After yet another worryingly quiet start to a transfer window, Arsenal made a major statement with the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, who, at £30 million, became the club’s second biggest signing ever behind Mesut Özil. It was just the type of signing to boost optimism among supporters that Arsenal will build on a first trophy in nine years last season. And more significant arrivals could be on the way. In an effort to replace Bacary Sagna, Mathieu Debuchy and Javier Manquillo should soon be completing moves from Newcastle United and Atletico Madrid, respectively.
There are also news reports that Arsenal are looking to finally secure a proper solution to their lack of a commanding midfielder. Mikel Arteta has often be used as the deepest-lying midfielder, but is far from a natural in that position and was exposed on a number of occasions last season. Mathieu Flamini offered much after returning to the club, but another option will be hugely welcome. Three names have been strongly linked.
Sami Khedira (Real Madrid)
Overview: A late injury cruelly denied him a place in the World Cup final, but Sami Khedira did much to get Germany there. Having recovered from a serious knee injury that ruled him out of much of the season with Real Madrid, his dynamic runs forward from midfield were instrumental in the destruction of hosts Brazil in the semifinal. Those qualities, added to his physicality and positive dressing-room presence, would add a huge amount to Arsenal. However, he is certainly not a natural holding midfielder, and at the World Cup he had Bastian Schweinsteiger covering for him. Wenger would have to find the right midfield balance if Khedira were signed, rather than simply slotting him in as an instant-fix to their leaky midfield.
Speculation: The Daily Telegraph is among the outlets claiming that Arsenal have made an approach to try and bring the 27-year-old to the Emirates Stadium for a transfer fee of around £20 million. Other reports suggest that Khedira is asking for wages of 150,000 a week, which would put him above both Özil and Sanchez and certainly be problematic.
Outcome: With reports that Real Madrid are close to adding Khedira’s Germany teammate Toni Kroos and Colombian sensation James Rodríguez to a squad that already includes Luka Modric, Xabi Alonso, Casemiro, Asier Illarramendi Isco and Ángel di María, it seems certain that Madrid will be looking to move at least one or two players on. Khedira’s performances in Brazil will also likely have created further suitors. Although Arsenal’s already strong German contingent will help attract Khedira, the Gunners are likely to have to pay more than they would like, something which they have often resisted in the past.
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Lars Bender (Bayer Leverkusen)
Overview: Another Germany international presents a more natural defensive-midfield option. Lars Bender, brother of Borussia Dortmund’s Sven, would have surely have been in the squad with Khedira this summer had it not been for injury. The 25-year-old has won 17 caps for Germany and has become an increasingly important figure for Leverkusen in recent seasons, while gaining plenty of experience in the Champions League.
Speculation: Arsenal had a £19 million offer for Bender rejected last summer and are said to be eyeing him up once again should a move for Khedira fail to materialize.
Outcome: Ultimately money usually talks, but Bender stated in May that he wants to stay and continue to develop further at Leverkusen before thinking about seeking pastures new. The fact that Leverkusen have already lost midfielder Emre Can to Liverpool this summer will make them even more resistant to losing Bender.
Morgan Schneiderlin (Southampton)
Overview: The consistently impressive under-the-radar performances of Southampton’s defensive midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin earned major recognition this summer with a surprise call-up to France’s World Cup squad. The 24-year-old came up through the divisions with Southampton after moving from Strasbourg in 2008 and played his part in the club securing a top-10 finish in the Premier League last season. Schneiderlin rated high for passing statistics, tackles and interceptions.
Speculation: Schneiderlin has been strongly linked to both Arsenal and north-London rivals Tottenham, now managed by former Southampton boss Mauricio Pochettino. After France were eliminated from the World Cup in the quarterfinals, Schneiderlin admitted that his future remained in doubt.
Outcome: Southampton will be desperately keen not to lose any more players after the departures of Luke Shaw, Rickie Lambert and Adam Lallana. Yet new manager Ronaldo Koeman recently could not rule it out. Schneiderlin may be a more realistic target than either Khedira or Bender, but the hefty fees Southampton secured for Lallana and Shaw suggests Arsenal will have to pay a premium to secure his services.