Three reasons Arsenal should target Lars Bender
Ned Bristow examines three reasons why Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger would be wise to target Lars Bender
Last season, Arsenal relied heavily on Mathieu Flamini and Francis Coquelin at the base of their midfield, often plugging the gaps by playing Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Jack Wilshere out of position in front of the back four as Mikel Arteta missed much of the campaign through injury. Wilshere and the Ox are just two of many attacking midfield options, but what Arsenal lack at the moment is a balance between the flair-filled attack and a defence that leaves much to the imagination. A player such as Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender is exactly what is needed to help shore up a leaky defence, and the fact that he is on the end of Bayern Munich and Barcelona enquiries is evidence enough of his talent. Priced at upwards of £18m, Bender – twin brother of Dortmund’s Sven – is a real no-nonsense tackler, with an intelligence that makes him a good playmaker and a discipline that offers assurance and peace of mind to the rest of his side.
2) License to attack
Indirectly, the signing of Bender would make Arsenal a more prolific and smooth attacking unit. Having a top class option in defensive midfield would allow the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Oxlade-Chamberlain and Wilshere to focus their attention on attack safe in the knowledge that there is a reliable and quality safety net behind them. Holding midfield has developed further into one of football’s most important roles recently, and a player in the role acts not only as defensive cover but also as a centralised marshal and the starting point of most attacking moves. A disciplined defensive midfielder, Bender would be a reassuring presence to the unquestionable offensive talent at the Emirates. Additionally, he would represent in the eyes of many an upgrade on Francis Coquelin, who cannot match the German’s experience of around 300 first team appearances as well as 19 international caps.
3) Defensive weaknesses
It’s no secret that the Gunners are still in for another centre-half, and for good reason. Despite the additions of the promising Gabriel and the calmness brought to the unit by Petr Cech, questions remain as to how sturdy Wenger’s back line can remain over the course of a season. It seems that, as well as another experienced centre half, a cool head is needed in front of the defenders to sandwich in the composure necessary for a title challenge. Bender does exactly this for Leverkusen: clearing up danger before it reaches the last line and calmly distributing the ball forwards or out wide is the key element of his role at the club who finished fourth in last season’s Bundesliga. Wenger has publicly confessed his shock at Coquelin’s performances since returned from a loan spell at Charlton last season, and questions remain as to whether he will fully trust either him or Flamini throughout the campaign.