Arsenal Should Target Spanish Midfielder During the Summer Transfer Window

Rohan SubraSenior Analyst IJuly 3, 2014

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - JUNE 17:  Javi Martinez of Spain heads the ball during a Spain training session ahead of their 2014 FIFA World Cup Group B match against Chile at Maracana on June 17, 2014 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

It is certainly impossible to say whether Arsenal could have won the 2013-14 Premier League with a solid defensive midfielder. Despite the effectiveness of the partnership of Laurent Koscielny and Per Mertesacker, the Gunners could have used a proper holding midfielder in front of the back four, especially against bigger teams like Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea.

None of the current midfielders serve as a solid anchor: Mikel Arteta isn't enough to hold the midfield, Mathieu Flamini was exposed against bigger teams, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere go too far forward to be considered defensive and relying on Abou Diaby's fitness is evidently a major risk.

This summer, Arsene Wenger will undoubtedly be looking at a lot of defensive midfielders, like Sami Khedira, Morgan Schneiderlin and Arturo Vidal. However, the best option for a holding midfielder lies in Bayern Munich's Javi Martinez.

After making a name for himself at Athletic Bilbao, where he was the La Liga Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2010, he moved to Bayern Munich in 2012 for a Bundesliga record of €40 million.

When Pep Guardiola arrived as manager of the German giants, Bayern implemented a system with quicker passing, something along the lines of Barcelona's brand of tiki-taka. Martinez fit very well into this system and played both holding midfield and center back.

Bayern's failure to meet their own high standards in this year's Champions League knockout stages (a 5-0 aggregate loss to Real Madrid in the semi-finals) begs some questions about the current system. Martinez is often not the top-choice player when everyone is healthy, and the team's possible move away from tiki-taka could further prioritize other players over the Spaniard. 

Bayern Munich are no longer European champions and Spain no longer world champions, and consequently, certain players' price tags may go down, Martinez included. This could be one pro in targeting Martinez for Arsene Wenger: the 25-year-old undoubtedly has a great deal of football ahead of him, and after the World Cup may be a great time to buy.

As mentioned above, Martinez fit well into Guardiola's patient, quick-passing offense, and that happens to be very similar to the type of football that Wenger so famously aims to play. 

According to WhoScored's Bundesliga statistics, Martinez ranked in the top 10 for both pass-success rate and passes per game in the past season. If he signs at the Emirates, he should have no problem fitting into the system.

Martinez's ability to play at holding midfielder and center back is a huge plus. Over his two seasons at Bayern, he has been deployed in both roles by Jupp Heynckes and Guardiola, and seems to play both effectively. In fact, he also started at center back in Spain's World Cup encounter with Chile, in which the whole back line was not so impressive.

With Vermaelen rumored to be heading to Manchester United, Martinez may be a great replacement for the out-of-favor Belgian come mid-August. That said, he will evidently not be interfering with the current center-back partnership. Wenger will most likely look to him as a starter in the midfield and a solid backup in the center-back role.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15:  Mohamed Diame of West Ham United is evades Mikel Arteta of Arsenal (R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on April 15, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilh
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

Martinez's strength and physicality are greatly needed in the Arsenal midfield. Although Arteta made an impressive 3.4 tackles per game (WhoScored Premier League statistics), he isn't as big or intimidating as Martinez. At 6'3" (1.90 m), the Bayern man provides an aerial threat, which will be much appreciated in the Arsenal midfield.

He may not be the fastest player, but he is intelligent, physical and transitions nicely from defense to offense and vice versa. A piece on him in A Football Report described the Spaniard as "embodying the vision from Carrick, the defensive efficiency of Matthaus and presence like Yaya’s."

A couple of months ago, Martinez said he was "satisfied" in Munich, per ESPN FC, but it is not unthinkable that Wenger and the negotiating staff can lure the Spaniard away from Bavaria and toward North London.

All in all, Martinez's physicality, ability to play in different positions, compatibility with the Arsenal system and potentially lower price tag make him an ideal target this summer. He would be a valuable asset in a potential title challenge by the Gunners, especially against bigger teams against whom he would be more adept than many current Arsenal players.