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Thoughts on Sunderland 1-3 Arsenal: Ozil glides like Pires, passes like Bergkamp

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, Match Reports, Premier League | 1

Great players elevate those around them…
…and Mesut Ozil is undoubtedly a great player. Seeing him step out on to the pitch in an Arsenal shirt was both surreal and sublime. His touch was immaculate and his passing incisive. Considering he had barely trained with the team, his immediate rapport with the likes of Wilshere, Ramsey and Walcott was remarkable.

Arsenal have been blessed with some great playmakers in recent years. Ozil shares Dennis Bergkamp’s elegant stride and cushioned control. He also seems to derive the same satisfaction from creating goals as the Dutchman once did.

Bergkamp laid on goal after goal for the likes of Nicolas Anelka and Thierry Henry. Cesc Fabregas performed footballing alchemy by using his gifts to transform Emmanuel Adebayor in to a thirty goal striker. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that Ozil could do the same for Olivier Giroud.

Ozil looks like he’ll cope fine with the physicality of the Premier League…
I was struck by both Ozil’s height and speed. He is able to accelerate away from defenders with relative ease, both with and without the ball. His time spent in the Bundesliga should mean he’ll have few problems acclimatising to the rough and tumble of the English game.

Ramsey is the perfect example to Wilshere…
It’s a point that’s been well-made elsewhere, but as he bids to improve his form Jack Wilshere could do worse than take a look at the man alongside him. Aaron Ramsey has demonstrated that with persistence, hard-work and a degree of humility it is perfectly possibility to rehabilitate your game after a long lay-off. In fact, Ramsey has done more than rehabilitate his game: he has rebuilt it, from the ground up.

A year ago Ramsey was guilty of over-playing. He was too eager to make an immediate impression, attempting ambitious passes and unnecessary back-heels. In order to get back to his best, he had to keep it simple and rebuild from the ground up. Now we’re seeing flourishes – such as the two outstanding finishes on Saturday – added to an increasingly solid technical foundation. Ramsey is developing in to an outstanding central midfielder, and is surely the front-runner for the PFA Young Player of the Year Award.

Wilshere played from the left flank against Sunderland. I’m not averse to seeing him continue there for now. Until he learns to control his over-exuberance, his risk-taking game is better suited to the wing.

Giroud is integral to this team…
When he went down clutching his knee, I felt the same pang of anxiety that accompanied every Robin van Persie injury during his time with the club. However, for the majority of Van Persie’s time at the club we had the likes of Emmanuel Adebayor and Eduardo da Silva in reserve.

Now there is no such luxury. Giroud has been passed fit to play tomorrow – fit enough, at any rate. The paucity of options means that we’ll never be able to afford him a rest.

Worryingly, he told French website RMCSport that he has been carrying a knee problem since pre-season. For all my excitement over Ozil, the fact that we entered the season without signing another striker continues to baffle and frustrate me in equal measure.

Marseille away might prove to be a must-win game…
Dortmund have won their first five games. Napoli have won their first three. Marseille are a decent side, but arguably the weakest in a very tough group. Tomorrow night’s result could be crucial in the battle for qualification. Fortunately for Arsenal, Marseille have experimented with a very high defensive line this season.

That should be music to Ozil’s ears.

Mesut Ozil: A perfect signing in a far from perfect window

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season | 2 Guns

An imperfect window has ended with the perfect signing: Mesut Ozil is an Arsenal player.

It is, in every respect, an incredible story. I can still scarcely believe it. Ozil’s presence in the Arsenal squad feels like a miraculous accident – and the truth is not that different.

Arsenal knew that ending the summer without a major marquee signing would be an embarrassment. Ivan Gazidis’ forceful words earlier this summer transmogrified in to a rod for the club’s own back. That self-inflicted burden, combined with the weight of public pressure, forced Arsenal in to action.

I don’t believe Ozil was ever part of any grand plan. I don’t believe he was even particularly high on our list of targets: with failed moves for Stevan Jovetic, Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Suarez it’s clear we had wanted to spend the majority of our budget on a mobile centre-forward rather than another playmaker.

Like the signing of Mathieu Flamini, there is the whiff of opportunism about Arsenal’s Ozil raid. And yet I couldn’t care less. When an opportunity like this arises, you simply have to take it.

Players like Ozil are generally un-buyable. The other ‘marquee’ talents we were linked with this summer all had their scratches. Higuain had essentially been demoted to being a glamorous reserve at Madrid amid doubts about his ability to perform in the biggest games. Luis Suarez, as we all know, is a cannibalistic racist. Wayne Rooney carries as much psychological baggage as he does flab around his middle.

Ozil is as yet unimpeached. In the truest sense, he’s pure class.

There’s no doubt it’s a transformative signing, and the most significant since the arrival of Dennis Bergkamp in 1995. When it was announced half an hour before the window’s close last night, Sky’s Geraint Hughes noted that the Arsenal fans’ jubilation was due to the fact they’d waited all day for a signing like this. The reporter were wrong: we’ve waited for more than a decade.

This signing is what the move to the Emirates Stadium was for. In one fell swoop Arsenal have re-established themselves among the big boys. It’s not just the size of the fee, but the calibre of the player. Arsenal have bought the real deal.

Ozil is Germany’s best player. He is among the continent’s top ten. He is, in Jose Mourinho’s estimation, the finest creative midfielder in world football.

I’ve been infatuated with Ozil since I first laid eyes on him at the 2010 World Cup. I was there in the flesh to see him destroy England in Bloemfontein – the only person more alarmed by Ozil’s arrival in the Premier League than Tottenham fans must be Gareth Barry.

I’m not alone in my joy. It has lifted everyone. Arsenal fans who grimly renewed their season tickets, more out of loyalty than genuine optimism, now have cause for excitement. Shirt sales will soar, and the aesthetic quality of our performances on the pitch should have an upwards trajectory too. Ozil can make us beautiful again.

Hopefully Ozil will find a home for his talents in North London. His comments since signing have had a clear subtext: he was unhappy to be forced out of Real Madrid. It’s clear Madrid’s decision to negotiate his sale wounded him deeply:

At the weekend, I was certain that I would stay at Real Madrid, but afterwards I realised that I did not have the faith from the coach or the bosses.

His heartache is no cause for concern. He comes here with a fire burning behind those orbicular eyes, and a point to prove. That’s how it should be.

When news of our interest in Ozil first broke, fans of rival clubs sniped, “Why would he want to go there?” Some might have felt irked. Not me.

That’s what I want people to ask of our new signings. I don’t want people to say, “Oh yes, I could see why he’d make that move, it’s clearly a nice step up for him”. The detractors are right: Ozil probably is out of our league – and that’s precisely what makes him such a thrilling capture. Only by signing players of that ilk will we drag ourselves back to the top of the English game.

I hope my delight about Ozil’s arrival is clear, because I have to couch it with the fact that his signing alone does not transform this window in to a success. Arsenal failed to recruit in several other key positions. In fact, had Ozil not become unexpectedly available at the last moment than this window could have ended in disaster.

The fact that Arsenal enter the next few months with just one senior centre-forward is ridiculous. From what I understand the club were confident of acquiring Demba Ba as a deadline day loan, but Wenger and Gazidis ought to have realised that Chelsea were never inclined to do us a favour. As the day dragged on I couldn’t help but be reminded of our unproductive dealings with Liverpool for Xabi Alonso in 2008. It suited Chelsea to tie us up in a negotiation that they knew full well would never come to fruition.

Moving forward, lessons must be learnt. One of those lessons must be the positive impact that a statement signing like Ozil can make. The fans are elated, the squad are motivated, and the whole club is buzzing.

Just a few hundred yards separate Highbury and the Emirates, yet the Ozil deal feels like the completion of an arduous ten-year journey. However, it must be not only an ending, but also a new beginning. This has to be the start of something.

A new era has dawned. I wouldn’t Mesut for the wörld.

Thoughts on the Derby & Deadline Day

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, Match Previews, Match Reports | 3 Guns

Derby Day victory…
Felt as good as it ever does. Arsenal needed this win more than Tottenham, and it showed.

It was fitting that this game marked the return of Mathieu Flamini to Arsenal: our display was cast in his image, occasionally lacking finesse but full of commitment and courage. Our passing game wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but we were certainly fired up.

Spurs looked like a side who haven’t yet worked out their attacking strategy. They don’t seem to know what sort of service Roberto Soldado thrives off – for all their possession, they didn’t create many clear-cut chances.

They had similar problems last season but got out of jail time after time thanks to one Gareth Bale. Fortunately, they no longer have that trump card at their disposal.

Conversely, Arsenal seem to be developing a fairly coherent tactical set-up. As against Fulham, once ahead they dropped deep behind the ball, using the lung-busting running of Walcott and Ramsey to launch rapier counter-attacks.

If it weren’t for the alert goalkeeping of Hugo Lloris, Arsenal could have won by another goal or two.

Mesut Ozil is a game-changing signing…
Assuming it goes ahead, it’s massive. I would never have believed that we’d be capable of signing a marquee talent of this level.

All the other big names we’ve been linked with this summer have had some slight against them. Higuain never convinced in Madrid’s biggest games. Suarez is a bitey racist rat. Conversely, Ozil was a Real regular and is arguably in the world’s top ten players.

Ozil is genuinely one of my favourite footballers. I’ve been infatuated with him ever since the 2010 World Cup. I can hardly wait to see him play.

I hate to gripe on what is a undoubtedly momentous day for the club, but I’m staggered that Arsenal are going to go in to the season with Olivier Giroud as the only senior centre-forward.

Giroud was superb against Spurs, but by the end of the game was exhausted. It’s a feeling he’ll have to get used to in the coming months.

Right. Now it’s time to get this deal announced. Less than an hour to go. Come on Arsenal.

Video: ‘Thrift Shop – Arsenal Deadline Day Remix’ (Arsene Wenger ft. Ivan Gazidis)

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season | 589 Guns

Happy Deadline Day everyone. Early signs suggest it could be a big one.

Arsenal 2 – 0 Fenerbahce: Thoughts on Ramsey, Mata & more

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, Champions League, Match Reports, Premier League | 760 Guns

Arsenal 2 – 0 Fenerbahce (5-0 Agg)
Match report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

On the pitch, it’s been a good week…
Three wins in seven days is more than I expected after that disastrous opening day defeat.  The performances in Turkey and at Fulham were both wonderfully cohesive displays of counter-attacking. This match had less dynamism. The tie was essentially dead, and despite a spirited first-half performance from Fenerbahce Arsenal were never less than in control.

The club has now qualified for the Champions League for the 16th successive year. It’s both a laudable achievement and the minimum requirement. I’m pleased but not yet satisfied.

Aaron Ramsey has been outstanding…
It’s amazing what a difference confidence can make. The way he took his second goal was the mark of a player who has absolute faith in his ability at the moment. Having gone through a process of simplifying his game and bringing it back to basics, Ramsey is now supplementing his hard work with the flair he patently possesses. His progress is exciting.

Injuries highlight the weakness of our squad…
With Arsenal holding a 3-0 lead, this match was essentially a dead rubber. It would have taken an extraordinary collapse – even by our standards – for Fenerbahce to progress at our expense. Despite this, barely anyone was rested from our first choice XI. Kieran Gibbs was on bench, but was called for as soon as Lukas Podolski’s picked up a hamstring injury early in the second half.

The youthful trio of Emmanuel Frimpong, Ryo Miyaichi and Yaya Sanogo were all on the bench last night. The latter pair were afforded the opportunity to play, and both looked about as raw as you’d expect. Players of that level of inexperience should simply not be called upon in a Champions League qualifier.

If you discount that fledgling trio, and the forgotten pair of Nicklas Bendtner and Park Chu-Young, Arsenal currently have just 12 fit senior outfield players. If you don’t believe me you can count yourself.

It is simply not enough. Arsene can talk all he likes about his faith in the “quality” of his squad, but it’s the quantity that looks set to give us most problems.

The Juan Mata story looks like a non-starter…
The fact that Juan Mata’s father was at the Emirates last night, just 24 hours after Jose Mourinho left the Spanish playmaker out of his starting XI at Old Trafford, has led to stories circulating that Arsenal might be considering a bid for a player they tracked prior to his move to Stamford Bridge.

First things first: Mata’s dad is a professional agent and represents many players other than his son. His presence at the game does not necessarily mean anything. I’m not familiar with his client list but he may simply look after one of the Fenerbahce boys.

Secondly, I can’t see Mourinho allowing Mata to join another English club. His ego wouldn’t run the risk of a decision backfiring so painfully and publicly.

The only hope for Arsenal is that, having been left out of such an important match, Mata might panic about the amount of game-time he will get this season. It is a World Cup year, and that makes players more jittery than usual. That short-termism is something Arsenal can use to their advantage in what remains of the window: players who would ordinarily be out of our reach might be prepared to come to the Emirates if they are guaranteed playing time.

The Real Madrid trio would all be incredible signings…
Arsenal are being linked with moves for Karim Benzema, Mesut Ozil and Angel Di Maria. All three would add a huge amount to the Arsenal squad, but only the latter seems remotely probable. Madrid seem unlikely to sell Benzema and Higuain in the same window, while Ozil is likely to also be a target for Manchester United. That is not a tug of war I’d fancy us to win.

Intriguingly, the BBC are speculating that the delay in Gareth Bale’s move to Madrid might be part of a deliberate ploy to frustrate us. Madrid are unlikely to sanction the sale of any attacking player until their move for Bale is confirmed.

After watching Arsene Wenger’s post-match interview…
…I have never felt  less confident about the prospect of us making big signings this summer. I expect we’ll tie up a deal for Mathieu Flamini on a free transfer, and possibly add Yohan Cabaye to the mix, but the marquee attacking player we all crave looks set to elude us.

I’d love to be wrong. We’ll know in less than a week.

You might spot a few teething problems with the site…
We’ve moved over to new hosting and that brings with it a few problems. You’ll notice that the comments are now full of spam – although some would argue they were beforehand too. I’m working on a solution and it should all be up and running properly soon. The good news is that the site should be slightly less likely to fall over every time I write a new blog post.

Transfer Update: The Trolley Dash Begins

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season | 783 Guns

It has begun. Arsenal have started the painfully inevitable desperate scrabble for signings. Dale Winton has sounded the klaxon, and the footballing version of Supermarket Sweep is well and truly underway.

It began with a brief conversation I had with an agent yesterday, in which they indicated that Dick Law had been unusually open to a suggested signing. Then the news broke that Arsenal had bid £10m for Newcastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye.

Cabaye is a decent player, but not at the elite level as some of the names we were linked to earlier this summer. Targeting him suggests Wenger recognises the need for squad numbers as well as “super quality”. Cabaye is less of a glamorous marquee player and more of a cosy tipi.

Don’t get me wrong, the Frenchman is a decent player, and will help plug the gap created by the departure of Francis Coquelin and the injury to Mikel Arteta. However, he is not the sort of world class talent who will transform us from a side battling to stay in the top four to one competing for major trophies.

It’s all somewhat reminiscent of the final days of the summer 2011 window, when Arteta was one of five hurried signings. Back then, an 8-2 defeat to Manchester United radically altered the club’s transfer policy. Arsenal had been offered Per Mertesacker several times throughout the summer, but never showed an ounce of interest. However, shortly after that game, Werder Bremen’s asking price was met and Mertesacker boarded a plane to London. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Arsenal appear to have reached that point even earlier in this window.

After months of insisting that Arsenal would look after all transfer business in house, I learnt today that the club are now actively briefing agents about the positions they are struggling to fill. They are welcoming propositions for a defensive midfielder and a striker – the latter requirement suggesting the club are close to abandoning hope of securing Luis Suarez.

With Suarez, it’s clear Arsenal were led up a particularly winding garden path by the player and his agent. The £40,000,001 bid and Arsene Wenger’s statement that “we believe we havee done enough” indicate that Arsenal understood this convoluted clause in Suarez’s contract to be a legitimate release fee. The swift scaling down of Suarez’s agitating for a move suggests he was never particularly convinced by the prospect of joining Arsenal – the whole flirtation may have been a ploy to attract a bid from Real Madrid that never arose.

Instead, Madrid have turned their focus to Gareth Bale, and Suarez seems to have accepted that he will spend this season at Anfield. In the meantime, Spurs continue to strengthen their team in preparation for Bale’s departure. Brazilian midfielder Willian is set to join the likes of Paulinho, Capoue and Soldado in a list of signings that would all have been welcome on the other side of North London.

Spurs appear to have a plan. That’s something that Arsenal fans can only dream of. The clock is ticking and the stakes are rising. Things could be about to get very messy indeed.

