rules are a joke at times. That decision changed the game. Thankfully for us we still came out on top! Video replays people…we need them!!!!

Arsenal-v-Barcelona-001

‘Ask the opposition’ returns again this week.

It is designed to get some friendly banter from our opposition fans and get their insight for the match ahead.  This week the answers were kindly provided by Paul Tomkins from tomkinstimes.com (@paul_tomkins). Let’s see what he’s written for us this week:

1. What do you think is the secret behind your success this season?

Credit has to go to Rodgers and the transfer committee, for the work they did, and to John Henry and co. for keeping Suarez, when I thought he’d played his last game for us. Who knows, another one pound fifty and we might have buckled?!

We’ve not had the toughest first nine games, with just United a big test so far, and they look uninspired this season. But Sturridge, and now Suarez as well, have been absolutely sensational. With Mignolet making the saves that Reina had stopped making, we have racked up points due to the keeper and the strikers. What’s in between hasn’t been as good as last season, with some of the possession game sacrificed, but the tactics are getting the best out of the front two, and they are clinical at the moment.

The next 10 games are very difficult on paper. So after game 19 – the halfway point – we should have a better idea. I don’t see us as challengers for the title but we are capable of the top four if the front two stay fit. Lose both of those to injury and there’s not a lot in the reserve. Our first XI is the strongest it’s been since 2009, and the average age is good, so we should have a brighter future. The fact that we’ve done well without Suarez in over half the games, and with Coutinho out, suggests we are getting better.

2. Suarez…is all forgiven?

I think so, although he was just doing to us what he did to Ajax to move to us in the first place. Some footballers are like that, and you accept it. He is not the loyal kind, but he is someone who works his nuts off in every match. I think he loves LFC, just like he loved Ajax, but he is also fiercely ambitious. My view is that we just enjoy him while we have him and then reinvest the fee wisely when he inevitably leaves. Hopefully he’ll move overseas, when that times comes, and for a lot more money than was on offer in the summer. And hopefully he won’t bite anyone in the meantime.

3. Are you happy with how your transfer window went?

I think so. Mignolet is doing extremely well, and Sahko looks a beast. Aspas had a great preseason and then looked hopeless when the season started, but it’s too early to write him off – although he’s the one disappointment so far. Cissokho looks like a sensible loan, and Luis Alberto has that Barcelona pedigree. Tiago Ilori has a very bright future, and Victor Moses is another astute loan, although after a bright start he’s looked a bit lost in his last couple of starts. Still, he’s clearly a good player.

And of course, there’s Kolo Toure. He’s really surprised me. I really rated him at Arsenal but assumed he was a fat-arsed has-been – but he’s not, and he’s impossible not to love. A great character, and still a very good footballer.

4. What position/ player is your weakest link?

We’ve had problems at left-back, and hopefully Cissokho will prove a solution. Enrique is a mix of brilliance and awfulness, and while he’s quite endearing, he can be too frustrating, so that’s the main area.

And some fans are moaning about Lucas again, but I remain a fan. He missed a lot of football, and it can take a long while to get back to the old levels. He reads the game so well, but once he’s beaten he’s beaten as he doesn’t have the recovery pace.

5. What position is Arsenal’s weak link?

It’s hard to say for sure, as I don’t see you play as often as I see Liverpool. I’m not overly impressed with Szczęsny, although he may be playing better now, and is still quite young for a keeper.

I don’t think you have the strongest centre-backs around, although I used to be a big Vermaelen fan – not sure what happened with him? But again, I may be wrong, as I only see the occasional game or highlights on TV, and Mertesacker and Koscielny may be much better than I realise. I do actually quite like Koscielny but he’s one of those who seems to make a few high-profile mistakes.

6. Which Arsenal player would you love to have in your team and why?

Probably Ozil, although we aren’t short of attacking quality. He’s not what we need, but then I thought he wasn’t what you needed either. Turns out that he’s so good he improved Arsenal all the same, even though you seem to have a few similar types. You’re a bit like us – better going forward than defending.

7. Ozil or Suarez?

I’d say Suarez, but then I would, wouldn’t I? As an individual he’s phenomenal, and now that the team seems better suited to his style he is looking obscenely good. But of course, he’ll probably want out in the summer. They’re both great players, and that’s not me being diplomatic.

