20 July 2013

Brendan Rodgers explains why we shouldn't pursue Luis Suarez

We've all been drooling over who we might sign, and although the names have changed from Jovetic to Higuain to Rooney to Higuain to Suarez, there's been one maddening constant: we haven't signed anyone. With the club off on the Asia Tour, we'll have to content ourselves with the lighter news of our boys wearing local garb and playing friendlies, which has been wonderful. Connecting with and expanding the Arsenal family is unquestionably a good thing.

However, I can't help but feel a little anger at the fact that we apparently didn't nail down a signature or two before leaving. It's not impossible to conduct business from seven time zones away, but it's a heck of a lot more difficult. In the absence of any concrete news, then, we twiddle our thumbs and scan too many sites for news. Luis Suarez, of course, has dominated the transfer-news lately, and the persistence and pervasiveness of the stories make them hard to ignore. I've pushed back against a Suarez signing here and here and here. My latest attempt comes armed with ammunition from Brendan Rodgers himself, who had this to say a few days ago:
Last year, you mustn’t forget that [we] gave Luis Suarez the opportunity to flourish and hopefully this year that will continue to be the case. I made the decision last year to move Andy Carroll out on loan because I wanted to work the team round Luis's talents. All our movement patterns and our tactical ideas were based around him and he flourished from that.
In other words, Suarez scored as often as he did because the entire team was built around him as were all of Liverpool's tactics. No surprise there. It does serve to remind us, though, that Suarez scored frequently because of his talent, yes, but because the entire offensive scheme went through him. According to whoscored.com, Suarez has a conversion-rate of only 12.3%, taking some 188 shots to get his 23 Prem League goals. Here, by comparison, are the conversion-rates of some of our players (from arsenal.com, courtesy of opta):
  • Walcott: 22.58%
  • Podolski: 33.33%
  • Cazorla: 16%
  • Giroud: 12%
Many of us have lambasted Giroud for his conversion-rate and the number of squandered opportunities he's guilty of, and he cost a mere £12m. How are we going to feel if and when Suarez offers the same conversion rate at four times the fee? If we do sign him, are we going to have to funnel the offense through him as they have done at Liverpool? What would this mean for the development of Giroud or Walcott? Giroud did tolerably well in his first Prem season and might replicate his achievements in Ligue 1, where he went from 12 goals in his first year to 21 in the next. Walcott, scorer of a career-best 14 goals this year, is possibly on the verge of a breakout-season, something I've argued here. Bringing in Suarez, and all of his considerable baggage, would scupper any hopes of either man breaking out.

Speaking of fees, Gazidis has given Arsène something like £70m to spend this summer. If we were to commit £40-50m for Suarez, we'd leave ourselves with precious little for securing anyone else's services. Say we do get him for £40m (unlikely, as Liverpool have apparently already rejected this). We'd then have £30m left. This might be enough for one more very good player or two could-be-good bargains. Maybe. However, we'd then go in to a season having committed more than half of our reported transfer-budget to one player with little guarantee that (a) he'll deliver on his potential, (b) do so without squelching our other attacking options, and (c) stay on the pitch without getting suspended again.

I'll keep on coming up with ways to prove why we shouldn't sign him until I hit on a magic solution that someone brings to Arsène's attention or until he's signed for us or elsewhere.

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