The debate of who Arsenal will sign as a defensive midfielder has rumbled on in the past few months. The abilities of the players that have been linked throughout the summer can be seen by their overall display in the field of play. Yet statistics, however, reveals the other side of a player’s game that is not immediately evident to the keen watcher from a distance.
Although, many have said that statistics can be misleading and sometimes not a true barometer of a player. In the position of holding midfield, statistics most times reflects how a particular play has fared.
Although it must be stated that statistics does not make up for the lack of pace in a players game as in the case of Mikel Arteta whose numbers looks outstanding. Last season in 31 leagues games he featured in; he averaged 2.62 tackles per game, averaged 1.27 aerial duels per game, while his blocks stood at 0.23 per game, with a clearance rate of 1.77 per game.
In comparison to other players linked in this position, it must be considered that the nature of the league could tailor the statistics to a player’s favour. In the Bundesliga for example, there are lots of dribbling which could increase the rate of interceptions and clearance. This brings Lars Bender of Bayer Leverkusen into the picture. Another player that was the subject of an Arsenal bid last summer, his numbers puts him ahead of every other player that has been linked to the club; he is everything that is expected in a defensive midfielder. In 29 league games last season, he averaged 0.34 blocks per game, together with 1.79, 3.34 tackles won per game, and a huge high of 2.96 aerial duels won per game which is not surprising because of his height (6ft 2in). From those figures, he trumps Mikel Arteta in everything.
Going further up the ladder, Sami Khedira has also be the subject of several speculations linking him to Arsenal. His numbers are deceptively bad due to the time he spent out of the game due to injury. So nothing objective can be read into his figures. In 25 games for Real Madrid, he averaged 1.86 tackles per game, winning an average of 1.24 aerial duels per game, together with an average of 0.16 blocks and 1 clearance per game. As stated earlier his figures look grim due to his long term injury last season.
Another player that has also been constantly linked, is Morgan Schneiderlin of Southampton, he fits every bill because of his understanding of the league. Last season, in 33 league matches for the Saints, he averaged 0.12 blocks, 1.55 clearances, won 2.83 tackles, and averaged 1.53 aerial duels won all per game.
Statistically, Lars Bender is the best fit for the holding midfield role at Arsenal, his tackling ability and aerial ability are top notch. And at 25, he is coming into his peak, and he can only get better.
A pictorial look at Bender vs Arteta vs Khedira vs Morgan
As the picture above shows, Bender is better than Khedira, Morgan and our own Arteta. And it does not end there, he is better when it comes to 50% -50% challenges. He wins a look number of 50%-50% challenges with little number of fouls committed.