Arsenal 1 – 3 Aston Villa: It was just a mirage

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, Match Reports, Premier League | 893 Guns

I had a vision of a better Arsenal. It was a vision sold to me by Ivan Gazidis, who promised me that after a decade of harsh desert we were approaching an oasis of plenty. It was a vision that sustained me through a summer starved of football.

It seemed entirely plausible: Arsenal were changing. The shifting financial landscape had left us in a position of relative security. Our prudence had paid off, and it was time for the purse-strings to be loosened. Arsenal would challenge for major honours once again.

It was a vision that I, somewhat foolishly, believed in. And it was just a mirage.

The dream evaporated and condensed in to the cold wet reality of a 3-1 home defeat to Aston Villa. Some dream. Some start.

Arsenal must be the only club in world football who can begin the summer with a triumphant declaration of renewed spending power, yet plunge in to crisis just one game of the new season. The journey between that zenith and the subsequent nadir has been riddled with negligence and incompetence.

Let’s put this simply: a better Arsenal side would have beaten Aston Villa, regardless of referees and injuries. Arsenal have the resources to build a better team – they spent the early part of the summer boasting publicly about the fact – they have simply neglected to do so.

The buck stops with Arsene Wenger. It is easy to make jokes the vagueness of Gazidis’ role or the clowning of chief negotiator Dick Law, but the truth is that all major decisions on transfer policy are made by one man: Arsene.

My impression is that Gazidis and the board would like to see Arsene spend. However, the manager seems unwilling to let go of the parsimonious habits of the last ten years.

Wenger is fond of challenging reporters to name potential targets:

People always say ‘buy players, buy players, buy players’. When you tell them ‘tell me who?’ it becomes much more problematic.

I’ll play your game, Arsene: Gonzalo Higuain. Luis Gustavo. Etienne Capoue. Paulinho. All of those players are well within our financial grasp and would significantly improve our squad. Two have joined our closest rivals. Arsenal are knowingly allowing the gap to close.

Our squad is in a state of drastic disrepair. A spate of injuries picked up on Saturday means we must travel to Fenerbahce for a crucial Champions League qualifier with a severely weakened team.

There is still time left in this transfer window. What’s more, I fully expect Arsene to embark on another desperate trolley dash before the window closes. However, by then, it may already be too late.

Opening Day Preview: New season – No new faces

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Season, Premier League | 755 Guns

It’s not easy to feel optimistic.

A new season ought to feel fresh. It ought to be a new start. The manager ought to enter the new campaign free of the pressures of the last. However, Arsenal’s disastrous summer has put Arsene Wenger under considerable strain before a ball has even been kicked in anger.

Incredibly, The Gunners are still yet to make a major signing. The dead wood may have gone, but it’s yet to be replaced by any live wood. Arsenal barely have enough players to fill tomorrow’s matchday squad, and the window is just a fortnight away from closing.

I can’t hide my disappointment: this summer has been embarrassing. Our bizarre decision to declare our flush hand at the start of the window seemed hubristic at the time, and has proved so since. Arsenal have lurched from one dead end deal to another. The likes of Clement Grenier, Gonzalo Higuain and Luis Gustavo have all escaped our grasp. Luis Suarez seems certain to join that ever-expanding list.

There are those who will say my judgement is premature. The window is not yet closed, and the situation may yet be put right. Possibly so, but given the resources at our disposal there is no excuse for not having the squad in place before the start of the season. Arsenal face crucial fixtures on both the domestic and European front. Our inactivity means that any early failure will be met by an unforgiving response from the supporters.

If Arsenal fail to beat Aston Villa today, the Emirates will resound with the boos from fans who will understandably feel they have been misled. They were promised statements of intent and a change in policy. Instead they’ve suffered more of the same penny-pinching and indecision.

The one relief about today’s game is that it allows us to concentrate on events on the park rather than inadequacies in the board room.

Football is back. I just wish it felt a bit different.

Could Luis Suarez be Arsene Wenger’s Cantona?

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Pre-season | 1,172 Guns

Arsenal’s pursuit of Luis Suarez rumbles on. A snowball of a rumour has become an avalanche of claim and counter-claim.

Arsenal have had a second bid of £40,000,001 rejected. The £1 is significant: it enabled Arsenal to activate a clause in Suarez’s contract that ensures Liverpool must inform him of the bid. Apparently, he doesn’t read newspapers.

