James Lawton: Arsenal's bid for Luis Suarez smacks of desperation - and signals that Arsene Wenger has lost his attachment to higher values

So what happened to the ethos of Arsenal? To the plan founded on sanity?

Not for the first time we have to ask a classic question of the manager of Arsenal. However, this time we cannot  anticipate, almost word for word, the answer from the man with the furrowed brow and the haunted expression.

“What’s it all about Arsène?” has, after all, always brought an  unswerving response.

It was about the building of teams imbued with the highest football values. They were scouted not only for the  talent that had perhaps not been properly appraised by rivals – Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Cesc Fabregas, to mention just a few of his most stunning signings – but their ability to adapt to the ethos of a team that not so long ago were near perfect representatives of a beautiful game.

Of course the game has changed, the market has sharpened out of all recognition, along with the influence of agents relentless in pursuit of the main chance, but sufficiently, we have to ask, for Wenger to see Luis Suarez, of all people, as the redeemer of Arsenal’s lost years?

The word from the Emirates is insistent. Wenger, empowered with £70m or so to compete with the new strength of Manuel Pellegrini’s Manchester City and the residual power of Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea and David Moyes at Manchester United, sees Suarez as the glittering prize to fill the vacuum left by Robin van Persie.

So what happened to the ethos of Arsenal? What happened to all those values of character and patient team-building that were offered up as the great compensation for eight years without a sniff of a major trophy? What happened to the business plan founded on football sanity?

It appears to have been wrapped up in some haste and thrown at the feet of an undoubtedly brilliant football player who unfortunately also happens to be a racial abuser, a biter of opponents and an unabashed cheat.

Nor can his superb natural gifts provide instant momentum in  return for a bid which seems likely to rise above its current level of £40m. There is the matter of the six matches still to be served of his suspension for chewing into Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic.

There is also the uncomfortable but unavoidable fact that Suarez has  rewarded Liverpool, the management, fellow players and, not least the crowd, for nearly two years of excruciating come-what-may support with a display of disloyalty that might raise a frown below decks in a sinking ship.

This is not to say that Liverpool will capsize in Suarez’s impending absence. Unquestionably they will miss his extraordinary, explosive skills, but in Brendan Rodgers they have a young coach of impressive vision who has just experienced an ultimate crash course in the hazards of saying one thing – “no one is  bigger than the club” – and then contradicting himself in almost every reaction to the conduct of an apparently shameless recidivist.

Wenger’s dramatic change of emphasis has provoked at least one strange projection of a new Arsenal dream team. Odd, this is, in that the inclusion of the hugely problematic Suarez alongside the shop-soiled Wayne Rooney suggests nightmare quite as much as fantasy.

Over a decade ago Wenger, having watched the prodigious teenager shatter his superb team with a goal of mesmerising power at Goodison Park, said that Rooney was the most impressive young English player he had ever seen. He was filled with invention, a natural sense of where to be on the field and a withering capacity to hurt the opposition. Wenger then spoke with the passion, and the idealism, of a man who had made his name for recognising the potential of striking but still  unformed talent. It is a poignant  reminder of how his football world once revolved.

Now the old visionary and once reluctant cheque-wielder appears committed to a policy that would, back then, have scandalised his best intentions. He will, we are told, take Rooney 18 months after such a hard judge as Sir Alex Ferguson concluded that he had to move for someone who could guarantee him performance, someone like Van Persie. There is a huge irony, here, and also a sad commentary on the options open to the man who seemed to represent all that was best, and most inspired, in the shaping of a football club that could not only win but hugely  enhance the quality of the game.

If Suarez, especially, shows up at the Emirates he will no doubt provoke huge excitement. Players of his innate ability always do. As he proved at Liverpool and Ajax before that, he has the ability to lift any team. Not the least sadness of his most recent outrage against Ivanovic was that it was almost immediately followed by a goal of genius, and  instinctive sense of how to deliver a killing blow.

Arsenal, everyone knows, are in huge need of that quality and for a little while at least it may be that Suarez will deliver it without complication. He has done it before. When he arrived from Ajax, where he was voted Player of the Year before gaining the less welcome title of “The Cannibal” after his first biting offence, he illuminated Anfield not only with a sublime and aggressive touch but also a passion for competition. He hated to be substituted, he relished the new challenge he faced.

Arsenal may be relishing such a prospect, but for how long? What’s it all about Arsène? The worry has to be that it is, if you forgive the expression, pure desperation.

Cannibal's crimes: Suarez scandals

Feb 2007 Sent off on his Uruguay debut against Colombia after receiving a second booking.

Nov 2007 Suspended following dressing-room altercation with team-mate while at Ajax.

July 2010 Dismissed for handball against Ghana in World Cup quarter-final (right) before celebrating Asamoah Gyan’s subsequent miss from penalty spot.

Nov 2010 Handed seven-game ban after biting PSV’s Otman Bakkal on the shoulder.

Oct 2011 Racially abuses Manchester United’s Patrice Evra during league match at Anfield. Fined £40,000 and banned for eight games in December by the Football Association.

Dec 2011 Makes offensive gesture towards Fulham supporters, resulting in a one-match ban.

Feb 2012 Refuses to shake Evra’s hand in return match at Old Trafford.

Oct 2012 Celebrates goal at Everton with diving motion in front of home dugout. Admits exaggerating dive in match with Stoke.

Jan 2013 Handles ball in act of scoring during Cup tie at Mansfield.

Mar 2013 Strikes Chile defender Gonzalo Jara in World Cup qualifier.

Apr 2013 Suspended for 10 matches by the Football Association after biting Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic at Anfield.

Grace Mennem

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent