After Alexis Sanchez Signing, Arsenal Must Target Lars Bender for Next Transfer

James McNicholas@@jamesmcnicholasFeatured ColumnistJuly 11, 2014

Having secured the transfer of Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona, it must be tempting for Arsenal’s negotiating team to rest on their considerable laurels.

In signing the Chilean, they have brought another marquee talent to the club. A year after snatching Real Madrid’s No. 10, they have taken Barcelona’s No. 9. After so much talk about a shift in policy at the Emirates Stadium, the club has finally begun to deliver.

However, their work is far from done. Superb though Sanchez is, he alone cannot transform this squad into title-winners. More recruits are needed if Arsenal are to build a squad capable of dominating the 2014-15 season.

The first of those seems to be on the way. According to the BBC, France international full-back Mathieu Debuchy is on the verge of completing a move from Newcastle United. Debuchy is a solid if unspectacular signing who will plug the void left by Bacary Sagna’s departure.

There are other gaps that require filling. With a forward and full-back under their belt, Arsenal must turn their attention toward holding midfield. As Arsenal flood their squad with attacking talent, that pivotal defensive-midfield position becomes all the more important.

Arsenal need someone who can allow Sanchez to be relatively free of defensive duty. They need someone who can cover for Debuchy’s overlapping runs.

At present, Arsene Wenger’s options at the base of the midfield are Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta. Neither convinces as the long-term solution. After a bright start last season, Flamini faded from contention in the spring. Arteta showed greater consistency, but he is the elder of the two players and is seemingly on the wane.

With Aaron Ramsey’s place at the heart of Arsenal’s midfield surely secure, the Gunners need to add someone who can provide him with a long-term foil. At the moment, most of the speculation surrounds two German internationals: Ben Burrows of The Mirror has linked Arsenal with a move for Sami Khedira, while The Telegraph's Jeremy Wilson speculates they will return with a new bid for Lars Bender.

Khedira has enjoyed an excellent World Cup, but he is not necessarily the midfielder Arsenal want. For Germany, he is often deployed as the most advanced of the midfield three, breaking into the box to join up with Thomas Mueller and company.

In Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Abou Diaby, Arsenal already have an abundance of players with that box-to-box style.

Arsenal require a sitter, and Bender seems a far better fit. His style of play is more economical than Khedira’s and thus more comparable with Arteta’s.

He’s an intelligent passer, but above all else he’s an intelligent mover. He shuttles across the pitch, putting out fires and protecting his back four.

The primary difference between Arteta and Bender is the latter’s physical power: He has the upper-body strength required to go toe-to-toe with the Premier League’s toughest combatants.

Bender would not come cheap. However, the Sanchez deal demonstrates Arsenal’s newfound willingness to go the extra mile to get deals over the line. 

Arsenal must push on.

At the official launch of Arsenal’s new kit on Thursday night, chief executive Ivan Gazidis made a brief appearance and was cornered by fan-run YouTube channel ArsenalFan TV. Gazidis insisted that while he was satisfied with the addition of Sanchez, there is still much work to do.

He’s right. The Sanchez deal has whet the appetite of the Arsenal fans, not sated it. They await their club’s next move with bated breath.


James McNicholas is Bleacher Report's lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.


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