A rumour that seemingly just doesn’t want to die, Arsenal have once again been linked with a move for Real Madrid star Sami Khedira.
Admittedly, with just six months remaining on the Germany international’s contract by the time we reach the new year, it’s not every day a Premier League club gets the chance to snap up a World Cup and Champions League winner at a bargain rate.
But we at Football FanCast believe the Gunners could be walking into a trap – Khedira, although a talented midfielder, does not address the north London outfit’s vital needs, as we shall soon explain.
And in addition to our explanation, we’ve come up with FOUR alternatives to the Bernabeu star.
There are certainly some misconceptions about Sami Khedira in England, especially in regards to how and where plays. He’s commonly considered a defensive midfielder, but the evidence simply doesn’t add up.
Take this heatmap taken from Germany’s 7-1 romping of Brazil in the World Cup semi-finals for example:
As you can see, his energy and power were used more in a box-to-box capacity, providing influence at both ends of the pitch and regularly pressing Brazil’s backline. The holding role, which Arsenal will assumedly be purchasing Khedira for, was adopted by Bastian Schweinsteiger at the World Cup, as well as Xabi Alonso over the last few seasons at Real Madrid.
Likewise, take a look at Khedira’s statistics from 2012/13 – his last full season without injury – compared to some of Europe’s other top defensive midfielders:
As you can see, the 27 year-old ranks the lowest in all categories, epitomising the argument that he’s more of a box-to-boxer than a genuine holding player. This is something Arsene Wenger has already commented on; “We never came close to signing Khedira. Jack Wilshere is back fit and in midfield we already have offensive players and quite a few box-to-box players,” remarked the Frenchman in early August.
A Champions League and World Cup winner, there’s no doubt Khedira has the natural physical assets and the intelligence to transition his game to a more defensive role.
But Arsenal don’t need another pet project in holding midfield, following on from Mikel Arteta and more recently, Abou Diaby. They need an established, proven specialist, born for the anchoring role who can hit the ground running. So what are the alternatives?
In terms of defensive midfielders that have already earned their stripes in the Premier League, none strike the balance between quality and availability better than Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin.
Before the start of the current campaign, no player had made more tackles, 259, and more interceptions, 207, in the Premier League since Southampton’s top flight ascension in summer 2012.
That was enough to earn Schneiderlin a place in France’s World Cup squad and he’s started the current campaign in a similar vein, making it into the Premier League’s top ten tacklers:
He’s also added a new string to his bow, netting three times already to better his entire output from last season, including this curler against Newcastle:
Here’s how he compared to Khedira and Arsenal’s other holding midfield options last season:
Southampton reportedly rate Schneiderlin at around £27million, but still just 24 years of age, the potential to get good-value-for-money is there by tying the Frenchman down for his best years.
Here’s another look at Schneiderlin in action:
A considerably less popular choice than the majority of the names on this list – even Chelsea fans have rather diverse opinions on holding midfielder John Obi Mikel.
But the Nigerian international’s simplistic-yet-effective manner of protecting the back four and moving the ball forward is exactly what Arsenal need to anchor their offensive-orientated midfield.
And his suitability to the English top flight is undoubted, having made 208 Premier League appearances since moving to Stamford Bridge in 2006. Mikel’s appeared in some of the most important fixtures in recent Chelsea history too, including Champions League and FA Cup finals.
He doesn’t feature in the Blues’ starting Xi too often nowadays, so here’s how he compares to Khedira and Arsenal’s current holding options based on per-90-minute metrics:
Mikel also provided this rather incredible backheel assist to Diego Costa amid Chelsea’s 6-3 romping of Everton earlier this season:
Chelsea came close to selling the midfielder to Galatasaray during the summer, with Mikel even claiming ‘all that’s left is for the clubs to reach an agreement‘ over fees in August, so logic suggests the Blues will be prepared to sell in January if their apparent £10million valuation is met.
By no means a star-studded candidate, but that in turn epitomises the 27 year-old’s understated style.
Already mentioned in passing in this article, signing Bayern Munich star Javi Martinez would show that Arsenal really mean business.
The Spain international emerged as one of the most impressive holding players in world football as he helped the Bavarians claim the 2013 Champions League title during his first season the Bay Arena. Here’s a look at some of his highlights thus far for the German giants:
But the 6 foot 5 monolith has never quite taken Pep Guardiola’s fancy, regularly pushed back into his secondary position of centre-half under the former Barcelona boss and making thirteen less appearances than the year previous last season.
Following an injury that will see him out until the new year, Bayern signed the likeminded Xabi Alonso during the summer and Roma defender Mehdi Benatia, so even when fit, Martinez will have a tough task breaking back into Bayern’s first team.
Thus, the stage is set for an abrupt departure, provided the 26 year-old is fit by the time the transfer market reopens in January. Here’s how he compared to Arsenal’s other defensive options last season:
But if Martinez were to become available in the new year, a plethora of top clubs will be interested in his services. He’s been linked to Barcelona, Real Madrid and PSG before to name a few.
Udinese starlet Allan may not be a household name in England, or for that matter Italy or Brazil. But following a second successful campaign in the Serie A outfit’s first team, his stock is dramatically rising throughout Europe.
Indeed, the former Brazil U20 has averaged an incredible five tackles per match this season. To put that into perspective, he’s been the sixth-most effective ball-winner on the continent:
He was also Serie A’s second-best tackler last year:
Whether the 23 year-old’s form would quite transition over to the Premier League remains to be seen. He measures in at just 5 foot 8 and is definitively more progressive than your average English top flight holding midfielder, averaging 1.8 successful dribbles per match this season. Here’s a look at Allan in action for former club Vasco da Gama:
But he’s adapting to European football well and has been tipped by many as a future star. There’s even reports Italy are trying to draft him in to their national team.
Allan comes with big risk but even bigger reward. His pitbull mentality, blended with his south American flair, could be exactly what Arsenal need in front of their back four.