Arsenal Transfer News: Lars Bender Deals Major Blow to Arsene Wenger

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistMay 6, 2014

Leverkusen's Lars Bender celebrates his side's opening goal during a German Bundesliga soccer match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund in Leverkusen, Germany, Saturday, April 26, 2014. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)
Michael Probst/Associated Press

Lars Bender has indicated he wishes to remain at Bayer Leverkusen in order to become a better player, dismissing talk of a summer switch to Arsenal in honest fashion.

The 25-year-old defensive midfielder, who extended his contract in October, is content at the BayArena. As reported by German outlet Bild (via Stephan Uersfeld of ESPN FC), he doesn't feel now is the right time to secure a transfer to one of football's "huge" teams:

I've only just prolonged my contract until 2019. I am happy here at Leverkusen and feel great. I don't need to change that right away. Moreover, my season wasn't that brilliant, so I don't feel I need to make the move to a huge club now.

The English press has been awash with reports suggesting Arsene Wenger would move for the combative midfielder. Paul Gorst of The Mirror indicated the Gunners boss outlined Bender as a target after missing out on him last year, while Sami Mokbel of the Mail Online believes he is Wenger's "first-choice" signing as we head toward the summer.

It seems Arsenal will have to look elsewhere. Bender's comments indicate he feels a sense of unfinished business in Leverkusen after the German club's midseason meltdown saw manager Sami Hyypia receive the boot.

Leverkusen won just three of 17 matches in all competitions between Dec. 15 and April 4, the last defeat of this horrific run coming against relegation-threatened Hamburg. Hyypia was pushed through the exit after this fixture, and since then, Sascha Lewandowski has claimed three victories and a draw to provide Leverkusen with hope of making next season's Champions League.

HULL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on April 20, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Bender and his teammates need three points at home to Wolfsburg on the final day of the season to confirm their passage into Europe's elite tournament. If Leverkusen miss out, it will be extremely interesting to witness if the player's attitude toward staying changes.

The German international is an honest professional, someone who works hard to stamp his authority in games and can be trusted with responsibility. Bender has played 34 times across the Bundesliga and Champions League this season, scoring three and assisting one.

His best work comes in the centre of the pitch, where he averages 3.9 tackles per match. This dogged work is reinforced by 1.5 interceptions, 1.5 clearances and 2.5 aerial duels won each game. Although Bender's pass success rate of 78.2 percent suggests his distribution must improve if he switches to Arsenal, he is more than capable of providing Wenger's midfield with much-needed bite.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 29: Mathieu Flamini of Arsenal holds off Fernandinho of Manchester City  during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Manchester City at Emirates Stadium on March 29, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botter
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Gorst outlines Bender as "a step up" from Mathieu Flamini, who currently patrols Arsenal's defensive midfield areas. He suggests Bender's relentless energy would produce "the perfect base" for individuals such as Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla to enjoy freedom in attacking positions.

Should Arsenal ignore Bender's comments and launch a bid for his services, the aforementioned report states Leverkusen will be looking for around £20 million.

Wenger's midfield has often favoured beautiful style over grit. Although Flamini has performed well throughout the season and Mikel Arteta provides a strong barrier when in form, the north London club lack a player whose natural game combines mobility, tackling and the ability to break up play before moving forward.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Bender is more than capable of adding steel to an otherwise lightweight centre, without compromising the way Arsenal play in the final third. Wenger's team currently lacks a sense of intimidation in the middle and needs an additional enforcer to aid Arsenal's quest for trophies.

It seems Bender isn't destined to be that man. The Leverkusen star's loyalty may prevail over a hefty transfer fee and increased pay packet, as Bender indicates he wishes to continue his Bundesliga adventure.

Should Wenger deem the player a necessary purchase, he would be wise to act before the World Cup, which could force a number of other clubs into expressing their interest for Bender's services. 


Stats via WhoScored unless otherwise noted.