Arsenal fans are hopeful for a third major signing in as many weeks, with multiple media outlets including The Mirror reporting the Gunners have opened talks with Real Madrid’s German midfielder Sami Khedira over a potential £25 million move to the Emirates Stadium.
A German regular for more than 10 years in both age-group and senior international football, Khedira’s powerhouse displays alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger in midfield provided the foundation for Die Nationalmannschaft as they won Germany’s first World Cup since 1990.
With Real Madrid already possessing a midfield of the ageless Xabi Alonso, £35 million Luka Modric and Toni Kroos, Khedira’s first-team opportunities will be limited next season, and with less than a year remaining on his current deal los Blancos would be wise to cash in on the German’s soaring stock.
Although Khedira would come at a steep price—particularly considering his contract—the former Stuttgart player offers much-needed size and strength to a skilled but lightweight Arsenal midfield.
Khedira possesses tremendous stamina and is hugely experienced on the big stage, having played in and won the Champions League final with Real Madrid—starting the game despite having spent five months sidelined with a torn ACL—and playing a key role in Germany’s road to the World Cup before being cruelly ruled out of the final due to a calf injury sustained during the warm-up.
Despite Khedira’s reputation and undoubted quality, some Arsenal fans are dubious as to whether his perceived role is a priority for the Gunners to fill. Following Aaron Ramsey’s breakout season and Jack Wilshere finally suggesting his injury worries are behind him, the more advanced central midfield role appears well stocked at Ashburton Grove, with the holding midfield position requiring more attention.
And make no mistake: Khedira is not a holding midfielder; neither Real Madrid nor Germany utilizes him in that position. So, what does Khedira do?
Statistically Khedira is underwhelming but well-balanced. In 2012-13 (his last relatively injury-free season) he completed 81 percent of his passes, won 48 percent of his duels, took one shot and created one chance per game, while committing no defensive errors in 25 league games, per Squawka. However, arguably his most important quality is less tangible: What Khedira does best is allow those around him to flourish.
In Schweinsteiger and Alonso, Khedira at both club and international level plays alongside dynamic, pace-setting midfielders who are the unquestioned main men of their midfields. His role is not to shine, but to be judicious and composed: To be where he needs to be, when he needs to be there, to do what the team needs him to do. His egalitarian game meshes well with his powerful physique, and with the all-action Aaron Ramsey alongside him, Khedira’s addition could be a master stroke; not the layer of gold paint some fans seem to want but certainly a tune-up for the engine.
The only stumbling block could be the wages Khedira is demanding, which, as per James Orr of The Independent, would be around £150,000—a higher wage than his great friend and German team-mate Mesut Ozil, which could lead to discontent in the dressing room. Additionally Khedira’s agent has claimed not to have opened talks with any clubs, having told Matt Law of The Telegraph:
“We are not in talks with Arsenal. I don’t think a fee can have been agreed, otherwise I would have been told. … When a club have an interest (sic) I am sure they will call me and we will speak about things. The same goes for Chelsea”.
However, these remarks must be taken with a pinch of salt: It seems likely that Madrid will sell a midfielder to balance Kroos’ arrival and Khedira is certainly the most expendable of the Galactico midfield.
When pressed on Khedira’s potential transfer at a recent press conference, Wenger’s response was typically coy: “Look, I can’t give you any names.”
Playing Arsene Wenger transfer bingo is a futile exercise at the best of times, but the possible holistic value of this transfer should not be underestimated.
Khedira doesn’t add anything spectacular: He won’t score many goals, won’t provide many assists and he won’t win many games by himself. But Khedira is a worker, a team player.
He’s been a mainstay in the biggest club in the world for the past four years. He’s the guy who carries the load for miles and miles without complaining or tiring or whinging that he doesn’t get enough of the spotlight. He is an absolute team player. And, honestly, that could be exactly what Arsenal need.