8. What is your match prediction?

No idea! I’d expect a lot of good attacking play from both sides. The higher-scoring games have tended to happen at Anfield in more recent years – 6-3, 4-2, 4-4, but it could be one of those evenings!

Prediction:

I’ll admit it; I’m a touch worried about this fixture. Sturridge and Suarez have been on fire and have the speed to really trouble the BFG. Both teams love to attack so this one could turn into a good old fashioned shootout. We have to press them all over the pitch so they don’t have too much time on the ball! If we can do that and not get hit on the counter I think we’ll win this one 2-1.

What is your prediction?

Suarez or Ozil who would you prefer?

What position is our weakest link at the moment?

What tactic would you employ to beat Liverpool?

Written by: Oz Gunner

Arsenal’s 2013-14 formation options: With Suarez and without him

What is Arsenal’s ideal formation and starting XI this season?

Is Suarez coming or not? Who will replace Gervinho? Why haven’t we bought a DM? These questions have been asked too often over the past few weeks. So let’s bring the focus back to what should be most important: what happens ON the field.

There are infinite options for how a team lines up on the field. Ideally, the formation a team uses is specially designed to get the best out of the players the team has. The 4-3-3 that Arsenal currently uses was designed to really get the best out of two players in particular, Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas. However, both of these players are gone now and the question has been asked since the departure of van Persie: should Arsenal change formation to get the best out of the players we still have?

In my opinion, there are a few formations Arsenal could use to get the best out of our current players, but some depend on whether Suarez arrives or not. Therefore, there are two scenarios: with Suarez, and without Suarez.

With Suarez:

Suarez’s ability to play as a second striker (also known as a supporting striker, or SS), gives Arsene the option of lining up with two forwards who could play well off each other. There are pros and cons to every line up.

Possibility 1:

Suarez1

Pros:

1)    Giroud’s excellent link up play will create lots of chances for both Suarez and himself.

2)    Allows Santi to play out on the left (arguably his best position).

Cons:

1)    Rosicky has no spot in this line up.

2)    Santi and Walcott (along with our other wingers) would have to work a lot harder defensively.

3)    Suarez has to take less shots and be more of a team player with lots of passing (not necessarily all bad, but could reduce his goal talley).

This line up has more cons than pros, but allows for a very dangerous attacking two, and possibly a more solid defense with the wingers being forced to play further back. Santi could also play as an SS with Poldi or Ox on the left. Also, Poldi and Suarez both can player either SS or ST.  Finally, we could have Wilshere as part of the “defensive” two in the midfield and not have him worry as much defensively because we would have more defensive wingers.

Possibility 2:

Suarez2

Pros:

1)    A dangerous front three with many different players who could play in a multiple of those positions.

2)    Our wingers wouldn’t have to work as hard defensively (a pro for Santi out left more than anyone else).

3)    Rosicky still has a spot in the team.

Cons:

1)    Without a strong DM, it’s still a risk to play Jack as one of the two in the DM pivot.

2)    We have no World Class AM like we used to have with Fabregas.

This is essentially the formation we play now, but with the option of Suarez anywhere across the front three. It has fewer cons than pros, but we still lack the WC AM really required to unlock the full potential of this formation. If we brought Cesc back, this would be our perfect formation. This formation could also have Rosicky at AM, Ox on either wing, Poldi in the middle, Suarez in the middle, etc.

Possibility 3:

Suarez3

Pros:

1)    A more solid defensive midfield.

2)    We could get the best out of multiple attacking midfields (Suarez/Santi, Suarez/Rosicky, Rosicky/Santi, etc).

3)    Our outside backs could go forward more freely.

Cons:

1)    Basically no room for the wingers in our squad.

2)    Not much aerial service for Giroud.

3)    Suarez would have to play a deeper role.

This would be a very strange change of formation for us, but it has a good number of pros and cons. It would give us lots of attacking power through the middle, but it basically eliminates wingers from our team. However, with the Ox’s and Santi’s ability to play AM and Poldi’s and Theo’s desire to play ST, we wouldn’t necessarily be entirely removing them from the team. The strangest and least likely of the three, but maybe it could be an option in games against teams with very weak midfields?

Without Suarez:

With the Wenger’s desire to not spend, we may end up with no signings (or at least, not more than just Sanogo). Wenger says this squad could win the title, but maybe part of the reason he thinks that is because of a new secret formation he has up his sleeve? Let’s explore our options.