The true value of this clause is something of a mystery. My understanding is that the Suarez camp believed it to be a genuine release clause; Liverpool think nothing of the sort. Speaking to an agent friend this week, I was told that such confusion is common-place. Often a club will find a way to word a release clause that can mislead a player, causing doubt and eventually even legal dispute.

While Arsenal pore over the intricacies of Suarez’s contract, another major target has slipped through our fingers. Gonzalo Higuain has joined Napoli for a fee of around £34m. A few weeks ago it seemed Higuain was destined to end up in North London, but Arsenal have been distracted by the allure of Suarez. Our precious eggs are now all in the Uruguayan’s hostile basket.

Of the two players, I would have preferred us to sign Higuain. He’s a fine player with barely any baggage. To extend the metaphor, Higuain probably travels with just hand luggage. Suarez would arrive at check-in replete with two pairs of skis and several disease-carrying animals.

Higuain has already experienced life at Real Madrid, and decided it’s not for him. Suarez might just be making eyes at us to help get himself to the Bernabeu, either this summer or in 12 months time.

There are those that feel that Higuain is overpriced at £34m. In a world where Roberto Soldado fetches £26m and Hulk would cost you double that, that simply isn’t true.

Our focus on Suarez has seen us let Higuain out of our grasp. We had our hands around the moon but relinquished our grasp to reach for a red dwarf of a star that could ultimately destroy us all.

It’s such an odd strategic decision that I have to give serious consideration to the theory that this is a last throw of the dice from a manager who knows he will walk away in 12 month’s time. By then, Suarez would be someone else’s problem. Perhaps Real Madrid’s.

I’m trying to work out what is going on in Arsene’s head. I have followed his reign at Arsenal for 17 years, and the manager has rarely left me feeling so confused.

For Arsene to spend £50m – and that is what it would ultimately cost – on any one player is bafflingly unfamiliar. To spend that sum on an individual that is so wildly combustible seems like madness.

Wenger must believe that Suarez could be the catalyst to ignite his team and transform them from also-rans to trophy-winners. He must believe the Uruguayan to be the magical missing ingredient.

I am reminded of Sir Alex Ferguson’s radical decision to sign Eric Cantona more than 20 years ago.

Cantona was a maverick and a hot-head. His idiosyncrasies seemed at odds with Ferguson’s disciplinarian regime. But he was also an outstanding footballer, who moved from a rival club to galvanise the team around him in to an unprecedented period of dominance.

Wenger must see something of the same quality in Suarez. To be prepared to smash all his established policies, both economic and ethical, his belief in the Liverpool star must be astronomical.

Of course, when Ferguson snared Cantona, the Frenchman’s greatest sins – the red cards, the assault on a fan – were yet to come. The same, terrifyingly, could be true of Suarez. He’s a complicated cocktail of delightful skill and dysfunctional thinking. Signings Suarez would be a Faustian pact, with potential reward and certain cost.

Speaking of cost, there’s no way he’ll move for £40m, give or take a pound. Liverpool will demand £50m, matching the British transfer record.

The next couple of weeks will be crucial. Failing to sign Suarez could leave us without the marquee striker we desperately need. Signing Suarez will bring its own problems.

The fall-out to the end of this saga, one way or the other, could define more than just our chances next season.

Please, Arsene: Don’t sign Luis Suarez

Posted on by GilbertoSilver Posted in 2013-14 Pre-season | 1,218 Guns

A month from the start of the Premier League season seems an apt time to make a return to blogging. What’s more, I’ve got something to say.

I can’t really make this plain enough: I would hate to see Luis Suarez at Arsenal.

Long-term readers of the blog won’t be surprised. For me to say anything else would be hypocrisy of the worst kind. As recently as April I posted this diatribe:

Luis Suarez is a despicable human being. We’ve known that for some time.

In the aftermath of his latest transgression – biting Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic – he has been widely criticised by the football media. The same football media who have spent much of the season praising him and may have already voted for him as the Football Writer’s Footballer of the Year.

Gary Lineker has begun a campaign last night to see Suarez removed from the PFA Player of the Year Shortlist. I can’t help but think: isn’t it strange that it’s his behaviour today that has precipitated this reaction, rather than Suarez’s previous conduct?

