Arsenal Transfer News: Sami Khedira and Lars Bender Back-Up Option Revealed

Nick Akerman@NakermanFeatured ColumnistJuly 24, 2014

LISBON, PORTUGAL - MAY 23: Sami Khedira of Real Madrid on the ball during a Real Madrid training session ahead of the UEFA Champions League Final against Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz on May 23, 2014 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

Arsene Wenger is ready to ditch his attempts to land Sami Khedira and Lars Bender in favour of pushing Jack Wilshere into a deeper holding role.

John Cross of the Daily Mirror, a renowned follower of the Gunners, believes Wenger is content with freshening up the English midfielder's role instead of adding to the squad's stacked midfield numbers:

The Gunners' boss believes ‎Wilshere has got huge potential to play the midfield anchorman role. Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini filled the role last season and Wenger has been eyeing Sami Khedira of Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender.

But unless a remarkable deal crops up, Wenger is now unlikely to sign another midfielder as he believes they have enough already - with Wilshere the choice to be groomed in a deeper-lying role.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 17:  George Boyd of Hull City is tackled by Jack Wilshere of Arsenal  the FA Cup with Budweiser Final match between Arsenal and Hull City at Wembley Stadium on May 17, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

While Arsenal's midfield is plentiful, the club doesn't possess a world-class defensive midfielder who can be relied on across an entire season. Mikel Arteta doesn't have the physicality or aggression to be considered a natural, while Mathieu Flamini isn't imposing enough to offer the same kind of presence as players like Yaya Toure and Nemanja Matic.

Abou Diaby comes closest to this kind of driving power at the Emirates, but his fitness remains unreliable. Simon Knights of talkSPORT previously detailed Diaby's list of at least 36 injuries—from niggling problems to serious occurrences—ensuring Wenger can never truly rely on the 28-year-old who should be in peak form right now.

Wilshere has the technical efficiency to pull the strings in a deep-lying role, but he doesn't have the overpowering nature to impose himself in a more defensive outlook. The English midfielder is best when he can receive the ball in space, look up and distribute before supporting a fast-break attack, as we saw with his stunning team goal against Norwich last season.

NORWICH, ENGLAND - MAY 11:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal battles with Bradley Johnson of Norwich City during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Arsenal at Carrow Road on May 11, 2014 in Norwich, England.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

The 22-year-old is not someone who regularly breaks up play. He averaged just 1.3 tackles and 0.4 interceptions per match during the 2013-14 Premier League campaign but did distribute the ball well with a pass success rate of 86.1 percent, per He posted four assists, the fifth-highest number at the club, and is naturally wired toward being creative behind the striker over shielding a defence.

Khedira highlighted the multi-faceted attributes needed for defensive midfielders to strive at the World Cup. He was let off the leash during Germany's 7-1 win over Brazil and had the confidence to regain possession before striding toward the opponent's area. This provided the tournament winners with a serious attacking overload in their favour, but vitally, Khedira was able to switch into a more conservative mindset when needed. 

Lukas Podolski was impressed with his international teammate and urged him to join Arsenal, which was reported by Chisanga Malata of the Daily Star:

I didn't have to [try to convince Khedira to join Arsenal]. Sami knows how much fun he could have with me, Mesut [Ozil] and Per [Mertesacker] at Arsenal. We had a great time together at the World Cup and I would like it very much if he comes to London.

The qualities that Khedira (and indeed Bender) could bring would finally add a legitimate sense of balance to the north London side's midfield. Possessing a plethora of ball-players is fine, but extra bulk is needed to counteract creative stars such as Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alexis Sanchez next season. Right now, it seems Wilshere's best qualities will be shackled by staying further back.

When Paul Scholes suggested as a TV pundit on Sky Sports that Wilshere "doesn't look any better player now than he did when he was 17," as noted by Kevin Palmer of ESPN FC, this is not the type of direction he had in mind for the player's improvement.

Scholes knew better than anyone how to excel without making consistently successful tackles, instead offering an exquisite passing range and creativity across an era of success for Manchester United. Wilshere is supposed to do the same at Arsenal.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 04:  Jack Wilshere of Arsenal is pursued by Christian Eriksen and Roberto Soldado of  Spurs during the Budweiser FA Cup third round match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur at Emirates Stadium on January 4, 2014 in London, Eng
Clive Rose/Getty Images

Many supporters will certainly be concerned over Cross' report, especially as Wenger previously overlooked the need for a long-term holding type by signing Kim Kallstrom on loan. Arsenal's lack of suitable midfielders is a glaring weakness and won't be filled by anyone currently at the club. The fans know it, Podolski knows it, and Wenger should know it deep down as well.

Both Khedira and Bender can bring real quality and are unlikely to be available for long. Much like Wenger's inability to sign a sufficient alternative to Olivier Giroud last season, Arsenal's campaign could hinge on whether he decides to bring in a defensive specialist at midfielder or remain negligent.