Possibility 1:

Arsenal1

Pros:

1)    This is a formation the team is familiar with.

2)    This allows Santi to play freely.

Cons:

1)    Still no WC AM.

2)    A relatively weak defensive midfield.

3)    A lack of options up front.

This is basically the same formation as last year. Obviously changes could be made like Rosicky in the middle and so on.

Possibility 2:

Arsenal2

Pros:

1)     A solid defensive midfield.

2)    Space on the wings for the outside backs.

3)    We could get the best out of multiple attacking midfields (Suarez/Santi, Suarez/Rosicky, Rosicky/Santi, etc).

Cons:

1)    Basically no room for the wingers in our squad.

2)    Not much aerial service for Giroud.

This is the same as the 3rd formation with Suarez, but this time minus him. A strange formation, but it could be used in times when we need a goal or against teams with a weak midfield. More of a formation you’d use in times of need than a regular thing. Not ideal without Suarez.

Possibility 3:

Arsenal3

Pros:

1)    We would be more solid defensively.

2)    Allows Jack to play more with less risk defensively.

Cons:

1)    The front three would have to do most of the creating and would be very isolated.

2)    The connection between the midfield and front three is weak.

This formation is not perfect, but would allow Jack and Ramsey to make space in the hole between the oppositions’ wingers and fullbacks. This would also allow Jack to play with less risk defensively. This could work well and we could be countered on less, or it could backfire and leave us horribly exposed depending on the way this formation is played.

Overall, the best option is probably to not get tied to one formation. The first and second formations with Suarez are probably the best two, but neither is perfect. The best formation would almost be 4-2-2(wide)-1-1, if Wenger could find a way to make the very loose midfield compact defensively.

I’ll leave the question to you guys: pick your ideal starting 11 and formation, one with Suarez and one without (it doesn’t have to be one of the ones I mentioned above). Do NOT include room for other signings in either of those line ups.

This post in meant to get people away from the TW for a little while so everyone remains sane (at least for one more day). 😉

Thanks for reading. 😀

Written by: Dylan.

Message from TotalArsenal:

All bloggers, regulars and new ones, are invited to join Bergkampesque this season for the UMF League AND/OR the BK BOING! FF League. Please check out these links for more info and how you can join us.

https://bergkampesque.com/umf-explained/

https://bergkampesque.com/bk-boing-ff-league/

Go on, join us for the fun, pride and prizes, and it is all free! 😛

My Take on the Suarez Fiasco

Arsene Wenger

By now you must all be aware of the saga regarding Liverpool, Arsenal and Luis Suarez, unless of course you live under a rock. I am not here to speculate on the likeliness of this transfer going through or even to analyse what he’d bring to the team. I am here to defend my beloved football club.

Arsenal and Wenger in particular have been receiving a lot of stick from the both the media and Liverpool as a whole with Brendan Rodgers even going as far as branding Arsene as ”classless”. First of all, let me examine what is considered wrong when pursuing a player, tapping up. For those who do not know, tapping up is when a club is chasing a player contracted to another club and makes it public either through the coach, players or any affiliate of that club. The most notorious culprits have always been the Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid.
 
In this case not only are Arsenal innocent of this, but it is Liverpool who publicized our bids despite the protests by Wenger. Let me remind you that Wenger hasn’t even referred to Suarez by name in any of his interviews so far. And then Brendan has the audacity to refer to him as classless. As far as the 40,000,001 pound bid is concerned, a team can bid whatever amount for a player. It is well within their rights simply because valuation of a player is almost purely a matter of opinion, unless there is a release clause in the contract. Which brings me to my next point.
 
I am of the opinion that everything Brendan and Liverpool are doing to paint Arsenal in a bad light are for the purpose of stopping this transfer. But the question here is this; who are the real villains in all this? Is it Arsenal, Liverpool or Suarez? In my opinion, the blame lies squarely on Liverpool and here’s why: The point of contention in all this is the presence (or lack thereof) the 40M pound clause that had been agreed upon between Liverpool and Suarez before he signed his deal. Suarez clarifies that before he signed the deal, he insisted on a clause that stated that if Liverpool do not qualify for the champions league in the 2012-13 season, they would allow him to go to a champions league team as long as that team offered above 40M. Liverpool are now insisting that that offer only obliges them to notify him of the bid.
 
