How Sami Khedira Would Fit into Arsenal's Starting Lineup

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How Sami Khedira Would Fit into Arsenal's Starting Lineup
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If the many rumors sailing around the Internet are at all true, Arsenal are interested in signing Sami Khedira.

The World Cup-winning holding midfielder will only be able to sign for the Gunners if he is willing to take a moderate pay cut from the massive wage he is no doubt earning at Real Madrid. Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror recently reported that Arsenal are about to end their pursuit of Khedira over this very sticking point.

Regardless of whether or not Arsenal sign Khedira, they need someone who can sit at the base of the midfield and perform the dual duty of shielding the defense and distributing the ball.

Essentially, there needs to be one player who can combine the talents of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini. The former is excellent at keeping the ball moving and retaining possession, while the latter is a powerful defensive bull who will put his entire body on the line for the team.

Both are valuable, but putting both in the starting XI makes the team unnecessarily defensive and prevents one of the club's other star midfielders from terrorizing the opponent, as they should.

Because Khedira has received a disproportionate amount of press attention this summer, let's focus on what exactly he would bring to the team and where he would fit into the starting lineup.

First, it is important to note that the German is not the prototypical defensive midfielder that many Arsenal fans are or were hoping for. He is not as powerful in the tackle as Javi Martinez or even Morgan Schneiderlin.

As this highlight video shows, Khedira is more inclined to venture forward and assume the jobs of the central midfielders and even the forwards. While he does not lack positional discipline, he is a true box-to-box midfielder.

This is both good and bad for Arsenal as their team is currently set up. Khedira's versatility is obviously a net positive, but the risk is that he, like Alex Song before him, will get too distracted by the attacking side of the game and forget his main role.

However, Khedira is miles better than Song, and that will likely not be a problem with Arsene Wenger's guidance. It should be noted, though, that he will still probably need some defensive help and cover from the rest of the midfield.

So in that sense, he is not exactly the perfect fit. But he is good enough to fill the holding role all by himself.

Due to numerical limitations, Khedira would probably have to take Arteta's role, leaving the Spaniard on the bench a significant amount of the time. He could play alongside Khedira during games when it is crucial for Arsenal to retain possession and give extra protection to the defense, but playing both at the same time routinely is redundant.

Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Arsenal typically play with three men in midfield: a holder/defensive midfielder, a central do-it-all pivot man and an attacking midfielder. Last season, those positions were filled by Arteta, Aaron Ramsey and Mesut Ozil, respectively.

If Arteta and Khedira play alongside each other, Wenger will be forced to sacrifice Ramsey, or whomever is starting in the center, thereby making the team considerably less threatening and dynamic.

Khedira's main strength is his technical ability on the ball. While he is perhaps not quite as good at playing the metronome as the talismanic Arteta, he is good enough with the ball at his feet to put the ball where it needs to go and get forward when needed, just like the Spaniard.

The Gunners would be paying millions of pounds in his transfer fee and wages for the ability to impose himself on opposing forwards and be strong in the tackle.

That dual skill set is extremely valuable in modern football, as Arsenal realized last season when it became apparent that Arteta was beginning to slow down and could no longer effectively force himself into the more defensive role that Wenger had forced him to adopt.

The elder head would be able to assume more of an off-pitch leadership role and still receive plenty of minutes through normal rotation, injuries and cup games.

Arteta is not solely a cup-playing utility man yet, but he and Khedira are both versatile enough that each can occupy a couple different roles if the seemingly perennial injury crisis hits Arsenal's midfield again. That alone might justify Khedira's fee.

 

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