Before the season got underway, you’d struggle to find a set of football fans in the world more deliriously optimistic than Arsenal supporters.
New signings brought about new confidence at the Emirates, but the way that the season has started hasn’t exactly gone according to plan.
Poor performances, points dropped, several injuries, there can only be one solution: spending.
Only Manchester United’s billion-pound-backed thirst for supremacy saw them spend more than Arsenal during the recent transfer window, but one player slipped through the Gunners’ fingers.
Real Madrid star Sami Khedira was at the forefront of the rumour mill throughout the summer, and staying put in the Spanish capital was the last thing that anyone expected.
However, with the German’s contract at the Bernabeu expiring next summer, clubs could have another chance to secure his signature on a free transfer—and Arsenal will be one of many clubs looking to do just that.
Though the competition will be fierce, it’s safe to say that Arsene Wenger’s men are the club most in need of Khedira’s brilliance, with defensive midfield options not exactly at a premium at the Emirates.
It seems that Real are keen to extend Khedira’s deal, though, as manager Carlo Ancelotti told AS that should the World Cup winner want a new contract, he’ll get one—via Eduardo Fernandez-Abascal of International Business Times:
We have until June to reach an agreement with him. If he wants to sign an extension, the club will renew him. If not, he will leave the team at the end of the season.
It’s all very simple in Ancelotti’s terms, but with so many clubs chasing Khedira’s signature, it’s far from it, in fact. However, Arsenal have a trick up their sleeve.
According to Paul Smith of the London Evening Standard, the Gunners will be using their current German recruits to tempt the Real Madrid man into a move, with Mesut Ozil and Per Mertesacker reportedly making contact with their international team-mate over coming to north London.
Khedira’s wage demands saw the move fall through during the summer, but if Arsenal can negotiate a free transfer before the season’s climax, then they can finally offer the German the astronomical pay packet he wants.
While parting with excess of £150,000 per week for a player is a classic case of football lunacy, it could well be worth it; and Arsenal legend Robert Pires agrees.
Speaking with Dean Nelson of the Daily Telegraph, the Frenchman said that Khedira is the midfield leader that Arsenal need to bring them back to the top of the English game:
The quality is there but you need more, maybe [someone] like Yaya Toure in middle. He reminds me of Patrick Vieira, maybe they have an opportunity with Khedira. It is likely in the January window. He played very well with Germany. My advice is if he can buy Khedira he can be the [new] Vieira, more aggression in the middle. He has a lot of experience. When you play in the middle you need experience, especially when your midfield is young like Arsenal's.
Based on the summer debacle, there’s no telling exactly where the latest Khedira transfer saga will go, but the fact remains that Wenger needs to act fast if he wants to get the German in red.
The 23-year-old has been one of the club’s standout performers in the Scottish Premiership since signing from Dutch side Groningen in 2013, and it’s unsurprising to see Wenger monitoring his progress.
As journalist Henrik Hindby revealed, the Gunners boss sent scouts to watch Van Dijk at the start of the month, and the feedback he received was enough to prepare a bid:
With long-term fitness a major concern in the Arsenal camp, Van Dijk would be a solid solution to the problem. And as he has plenty of room for progression, a bright future could beckon should the Dutchman head to the Emirates.
Either way, Arsenal simply need to sign some defensive cover in January or their season will once again peter out into nothingness.
Locking down a world-class defensive midfielder like Khedira will undoubtedly be the priority, but getting a youngster of Van Dijk’s calibre in isn’t a bad second prize.