What is clear here is that there was an agreement between the two that they’d sell him him for 40M to a champions league team if they didn’t qualify. I am actually pretty well versed in legal matters being that my father and brother are both lawyers, so I do know that the exact wording of a clause in any contract is vital. The idea here is that Liverpool agreed to these terms (be it verbally or in the clause) before Suarez signed it. This means that by reneging on it now, they broke the promise they made to Suarez. Like I said, the wording of the clause is vital BUT the fact remains that Suarez signed this contract knowing that these were the terms. Now on a legal standpoint it I can’t say much because I haven’t seen the clause. I also do not know how the law works there.
 
However, in Kenya, and as I am told in the USA, because Suarez signed the contract knowing that those were the terms, by refusing him this transfer Liverpool acted in bad faith. This means that Suarez could sue them and if he has evidence of the agreement (whether verbal or written) his contract with Liverpool would be nullified. On a moral standpoint, Liverpool conned Suarez into signing that contract if they knew they wouldn’t uphold their end of the bargain. The fact remains that all the conditions of the agreement have been met as LFC did not qualify for the CL, Arsenal are in the CL and Arsenal’s bid exceeds 40M pounds.
 
To conclude, it is easy to castigate Suarez based on his moral history but in this case I side with him completely, and not just because I am a Gooner. It is as if at your work place your boss promises you a pay rise if you meet a certain level of performance, and you work your socks off to achieve that. But when you do get there, he goes back on his word. If I was Suarez, I would have done the exact same thing. Even worse. And as for Liverpool, let Suarez go, or not, but they need to stop using Arsenal as a scapegoat for their misdeeds.
 
Written by: Marcus

Luis Suarez: Is He Really Worth Wenger’s Biggest Gamble?

Luis+Suarez+6kfrToVimIPm

Much has been made of Arsenal’s lack of trophies since winning the FA Cup in a penalty shoot-out against Manchester United in 2005. Much has also been made of Arsenal’s inability to compete with the so-called “Big Clubs” in the transfer market, due to financial restraints simultaneously imposed by 1) our move to the Emirates Stadium, and 2) the overly-inflated player market – (no) thanks in large part to mega-rich Clubs, like Chelsea and Manchester City, and most recently, Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco.

Against this backdrop, Arsenal fans all over the world have become disillusioned and disenchanted about the state of affairs at their Club while still passionately, or in some instances, reluctantly supporting the Club.  Arsene Wenger, the much-maligned long-term Arsenal Manager, and the Board of Directors (B.o.D), have in the past few years been berated and castigated for being negligent toward the Club and showing an utter lack of ambition by some section of the fans.
The 2012-2013 season saw Arsenal bravely claw their way back to nick 4th place away from bitter rivals Tottenham on the last day of the season, by a solitary point. This fierce battle for 4th Place was enough to give most Gooners Hypertension during the run-in to end the season. Upon further analysis, Arsenal actually lost only 3 games and drew 4 more games out of  23 since Match Day 16 (in December). That statistic in itself is quite amazing if you think about it. And yes, things definitely could have been much better had Arsenal started the season strongly. We all know that. So does Arsene Wenger and so does the B.o.D.

If that is the case, then what are they doing about it?

Well, to prevent history from repeating itself, and armed with a stronger financial position, Arsenal are seemingly determined to bring in a Super Quality Striker who likes to score goals for fun. And having fallen asleep at the Gate and missed the “Higuain Flight” (if they were even supposed to be on that “flight” in the first place), Arsene Wenger and the B.o.D. have set out to kill two birds – demonstrate financial ability to compete in the transfer market, and show the fans that we are very ambitious this time around and mean business – with one stone: “the Luis Suarez” stone.
Except this is one very expensive and very controversial “stone”.

download

Luis Suarez, as we all know, is without a doubt a world class talent, a technically skilled athlete, and a passionate, success-hungry footballer who can change a game by himself and make a huge difference for any side ‘whenever he is on the pitch’. A sure loss can instantly be converted into a draw, or a win, in one sweeping magical moment by the Uruguayan Striker. Inversely, a hundred magical moments can easily be undone with one unpredictable and insane moment from the same player.

And that is the big £40-55m gamble, isn’t it…?

As the debate continues to rage over the possible transfer of the controversial striker, I would like to play the devil’s advocate for a moment, and suggest that Liverpool and Arsenal ask themselves the following questions before proceeding any further.