Don’t exclude him from a shortlist because he bit someone. Exclude him from all shortlists – exclude him from English football entirely – because of his racist behaviour. It’s a thousand times worse; a thousand times more significant. I’ve been sickened and disappointed by how easily English football seems to have forgiven Suarez for his proven abuse of Patrice Evra.

Pundits will queue up to ask what kind of example Suarez biting Ivanovic sets to kids. I’d ask them instead what sort of example their season-long praise of a man guilty of proven racist behaviour sets.

I recognise that Suarez is a fantastic footballer. But that, like the biting, is something of a red herring.

This season, some Premier League players chose not to wear t-shirts that bore the slogan ‘Kick it out’. It saddens me that the stark and important message of that campaign seems to have been forgotten.

I stand by those views. Suarez appalls me. His conduct simply isn’t befitting of a club of our stature.

When stories of our initial bid for Suarez broke, I was dubious. However, enough credible Liverpool-based reporters were covering the story that I soon realised it was legitimate.

Initially I, like others, thought the bid might be a smoke-screen: a way of forcing Real Madrid to relinquish their grasp over Gonzalo Higuain. However, as the Suarez story has waxed the Higuain link has waned. Incredibly, it appears that Suarez may have emerged as our primary target.

From a footballing point of view, it makes sense. There’s no doubting Suarez’s talent. He also provides a suitably different option to Olivier Giroud. Arsene Wenger has already said he’s loathe to sign another traditional target man, and when we were first linked to Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic, I said:

Stefan Jovetic is the name being linked most frequently in the press, and you can understand why. He is a different type of forward to Giroud – mobile, inventive and technically-gifted. He offers a similarly diverse threat to that of Luis Suarez, only without the biting.

Jovetic, however, seems destined for Manchester City. Arsenal now seem determined to snare Suarez, biting and all.

For some fans, the ‘football reasons’ outlined above are good enough to counter-balance the full horror of Suarez’s character. Fair enough. In a way, I admire your determined objectivity.

What I don’t like is revisionism. I don’t like the fact that thousands of fans who castigated Suarez as recently as a few months ago are now hailing him as “misunderstood”.

I don’t like what I’m seeing, but equally I can’t blame the fans. The situation is symptomatic of our club’s plight. The supporters are starved of excitement. There is such now such wide-spread clamour and desperation for a big signing – any big signing – that fans are prepared to shut their eyes and ears to the full reality. They want that transfer record smashed, and they don’t care what else gets broken along the way.

As I say, I am sympathetic. Empathetic, almost. What I find harder to understand is how the likes of Arsene Wenger and Ivan Gazidis – the men charged with making decisions at the head of our football club – are even countenancing this deal.

I cannot understand why a manager as ethical and principled as Arsene would go near a player like Suarez. I cannot fathom why our great club would seek to harbour a footballing fugitive. The situation is made all the more bizarre by the apparent availability of the talented and seemingly decent Gonzalo Higuain, who is now edging towards a move to Napoli.

It’s genuinely baffling. Arsenal paying £40m for a player is something I hoped I’d see one day. However, the sight of Luis Suarez in an Arsenal shirt is something I still hope I’ll never see.

Blowing that sum on a player who will be dogged by suspension and controversy is lunacy. What’s more, Suarez has a proven track record of forcing transfers every couple of seasons. If he joins us, he’ll view us merely as an escape raft until he can leverage a move to Real Madrid.

Earlier in the summer I wondered if this day might come. Arsenal have stated their intention to establish themselves as a financial super-power. Stepping up to that elite level usually involves a degree of adjustment in policy. Principles are often the first victim of compromise.

Manchester City fans have had to accept their managers being ruthlessly dispatched. Chelsea fans have done their own deal with the devil: if they stopped to examine the source of their owner’s wealth, they might find their joy at their grubbily purchased trophies tempered. What’s more, they’ve found themselves cheering on the likes of Ashley Cole and John Terry despite their many public indiscretions.

In terms of players, Suarez’s roll call of dishonour makes him, in my opinion, the worst of the worst. When Wayne Rooney seems the more palatable option, you know you’re dealing with an unsavoury character.

Nothing could diminish my love for Arsenal. However, if they do sign Luis Suarez, the club will have sorely disappointed me.
There are other alternatives, travelling with less baggage, at a lower fare. Make the right choice, Arsene.