By The Other Geoff (@Hollefreund)
What would you do to win?
Anything within the rules of the game? Anything within the rules of society? What about just plain anything?
What would be right and what would be wrong? Are there morals in football and in particular, at Arsenal?
There is a legal concept used in Criminal Law in the United States called – Moral Turpitude. It’s a strange term, one in which we can only guess at its inherent meaning by the use of the word “moral.” In fact, digging around on the inter-web will cough up West Encyclopedia of American Law’s description of; “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals.”
Good morals may seem nebulous at first glimpse, but a bit of elbow grease and spit will uncover that in fact, there are several sets of reasonable moral rules to be found if one dares to search. All of them, regardless of culture, are grounded by the basic premise that we as humans know right from wrong.
Let me ask you this – within the context of right and wrong, your morals, would you do wrong in order for Arsenal to win? How far would you be willing to go? Would you bite someone (assuming they didn’t want you to)?
With a single chomp of the canines, that petulant little Uruguayan captured the attention of the World. Within seconds, countless memes had popped up on internet sites, Twitter was awash with various Vine postings of the incident and nearly every football fan around the globe had an opinion on it; be it on the length of punishment necessary for such a repeat offence, to the nature of the boy’s mentality and upbringing, to even whether it was truly as horrific as the media was portraying it. It was the bite that was heard around the world and will likely go down in history as the most famous of bites since Mike Tyson’s earfully inclined indiscretions.
Importantly for this blog, it stirred up a moral argument amongst us Gooners; one that’s caused me to pause and reflect on a fair few things connected to our great club.
The question itself is a simple one: “Would you still take Luis Suarez at Arsenal?”
Sure it’s being asked a few different ways out there amongst us but the premise really boils down to a moral one – would we take a player that will do anything to win, someone who’s conduct is contrary to community standards, someone who commits moral turpitude, in order to win trophies at Arsenal?
Now before this sounds like a lecture, I’m going to come clean. I wanted Luis Suarez last summer at Arsenal. Quite frankly, I felt his quality in front of goal far outweighed his on field setbacks and I felt that signing him would certainly win us a major trophy. Not only that, but I wrongly assumed that his ban for bitey tendencies would smarten him up – he would see the error of his ways. But does the end justify the means? Now, nearly 12 months after our ill-advised £40 Million and 1 pound bid, I find myself wavering on that stance.
For starters, one of the biggest reasons I wanted Suarez at Arsenal is because he is simply a World Class player. Whether you agree with his transgressions or not, you cannot deny the pure talent he has in finding the back of the net. Most certainly, having a striker of that ilk would produce silverware for Arsenal. If you need convincing on this point, consider that he nearly dragged players like Jordan Henderson and Glen Johnson to a Premier League title, only to slip up on the final run in.
Consider for a moment our collective mindset a year ago. The weight of the barren trophy-less years was being hung around our neck like an albatross by every pundit and journalist this side of Hades. We were desperate, desperate to prove our critics wrong; desperate to prove to ourselves that we had the mental strength to cross that imagined barrier and win a Cup. And guess what happened – we did just that. Even better was the fact that we won a Cup emblazoned with history and dripping with a tradition of excellence.
There should be no such trepidation now. The angst of that 9 year itch has been soothed by a topical cream only winning can produce. And without wanting to falsely create a new weight of expectation, it will not be 9 years again. Our dealings in the transfer market this summer should be much calmer with the knowledge that our squad is nearly there – we won a trophy without Luis Suarez.
12 months ago, we also had immense (self-imposed) pressure to conduct a big deal in the transfer market from a financial perspective. New commercial deals about to kick-in, the stadium slowly becoming less of a financial constraint, the misguided thought that Financial Fair Play would come into effect, and Ivan’s cool musings on last summer’s eve about being able to pull off a major deal or two. Last summer surely was the summer of colossal anticipation: we were ravenous for a player like Suarez.
This summer feels vastly different. On player transfer dealings alone, we’ve made over £15 Million* pounds since the end of this past season. Add to that the new kit deal bringing in additional funds, the new Premier League TV deal kicking in, and a whole lot of dry powder from previous windows – we can buy who we want with few exceptions. If we want World Class, we can get it.
You can see it in the media where transfer “experts” are less quick to draw a link, always with the caveats of maybe and could. We’re not seeing the “5 World Class signings” tweets of a year ago. Indeed, apart from resources in Spain, the sauces seem to be only used in reference to outdoor barbecues with friends. The hunger has been lessened; we’ve learned a bit from last year; the desperation to sign World Class has diminished.
A funny thing happens when you aren’t desperate: you realize you don’t need to settle. Don’t get me wrong, footballistically no team on earth would be “settling” for Luis Suarez. But morally…I think many Gooners can appreciate that last summer we were prepared to overlook certain character flaws. This summer we don’t need to reconcile.
Perhaps most importantly to my commentary on signing Suarez and often the most overlooked in any moral discourse is the fact that we are fans of Arsenal Football Club. Here’s an experiment, next time you are with a group of fellow Gooners ask them to describe Arsenal in one word; one word. I’m certain you will hear the words “class,” “tradition,” and “history.”
We are a club that tries to do things the right way, from dying the flowers in the club boardroom to match the opposition kits on match day, to have the longest employed manager in the Premier League. It can be agonizing at times (see our staunch support of financial viability), but also a badge of pride. Who can recall our honourable offer to replay the FA Cup tie with Sheffield United in ’99 after we scored a dubious winner?
We have a strong and often stubborn sense of right and wrong at Arsenal. That’s our club’s morals – it’s what we stand for and it’s engrained in our identity.
That’s why we should all be leery when outside forces threaten our club’s tradition of class. We all should feel a duty to stand up for what is right at Arsenal Football Club. Sometimes that means voicing your opinion over rising ticket prices. Sometimes it means being suspicious of foreign shareholders with unclear motives – and sometimes it means saying no to World Class players that have a habit of tarnishing their club’s reputations.
In the same way there are certain managers I never want to see at our club, I don’t want Luis Suarez at Arsenal. That isn’t a statement on the player as much as a statement on the Arsenal and what our club represents. Sometimes the means do not justify the ends. We shouldn’t be clamouring to cross our moral boundaries to win – to commit wrong to attain on field success.
I say all of these things like we as fans have a choice to sign Luis Suarez. Of course none of us have any authority over transfers and I’m thankful for that (Joe Cole anyone), but it is our choice to back our club to do the right thing – and I think morally that is far more important than any misguided player at Arsenal.
The Other Geoff
*Estimated off the sale of rights to Vela and the small amount from the Cesc sell-on.
You can follow him on twitter : (@Hollefreund)