Questions for Liverpool Management/Ownership:

1.) What exactly is Suarez’s valuation in today’s market, taking into account all the negativity (including the current 10-match ban, with six still remaining)?

2.) Can we achieve a Champions League spot with our current squad this upcoming season?

3.) Can we honestly expect Suarez to stay out of trouble throughout the entire season?

4.) How long can we realistically expect the next ban to be? 15-20 matches, perhaps more?

5.) How much would Suarez be worth after the next potential incident?

6.) Based on the above, can we afford to turn down an Arsenal offer of say £45 millions plus add-ons, for an unhappy and such an unpredictable player?

Questions for Arsenal Management/Ownership:

1.) Do we really need a Super Quality striker like Suarez?

2.) How much are we actually willing to pay for him?

3.) Can we keep his “inner demons” under good control throughout the entire length (not just this season) of his contract?

4.)  If we were to fork out say £50 millions for him, what would be his approximate re-sale value once his “inner demons” got bored and decided to come out and play too?

5.) Based on the above, can we seriously afford to “gamble” an unprecedented sum of £50 millions on Suarez?

6.) Finally, is Luis Suarez really worth that “gamble”? If not, what are some of the alternatives we could/should instead be considering?

I invite you all, to please put your managerial thinking-hat on for a moment and answer these questions as honestly as you can, and draw your own conclusion about this potential transfer.

Also, as this is my maiden post in the blogosphere, any constructive criticism that you might have for me is very welcome. Thank you.

Written by: Gino92

Torture Window: Should Arsenal rethink their Transfer Policy?

Arsene under Torture Window pressure?
Arsene under Torture Window pressure?

Arsenal is one of the, if not the most, frustrating clubs to support when it comes to transfers. This is something that is not at all hinged on our financial position all the time, as is becoming clear during this transfer window.

Admittedly I do not know the nitty-gritty of how transfers work in terms of who plays what role or the actual process of a transfer (except the aspects that we are all familiar with), however, I do know a few things. The club has scouts who identify potential targets (a job that is mostly done by Wenger when a top player is in question). I also know that Wenger has complete control over who we sign and how much money is spent, with the exception of a scenario where it is a big money transfer in which case the board must sanction the release of these funds. Finally, I know that Dick Law heads the team that negotiates transfer fees and contracts once a player is identified and Wenger gives the go ahead to chase him.

That said, it is obvious that there is something that throws a spanner in the works in every transfer that has even the slightest complication. I recently read an article that suggested that the main reason why Arsenal transfers are so complicated is because Arsene Wenger is notoriously indecisive. I am inclined to believe them. When Arsenal were chasing Juan Mata, the transfer had reached a point where Arsenal and Valencia had agreed a fee of 17 million pounds, and all that was left was for the club to sit down with Mata and agree contractual logistics. However Wenger changed his mind and dilly-dallied allowing Chelsea to swoop.

I know this for a fact, because months later (after he had signed for Chelsea) Mata was asked about the transfer to Arsenal and he said that he didn’t know what happened because as far as he was concerned, he was hours away from being a Gunner. He explained that once Valencia allowed him to talk to us, he waited by the phone for Arsene’s call to arrange contractual negotiations; a call that never came.

More or less the same thing happened with Yann M’vila where everything was agreed only for Arsene to change his mind citing disciplinary concerns. Given that Wenger is notoriously private about transfers, those are the only two examples I can give but I am sure they aren’t the only ones. This gives an indication that Wenger tends to over think every single detail to a point that it begins to work against us. Maybe it would be more beneficial if, at the beginning of a window, Arsene would give his wish-list and lets the club pursue them.

Another fault that we have during transfers is that apparently we can’t multitask. Let me explain. Right now we are chasing a striker, a DM, a keeper and a defender. We even have names of players that we would like to see fill those positions. However for the past 2 months we have been firmly fixated on bringing in a striker (Higuain and (or) Suarez to be precise) and for the time being, have put these other positions on the back burner.

Real Madrid have put us in this position by employing dirty tactics as they keep raising Higuain’s price but still, while we wait for that to pan out, we could have signed Wanyama and Cesar already. Wanyama told me personally that he waited for us to make a move until it reached a point where he wasn’t sure whether we were interested anymore, so he moved to Southampton instead.

