It was the most famous single pound offered in English football history, and Arsène Wenger has conceded that Arsenal's approach to signing Luis Suarez from Liverpool this summer, with a bid of £40m plus £1, had been flawed.
Acting on information that a bid in excess of £40m would trigger a release clause in Suarez's contract – it did not – Arsenal pursued the unusual strategy, which prompted the Liverpool owner, John W Henry, to ask on Twitter: "What do you think they're smoking over there at the Emirates?"
Reflecting on Suarez, who faces Arsenal at the Emirates in a battle between first place and second in the Premier League, Wenger admitted that the bid for the player was "not the most subtle thing" that his club had ever done. "But it was not meant to be provocative at all. It could be interpreted like that but it was not our purpose. I don't want to dwell more on that situation."
It is an unfortunate consequence of Arsenal's transfer policy over recent years that they have had to come up against some of the great players who have left their club, including the likes of Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie. Coming up against one of the big players they missed out so publicly on signing is nevertheless a new experience for Wenger who, noticeably, never ruled out returning for Suarez at some point in the future.
The Arsenal manager said he did not believe that the Uruguayan would be booed by Arsenal fans, who may also hold out hope that he might join their club one day. Was there any regret on Wenger's part? "Not at all. Life is about opportunities that you miss, some that you take. We have a squad that is good enough to beat Liverpool and that is what we want to show and focus on. We want to win the game and the most important part is how we play, not how Suarez will play."
Asked whether the relationship with Henry and the Liverpool board was awkward now, as a consequence of their exchanges over the summer, Wenger said he did not believe that was the case. "We don't smoke!" said Wenger, not entirely accurately given Jack Wilshere's most recent indiscretion. "But relations are good [with Liverpool]."
The Arsenal manager will be without Mathieu Flamini and for the Champions League game against Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday. Mikel Arteta is back after a one-game suspension but the greatest concern remains an injury to Olivier Giroud, with so little quality cover in the position. Wenger offered up Nicklas Bendtner, Park Ju-Young and even Mesut Özil as alternative centre-forwards, although with little conviction. "I don't know yet if we will strengthen [in attack] in January," he said. "Honestly, I want to see where we stand at the end of December."
Asked whether losing three consecutive home games, albeit in three separate competitions, would be damaging, Wenger was sufficiently relaxed to laugh about the prospect. "Just your question is damaging! The question is trying to kill me! Liverpool is a big game for us in a completely different competition and we want to respond well. It was a disappointment on Tuesday [against Chelsea], and we want to respond in a very strong way in a competition where we are in a very strong position."Reuse content