Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger produced a transfer coup when he landed forward Alexis Sanchez, per Arsenal.com. However, the Gunners boss has now turned his attention to bolstering Arsenal's midfield by targeting moves for German duo Sami Khedira and Lars Bender.
Arsene Wenger is preparing to follow up the signing of Alexis Sanchez with a new holding midfielder and has made enquiries over this past week on Germany internationals Sami Khedira and Lars Bender.
Khedira has been one of the best midfielders at the World Cup and, although he has only got one year left on his contract at Real Madrid, the Champions League winners would still demand in excess of £20 million.
After having a £19 million bid rejected last summer, Wenger is also still a big admirer of Bender, who is younger and likely to be cheaper than Khedira. Bender was in Joachim Low’s provisional 30-man Germany World Cup squad but was forced to withdraw following a thigh injury.
Obviously, the fees being discussed are unlikely to deter Wenger. The once notoriously frugal manager has recently established his place among the game's big spenders. Mega-bucks deals for Mesut Ozil and Sanchez in consecutive summers have ensured that.
However, one thing that could sway Wenger's decision is his own definition of Khedira's best playing style. Wilson's point about Wenger wanting a "holding midfielder" doesn't directly apply to Khedira.
The Germany international is more of a true box-to-box workhorse. In fact, Khedira is at his best when breaking forward from deep to supplement attacks.
He was deadly in that role during Germany's epic 7-1 2014 FIFA World Cup thrashing of host nation Brazil. Khedira scored and was a consistent menace, particularly in the first half.
His energy and physicality would be invaluable for an Arsenal team that was outrun and outfought in the biggest games last season. That was most evident at Anfield and Stamford Bridge, when Wenger's men were swept aside by Liverpool and Chelsea, respectively, surrendering 11 goals in the process.
Khedira would provide Arsenal with more drive at both ends of the pitch. He would track back to corral counter-attacking runners, as much as he would break forward to support Sanchez and company.
The only Arsenal midfielder who can match Khedira's box-to-box qualities is Welsh star Aaron Ramsey. When he was injured for close to four months last season, the Gunners lacked structure and fluency in the middle.
Signing Khedira would ensure this season's Arsenal have fluidity in midfield and the ability to play Wenger's dynamic, quick-breaking brand of football.
But Wenger must be wary of mooted Chelsea interest in Khedira, per Daily Mirror reporters John Cross and Darren Lewis. Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho worked with Khedira at Real Madrid and retains a fondness for the active powerhouse.
Given Khedira's form at the World Cup, along with his ready availability, Wenger won't want to let a direct rival have an easy path to such a talented player.
If nothing else, Mourinho's interest could spark a more decisive move from Arsenal for Khedira, provided Wenger believes his midfield needs more of Khedira's particular skills.
However, as good as he is, Khedira is no classic extra buffer for a back four. That could make Bender the more appealing target:
However, Wenger is right to revisit the idea of bringing Bender to north London. He is a combative midfielder who is most comfortable operating in deeper areas.
Former Bayer 04 Leverkusen boss Sami Hyypia attempted to push Bender further forward last season. The results were far from positive.
However, Bender's excellent positional sense and appetite for the physical aspects of the game would make him a tremendous asset for Arsenal in a more defensive role.
Wenger's current squad is populated by forward-thinking playmakers such as Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla. These mercurial schemers flourish when they know the areas behind them are fully secured.
Bender would provide the platform for Arsenal's attacking midfielders to concentrate on troubling defences.
But Wenger may find it as difficult as last summer to pry Bender away from the Bundesliga. Leverkusen sporting director Rudi Voller has stated his club has no intention to sell, per German publication Kolner Stadt-Anzeiger (h/t InsideFutbol.com).
However, Wenger has the financial resources to break Voller's stubborn resistance if he believes Bender is his best target. That belief will ultimately be founded on what Wenger thinks his midfield needs the most.
He can opt for an energetic runner in Khedira, who would be an ideal complement and cover for Ramsey. Or he can choose the destructive instincts of Bender, who would surely add genuine defensive resolve to an often soft middle.
Getting that choice right will be the key to Arsenal's summer transfer business.
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