Cesar is trying his best to hold off any transfer while he waits for us to make our minds up but that will only last for so long.

Think of it this way: yes, Real have really stalled our plans to bring in a striker but that shouldn’t affect other transfers. Southampton completed the Wanyama transfer in half a week. Given the current circumstances, it would take even less time to sign Cesar. It was reported that Fellaini is willing to join us and is waiting for us to open negotiations. Ideally, by now we should have most if not all other target transfers tied in a bow and then focus our efforts on the complicated ones, which is bringing in the strikers, not the other way round.

The more we wait the more of our targets get snapped up and derail our plans further leading to the famous last minute deals which more often than not backfire.

Maybe a change of tact is what we need, so as to eliminate these sleepless nights we Gooners spend monitoring transfer stories to see if Wenger will come good on his promises. Oh what it is to be a gooner!!!

Written by: Marcus

Higuain up-front, Suarez and Theo on the wings, Jack and Santi behind him: my dream!

images (5)

As always, I am going to pick a piece of transfer news that has been doing the rounds and analyze it a little. I’m sure you’ve all heard the Suarez rumours, and Wenger’s conspicuous failure to rule them out, will most definitely fuel them even further over the next few weeks. I expect him to have done a few medicals (like Higuain did) by the time August checks in. Jokes aside, though, I’d like to have a keen look at Luis Suarez as a player, and where he would fit in our line up.

The name Luis Suarez is synonymous with controversy. I mean with his deliberate hand balls, diving, and poorly thought out rants on the media, and most recently biting, it is easy to see why he is one of the most hated players in world football.

I can tell you for a fact that Africa hasn’t  forgiven him for his handball in the 2010 world cup against Ghana in the quarter finals that denied them the goal that would have sent them into the last four (and probably will not for a very long time) . One thing is sure; Suarez is an unpredictable and very volatile character which makes him a massive risk to take. You do not need to look past his current 10 game ban in the EPL for biting Chelsea’s Ivanovic to see my point. I mean seriously, who does that?

That said, you can not question his talent, skill, ability and commitment on the field. In fact I’m going to play devils advocate for a minute here and say that all these antics of his stem from his desire to win.

If you think about it, his handball against Ghana sent Uruguay into the semi’s. Had that ball gone in, Uruguay were out. His diving have led many times to penalties being awarded and goals being scored. I’m not saying that these are good things; I’m just saying that his hunger for success is there for all to see. That is a character you want in your line up. Then there is his loads and loads and truck loads of talent and skill. There are few forwards as skilled as he is in the EPL, if any. He scores all kinds of goals, makes plenty of assists and is an all round, fantastic player.

Now comes the part where I look at him in the context of Arsenal football club. The first thing that I have to point out is that Suarez is not the out and out forward we are looking for. He is not at all a target man rather plays best alongside one. Most of his goals last season were scored at an angle because he spends a lot of his time on the flanks. He is one of the most effectively mobile players I’ve seen in world football. His body size also hinders him from being the kind of out and out striker Drogba was. However this means nothing. Suarez would most probably have been the golden boot holder had he not been given his ban.

Right now, Arsenal need a proper centre forward, and Higuain is still my first choice. I have however been campaigning for us to acquire a player to complete that attacking trio upfront with Jovetic being my preference. That is of course before Wenger called Suarez a ”realistic target” a couple of days ago.

Suarez is 26, at the peak of his powers. He showed last season that he is the best scorer in the league. He is fast, skilful, an absolutely fantastic passer (and crosser) of the ball. His acquisition would translate to instant goals, plain and simple. In fact I’ll argue and say if he could achieve what he did at Liverpool, imagine his output when played alongside Wilshere and Santi. Ideally we are talking 30+ goals a season.

To conclude this brief post I am going to tie everything I’ve said together. Suarez has already come out and called us out by name as a big club. He has shown that he wouldn’t mind playing for us at all. He would cost a whopping 35-40 million pounds. Reports suggest that we’ve had a 30 million offer rejected. IF this is true then we ARE capable of getting him. It would just take selling Gervinho (who is currently in the middle of a bidding war between Roma and Marseille) for anywhere between 8-10 million, and we are home and dry.

