Arsene Wenger said today that Arsenal always demanded a high standard of character in potential signings, and saw no problem in Luis Suarez when the club pursued him over the summer in what turned out to be a failed bid to bring the Liverpool striker to the Emirates.
Wenger’s Arsenal team face Liverpool tomorrow evening with Suarez in potent goalscoring form – six in his last four matches – and the Uruguayan was inevitably a topic of discussion at Wenger’s press conference. In fact, it was the Arsenal manager who brought the subject up when asked about Suarez’s form post-10 match ban, saying: “He played quite well before that. If some clubs were interested to buy him it is because he played well before.”
That aside, Wenger was not keen to discuss the summer pursuit of Suarez, which included the famous £40m, plus £1, bid, although the Arsenal manager never ruled out returning to sign the player at some point. Asked about a discussion at the club’s annual general meeting about the moral aspect of signing a player who has been banned for racist remarks and biting an opponent, Wenger said that his club always brought high standards to bear when scouting new recruits.
Wenger said: “Look, I don’t want to come out on that. The player has been punished for what he did. We have high moral grounds [ie, standards]. Of course we take information about the moral level of the players and when there is any restriction about it we do not buy the players.”
On the public pursuit of Suarez, Wenger said: “No, you made it very public! I didn’t make anything public. Look he plays for Liverpool tomorrow, you know that and, as you said, he is doing very well. What is important for me is that the players who play for Arsenal, not those who could play for Arsenal.
“Our target is to have the ball and master the situation because we are dominating and we have more of the ball than our opponents. If you have the ball a lot we do not need to worry too much about our opponents. That will be the target tomorrow.”
Asked whether he might have been badly advised in terms of strategy when Arsenal bid for Suarez, Wenger said: “There again, the details of all that will maybe come about one day, maybe not in my book! In somebody else’s book.”
The Arsenal manager said that Mathieu Flamini will miss tomorrow’s game with his groin strain and will not return before the Manchester United match. Serge Gnabry is also out of contention and there are no returns from the longer-term injured: Theo Walcott, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Lukasz Podolski and Abou Diaby. Mikel Arteta returns following his one-game suspension for a red card against Crystal Palace.
After Liverpool, Arsenal face Borussia Dortmund in Germany, United (away) and Southampton in what could potentially be a season-defining period. Wenger said: “It is an important period, but I am quite confident. You can see I’m quite relaxed because I have complete confidence we will deal well with that period. I take that as an opportunity to show our strength and I am completely sure the players will be up for it and take this opportunity.”