Arsenal Should Wait for Karim Benzema This Summer

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 30, 2014

SALVADOR, BRAZIL - JUNE 20: Karim Benzema of France looks on during the National Anthems prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Group E match between Switzerland and France at Arena Fonte Nova on June 20, 2014 in Salvador, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Karim Benzema is becoming a target Arsenal can't miss in this summer's transfer window. The French forward is a player Gunners boss Arsene Wenger should be prepared to play a waiting game for.

Wenger has long been enamoured with the Real Madrid attacker. But it's only recently that Benzema's obvious fit in this Arsenal squad has become clear.

His performances for France at the 2014 FIFA World Cup have proven that Benzema can effectively operate in the same forward line as current Gunners centre-forward Olivier Giroud.

Finding a complement, rather than a replacement, for the ex-Montpellier striker is foremost in Wenger's thoughts this summer. Back in early May, the Arsenal chief stressed how he is looking for a forward who can share the attacking burden, per Sky Sports: "There is perhaps room for an attacking player who can play in a different position to Giroud. Someone who can play with him as well."

Benzema fits the mold as that type of player. At international level, he has earned plenty of experience working alongside Giroud.

The dynamic usually involves the Arsenal man through the middle, while Benzema drifts to the left flank. A lot of movement and interchanging is encouraged in manager Didier Deschmaps' 4-3-3 set-up.

The effectiveness of this combination was devastatingly obvious in France's 5-2 demolition of Switzerland in Group E. That day, Benzema and Giroud both found the net and played the role of providers, with the former setting up two goals, while Giroud assisted one.

The two overlapped and rotated positions all game, causing the Swiss myriad problems. They gave France power, pace and efficiency up front, particularly on the counter.

Producing those qualities on the break is something Arsenal have struggled to do with any real consistency for the last three seasons. But it was once a hallmark of Wenger's best teams.

By acquiring Benzema, Wenger can recreate his once-magic formula, while giving his team more options and fluidity in attack. Benzema's penchant for roaming wide, especially to the left, will suit Wenger, who has never demanded that his strikers stay static.

He redefined Thierry Henry's game by letting the loping sprinter constantly drift to the left. Wenger is also encouraging Giroud to become more varied and creative with his movement, per L'Equipe (h/t

Benzema's presence can ensure a more fluid Giroud, judging by how the pair have combined for their nation. It should also bring out the best in Arsenal's supporting attackers.

France have been at their best whenever Benzema and Giroud have joined pint-sized winger Mathieu Valbuena in a front three. Wenger could recreate that dynamic by utilizing Theo Walcott in a similar way, or perhaps that role could belong to mooted target Alexis Sanchez.

The Chile international will be the subject of a major Arsenal bid, according to reporter Wayne Veysey. He would offer the subtle movement and direct pace to complement Giroud's strength and Benzema's technical guile.

With Walcott, Costa Rica ace Joel Campbell and youngsters Serge Gnabry and Yaya Sanogo in reserve, Wenger would suddenly possess a plethora of attacking options he could deploy in a variety of combinations.

Playing with another natural striker would also encourage greater movement and rotation in midfield. Giroud and Benzema could take turns dropping off to help form a five-man midfield. Alternatively, the third member of Arsenal's attacking trio could drop a little deeper to give the team a 4-4-2 shape.

Of course, all of this depends on prying Benzema away from Real Madrid, the 10-time European Cup winners. Benzema has his supporters within Los Blancos, notably club legend Zinedine Zidane.

However, a move away from La Liga is not totally out of the question this summer. For one thing, Benzema is struggling to agree to fresh terms, per EL Confidencial writer Jose Felix Diaz (h/t Daily Express reporter Jamie Anderson).

There's also the small matter of Madrid's annual recruitment drive for the world's best talent. It's a process that usually involves targeting a big-money, marketable attacker. This summer, it could be Colombian striker Radamel Falcao, according to Spanish publication AS:

A move for Falcao would have a major impact on Benzema's future. The 26-year-old is approaching his peak, and he won't want to become a squad player for Carlo Ancelotti's star-studded team.

That would create an opportunity for Arsenal to pounce. It's a chance Wenger could be ready to wait for this summer, according to Jeremy Wilson of The Telegraph:

Playing the waiting game is a risky balancing act. Wenger has to juggle the squad's immediate and most pressing needs against the demands and anxieties of supporters desperate for bold action.

It's a mix he managed with some difficulty last summer. Wenger was subjected to a torrent of abuse when he had not recruited any star power before the season's opening game. But the scorn from the fans was soon quelled by the arrival of Mesut Ozil.

As Wilson notes, Wenger faces a dilemma over whether to chance the same risky strategy again:

But it's a risk worth taking if landing a talented forward like Benzema is the ultimate prize for patience. Wenger would get a natural flair player, one perfectly suited to his fluid style of play, as well as prolific at the game's highest levels.

If Arsenal are truly committed to getting better up front this season, Wenger must make a major investment to redesign his attack. Adding Benzema is an excellent option.


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