Therefore, Arsenal should first and foremost complete this Higuain transfer that has made me grow grey hairs at my tender age. He should be the one leading the line next season. Then, acquire Suarez (if we can) who would play to the left of Higuain. This would mean that Higuain would be our centre forward, flanked by Walcott and Suarez. Behind them Wilshere, Santi and a new DM. 

images suarez

This is ambitious; I know, but bear with me. This is a Champions League contending if not winning team. It would INSTANTLY give us the best attack in the EPL and with the acquisition of a proper DM, one of the best (if not the best) midfield. Suarez would need some work on his volatility but to me he is a risk worth taking. I mean we would blow other teams out of the water (I’m even getting excited thinking about it).

Realistically speaking though, given Arsene’s comment I would rate the rumour at 5/10 and the chance of it actually happening at 3/10.

But a gooner can dream, cant he?

Written by: Marcus.

Suarez? Rooney? What message is Arsenal trying to send?!

Dive and refresh

Gooners are desperately hoping for some solid news, the signing of class players.  We need more than “Fellaini is at the disco with Arteta,” or “Higuain is in AN Airport.”    In the meantime, equally “reputable” reports have suggested that Arsenal have made bids of £30 (and/or £35) for Luis Suarez and, a couple of weeks back, £20 Million for Wayne Rooney. What do these two players have in common?  

Some would say they’re both world class forwards who would instantly make Arsenal into title challengers.  Others would argue that they are both troubled players whose teams are willing (if not desperate) to get rid of them. Without going into the litany of the troubles Suarez and Rooney have brought upon themselves (and their teams…), I think it’s very interesting that Arsenal have inserted themselves into the “bidding process” (for want of a better term), or at least made a little noise about these players.  I believe there’s a dual strategy at work.  On the one hand it’s all about our own tangentially related transfer targets.  On the other, it’s a continuing public relations strategy to divide (and ultimately conquer) Arsenal supporters.

The first half of the equation is the one which concerns most of us—for the moment at least. We’re all desperate for an improvement to the squad.  Last season, though we met “minimum” requirements by getting up for the final CL place, it was at the expense of pleasing (attacking) football and by the skin of our teeth.  That we had to clear our schedule with depressing exits from the cup competitions was likely necessary but a further indication of our malaise.  Now we need reinforcements.  During the run-in we had trouble scoring.  Many have called for a better #9, a real leader of the line, someone to fully replace and challenge the sort of contribution made by (Captain) Robin van Persie.  Others want a ‘#10’ or a (real) replacement for the contributions of the previous Captain, Cesc Fabregas.  Still others believe our troubles lie deeper, at the defensive mid-fielder position(s), where some have gone so far as to say that we need a single player who can do the work of the two (Ramsey and Arteta) we employed in this area down the stretch.  Oh, wait, that would be me…

We’ve been heavily linked with Gonzolo Higuain of Real Madrid, and Marouane Fellaini of Everton.  Before that there was a lot of talk about Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina, who now appears headed to ManchesterCity.  There have also been plenty of stories about the possible return of Cesc Fabregas and bids for Lars Bender.  More recently we even appear in for older players like Gareth Barry.

The “links” to Suarez (and Rooney before him), however, seem really strange (to me at least). In recent years it’s always been about Chelsea and ManchesterCity when it comes to really expensive, successful players already playing in England.  Torres to Chelsea (£50) is the big one, but the many playersCity have bought from Aston Villa (Milner, Barry) Everton (Lescott, Rodwell) and (mostly) Arsenal (Adebayor, Toure, Clichy, Nasri) has shown that the teams with bottomless pockets can afford to pay absurd amounts for players who may not make the grade.

During this same period, and in what we now know to be Sir Alex Ferguson’s final years, Manchester United was also willing to spend sizable amounts to plunder talent from other English teams (Dimitar Berbatov, Michael Carrick, Ashley Young, Robin van Persie, etc.)

Are Arsenal suddenly amongst the clubs that are willing to “take a punt” (for giant money) on players (with issues) who aren’t quite content at (or even blame their troubles on) their current (English) clubs?

I don’t think so.  If we did, it would be a stunning turnabout and it would mark a sea-change from a risk-averse (penny-pinching?) financial strategy to a no-holds-barred, approach.  Please keep in mind that salaries also come into play, and, in the case of Rooney, in particular, would almost certainly represent a bigger cost than the transfer fee itself.

