When Mikel Arteta was signed on deadline day in May, 2011 his coming was heralded with much adulation going by the reputation he built for himself while at Everton. His first season was a memorable feast for the club with his partnership with Alex Song yielding great result at the on set. When the Camerounian was sold to Barcelona at the end of that season in 2012, many awaited with curiosity the player Arsene Wenger would bring in holding midfield. Instead to many’s amazement Mikel Arteta was saddled with that responsibility. Initially he brought some much needed discipline to the role, and the team struggled in his absence.
His second season in that position brought modicum fruits in some games. Especially in several big games when he was overrawed in midfield because of his lack of pace and power.
Inevitably, with just one year left in his contract and approaching the age of 33, he has been linked several times away from the club. The first link was with Altetico Bilbao and now Fiorentina. All links that his agent has dismissed as mere speculation.
His experience to the squad is very important. His technical ability in midfield is top notch, but his legs are becoming weary which makes a replacement in his position of utmost importance for the club. A younger version of him with pace, power and energy. With these links, it could be that the club intends to cash in on the Spaniard which can only mean that a replacement is being lined up.
Along these lines the likes of Sami Khedira of Real Madrid and Lars Bender of Bayer Leverkusen have been linked to the club. With bids rejected last season for Bender by Leverkusen. In effect who will be the best bet for Arsenal?
Sami Khedira is a ball playing midfielder adept at playing the short passing game. He is more a box-to-box midfielder who goes forward while another sits back. Ditto when in midfield with Xabi Alonso for Real Madrid and Bastian Schweinsteiger for Germany. Not one who will bring hard tackling to a team, his ability is in having that game intelligence to shift the play to all parts of the field from midfield. The 6ft 2in German midfielder seldom goes into tackle.
On the other hand, Lars Bender is purely a defensive midfielder who does the sitting while others trot their stuff in the attacking third. The 25 year old delights in tackling and he can play the odd centre half position if the need arises.
The German will be the straight out defensive midfielder that the club needs. No doubt, Sami Khedira is the bigger player between the two in terms of reputation, but strictu sensu, the Leverkusen midfielder is more adept to playing that role. From the way Sami Khedira is deployed in the German team and Real Madrid team at times, he can be seen spending more time forward than doing a job sitting protecting the defence.
In the end, a cursory look at both players and the way they are deployed, will reveal that the Lar Bender is the player that the club needs and not Sami Khedira who is more attacking. The club needs a player who will stick to doing it defensive duties and Bender fits that bill.