With Liverpool traveling to face Arsenal on Saturday, and with Arsenal having launched a £40M plus a pound bid for Luis Suarez over the summer, and with Suarez having in recent weeks reminded everyone that he's in the conversation for best striker in the world, it was probably inevitable Brendan Rodgers would once again find himself faced with a slew of Suarez-related questions when he sat down for his pre-match press conference on Thursday.
"It was something that was never going to happen," insisted Liverpool's manager when he was asked to dive back into a conversation that most on all sides—Liverpool's, Arsenal's, and Suarez'—would probably rather put behind them. "I respect why Arsenal wanted to buy a player of Luis’ quality, because he’s one of the leading strikers in the world, but for us, and the institution we are, we certainly weren’t going to sell to a rival or a competitor. That’s something we felt very strongly about."
That strong stance taken by Liverpool's owners in support of Rodgers appears to have paid off, and since returning from his ban for biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic, Suarez has found the goal six times in just four league matches. He has also continued to show an ability to link well with Daniel Sturridge, putting doubts about the compatibility of the two attackers—both at times accused of having tunnel vision in and around the box—to rest and giving Liverpool arguably the best striker pairing in England.
"It’s a great credit to the owners and the leadership of the club that they stood by what my thoughts were as a manager and they backed it all the way," added Rodgers, touching on the almost surprising nature of Fenway Sports Group's backing in the face of what seemed overwhelming pressure to sell. In a sport where the player usually has all the power, that Liverpool stood firm and refused to sell to a rival—unlike when Arsenal acquiesced to star striker Robin van Persie's demand he be sold to top four rival Manchester United—seemed to fly in the face of accepted norms.
In the end, though, and even though they failed to land Suarez, Arsenal managed to strengthen considerably over the summer, making the Premier League's flashiest move by signing Mesut Ozil away from the Bernabeu and solidifying things behind him with the shrewd recapturing of Mathieu Flamini. The veteran Flamini will miss Saturday's match with a groin injury, and Arsenal's defence will be weaker for the midfielder's absence, but Rodgers knows league-leading Arsenal will still pose a massive threat when they attack.
"It’s two very good teams," he said. "Arsenal are an excellent side and score goals. They’ve got some top players. But we arrive at the game confident and with belief off the back of an outstanding performance. The players forgot about [the win over West Brom] very quickly and thoughts turned to this game. The quality of our training this week has been outstanding and we will look to take it into the game, but it will be very difficult."
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