It's abundantly clear that Arsenal need a defensive midfielder. What's not abundantly clear is whether or not Sami Khedira is the man to fill that void.
As most Gooners are aware, Marca's Pablo Polo reported earlier in July that Arsenal had a roughly €25 million deal in place with Real Madrid to purchase Khedira, but the only problem was his demand of €7 million a year after tax.
With Real Madrid's massive deal for James Rodriguez sealed, the German international could be caught in the crossfire, much as Mesut Ozil was last year after Gareth Bale's arrival at the Santiago Bernabeu. Kevin Palmer of ESPN and the Sunday World reported that Arsenal's potential move could be nearing completion:
Lukas Podolski is doing his best to get his fellow national team member on board at the Emirates Stadium, per Sport Bild (via Goal's Stephen Darwin):
"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."
Khedira should be available. Madrid don't have a limitless bucket of cash, so budget cuts will have to be made. In the event that his wage demands come down to a more reasonable figure, though, you have to wonder if he's the player that Arsenal truly need.
The most immediate concern is that the 27-year-old is less a defensive midfielder and more of the box-to-box variety.
Whether it was for the national team or his club side, Khedira has had the luxury of a midfielder sitting deeper and shielding the back four. At Real Madrid, that player has been Xabi Alonso, with Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger occupying the role for Germany.
Those are three world-class midfielders. They could make anybody look miles better by association—not to say that Khedira's not a talented player. But Khedira could move up in the attack knowing full well that somebody was behind him to prevent the opposition from breaking quickly on the counter-attack.
Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini are good, but they're not at the level of Alonso, Schweinsteiger or Lahm. They don't offer that same level of security. As a result, the Gunners' midfield could end up leaving gaps in the pitch that opposing teams exploit.
The most likely scenario is that Arsene Wenger would expect Khedira to take over in place of Arteta and Flamini rather than play ahead of them. Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere would be the central midfielders, with Ozil sitting closer in the attack. The Arsenal midfield is crowded enough as it is.
The conundrum for Wenger is that playing Khedira at CDM could leave the midfield exposed, while he'd be foolish to deploy the Real Madrid star as a box-to-box midfielder. Ramsey thrived in that role last season. The presence of he and Khedira together in the same position could throw off what was one of Arsenal's most positive developments from the 2013/14 campaign.
Daniel Anwar examined the problem on Squawka and reached this conclusion:
It appears that Khedira’s arrival would compromise Ramsey’s role though. Ramsey was the best player in England during the first few months of last season, and while he can help out defensively, he is clearly an attacking midfielder.
Unless Khedira drastically changes his game, Ramsey would have to focus much more on his defensive positioning. A key feature of Arsenal’s game last season was Mesut Ozil picking out Ramsey’s runs beyond Olivier Giroud, and it would be a huge shame if that was sacrificed.
In order to understand the problem of playing two box-to-box midfielders together, you only need to go back and watch Germany at Euro 2012. Khedira and Schweinsteiger were having miscommunication problems about which player was supposed to go forward and which one was supposed to stay back.
As a result, the two midfielders were running into the same areas and leaving the back four exposed. By playing Ramsey and Khedira together, Wenger would risk having the same thing happen.
Arsenal shouldn't fall into the trap of overvaluing Khedira simply because he's coming off an impressive World Cup. Undoubtedly a talented player, he still fails to answer what has been the club's biggest problem over the last few years.
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