Arsenal Transfer News: Lars Bender a Much Better Option Than Ilkay Gundogan

Tom SunderlandFeatured ColumnistMarch 25, 2014

Leverkusen's  Lars Bender, left, challenges for the ball with  Freiburg's Vladimir Darida. during the German Bundesliga soccer match between SC Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen in Freiburg, Germany, Saturday Jan. 25, 2014.  (AP Photo/dpa,Uwe Anspach)
Uwe Anspach/Associated Press

A year on from the site of their failed bid, Arsenal will once again look to lure Lars Bender from Leverkusen this summer, according to the Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel.

An offer of "around £19 million" wasn't sufficient to bring in the anchoring midfielder back then, but Arsene Wenger is hoping a renewed bid will be more fruitful, with Borussia Dortmund's Ilkay Gundogan standing as a more expensive alternative.

Mokbel reports:

Arsenal have upgraded their scouting network in Germany over the last 18 months, with chief scout Steve Rowley having watched a large number of Bundesliga fixtures last season.

Bender, whose twin brother Sven plays for Borussia Dortmund, has caught the eye and is seen as a long-term replacement for Mikel Arteta.

In fact, the elder Bender brother would be more than a mere replacement for the ageing Spaniard. He'd be an outright upgrade, and one that's seven years younger too.

In an age in which the specialist player has been laid to waste somewhat by the legions of versatile and malleable ranks of today, Bender stays true to more old-fashioned ideals, and it works to his advantage.

Though both Bender and Gundogan would be labelled as central midfielders, the two German internationals differ largely in their responsibilities. 

This season has seen Bender fielded out on the right side of midfield, largely due to the burgeoning central ranks Leverkusen boss Sami Hyypia now possesses. However, if Bender were to come to the Emirates Stadium, it would almost certainly be with the aim of seeing him revert to a more central hub.

German football writer Clark Whitney hails the player's progress at Leverkusen but outlines the risk the club face should they decide to cash in:

Gundogan, though fully capable in the tackle and of disrupting opposition movements, still holds some core values in attack and cannot be pigeonholed as a midfield destroyer. Bender, on the other hand, is completely focused on his duties as a defensive midfield outlet.

In some pockets of Europe, such stiffness is seen as weakness, but it's a specific set of skills that Arsenal need at present. In Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey, the club already has players capable of mixing their responsibilities across several areas of the pitch, but there is most certainly room for an achor.

Unfortunately, Gundogan is yet to play this season, as he's been held back by injuries—which is another reason the Gunners would be wary of signing the Westfalenstadion figure.

However, in the 2012-13 campaign, as Squawka shows, he attempted 120 tackles, 83 dribbles and had 36 shots at goal in 28 league appearances.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 25:  Ilkay Gundogan of Borussia Dortmund controls the ball during the UEFA Champions League final match between Borussia Dortmund and FC Bayern Muenchen at Wembley Stadium on May 25, 2013 in London, United Kingdom.  (Photo by Alex Gr
Alex Grimm/Getty Images

In contrast, Bender has already attempted 144 tackles and 46 dribbles but has just 15 shots at goal in 21 Bundesliga appearances, per Squawka.

Bayer Leverkusen may have been ejected from this season's Champions League at the hands of a 6-1 Paris Saint-Germain thrashing, but shows that Bender was at least one of the club's more impressive players:

Wenger has a thriving raft of creative outlets, and among all the guile and beauty of those stacked reserves, Bender is the less attractive brand of brute that's currently needed, an emerging master of his particular trade.

That isn't to say Leverkusen's general isn't capable of showing glimpses of subtlety, having scored two goals and made 11 scoring chances this term, but an unselfish strain in his DNA would do wonders for Arsenal's genetic makeup.