It’s hard to make sense of things but we must remember how transfers really work.  If a team wants a player the first thing that must happen is that they must be lured to the club; in paper-talk, their head must be turned.  This is done by promising a good contract and a prominent role at the club.  After that is in place, a deal must be worked with the player’s current club. Following the news this summer this would appear the process with Higuain.  With Suarez (and Rooney) the process seems reversed.   And, of course, there is endless background noise from agents with players looking for a move.  Arsenal, a club touting our “money to spend” (“powder we have kept dry”) and a team under pressure for improved results, gets even more of these planted stories, the equivalent of a player giving us the wink.

No, what Arsenal are doing is playing a high-stakes game of chicken, inserting our nose into other people’s business.  Gazidis’ not-so-cryptic comment, “We could (even) buy Rooney” puts pressure on United (and new manager, David Moyes) to work it out with the spread-eared one or declare him unwanted.  Our “bids” for Suarez are broadsides at Real Madrid—Get your Uruguayan (biter, racist, cheater, but clearly the best from that country…) and give us our guy (Higuain) who needs to be a starter if he wants a role for his (bigger, more competitive Argentinian national team) at the South American World Cup next summer.

So we must wait.  In the meantime, however, we stew and we argue and the support divides along lines that have been developing over these “desert” years (since the move to the new stadium which neatly coincides with our trophy drought).  The typical divide is AKB (“Arsene Knows Best”) vs Realists/Doomers, those who can see that it’s been an inferior product on the pitch, year upon year.   It’s also a divide between those willing to take some time for the club’s prudent financial policies to pan out (on the backs of high ticket prices) and those who want it all now—The Veruca Salts of the Arsenal support.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sATvCmYykV4

In addition there is a boardroom divide at Arsenal.  Two thirds of ownership resides with “Silent” Stan Kroenke who (it appears) is supportive of the Wenger/Gazidis management team.  Lurking in the background is (nearly) 30 percent man Alisher Usmanov, the Ukrainian Oligarch, who, many assume, would prioritize winning over the bottom line.  Many supporters want the latter to take charge and get Arsenal the results we “deserve.” This group might best be characterized by the chant that went up (spontaneously) in the desultory final match 3 seasons (2 years) ago: “Spend some f*cking money.”

Indeed, there are many who want signings that show “intent.”  To me this translates as “buy someone with proven ability no matter what the cost nor the risks with the players.”   Often these same “supporters” suggest, with a smirk, that if Wenger is so good, he should be able to handle the “problems” associated with such players.  Suarez and Rooney would seem to fit that bill.  In my opinion, to get them, we will have to overspend relative to the combination of their talents and their problems, but that is subjective and my opinion only.

So, are we pandering to this branch of the support?  I don’t believe that we are.  

The real story, I think, is that Arsenal really aren’t interested in these players and instead are using statements of interest (and maybe even registering bids) to agitate other clubs so that the deal(s) we are after can happen (and happen as quickly as possible).   Additionally, by polarizing support, it’s (another) high-stakes (hubris-laden?) attempt by current management to say “we know what we’re doing,” … “and if you were good, i.e., smart, supporters you would let us do it.”  If I’m right, Wenger (and Gazidis?) is actually making misleading statements (aka “telling lies”) or maneuvering for less than obvious ends.

It is similar to what he does when he says a player is “injured,” when he means dropped.  That sort of lying seems harmless or even worthwhile for protecting the confidence (ego) of the dropped players.  Hints of “interest” or below market bids (which, if accepted, would be accompanied, one would guess, with low–easy to reject—personal terms) ratchets up the game significantly.  Is Arsenal branding itself as the thinking man’s (and woman’s) club?; The Club that says one thing but means another, and the one where only the intelligent, calm and savvy (not to mention dedicated) can “truly” be supporters?

I’m curious to know what others think.  To me it seems a fairly desperate gamble but one which may pay off.  If we get the player(s) we’re after, win something (a lesser cup) and/or appear competitive in the bigger competitions (Champions’ League and Premier League), I would consider it a success.  Wenger is getting old and the pressure on him is nearly unbearable.  We haven’t lost a match since 3 March, but when (not if) we do, the calls for his head will begin anew.  If those same “Wenger-Out” people believe that we should’ve spent the money on Suarez or Rooney, the anger will be even more intense.

Here’s to hoping our moves pan out, i.e., not Suarez and Rooney, and that we have enough success to keep the lynch-mob at bay.

Written by: 17highburyterrace