16 July 2014

All this Khedira-talk guarantees we'll sign [Schneiderlin]. Shhh!

Ever since the World Cup ended in victory for Germany, much has been made of the idea that Arsenal should strengthen its German contingent, bringing in Sami Khedira to establish an end-to-end Der Mannschaft spine, from Per to Khedira to Özil to Podolski and into the net. While there's something to be said for familiar faces and bedding in, I can't help but think that all of this talk has triggered Wenger's Law of Inverse Relationships, which stipulates that there is an inverse relation between how early and how often we're linked with a player and how likely we are to sign him. It was first postulated back in May 2013, and here are a few names, offered here to jog your memory: Jovetić. Higuaín. Suárez. Gustavo. Draxler. Fàbregas.

Of course, each of those names was linked intensely and exhaustively with a move to the Emirates, only for the move to fall through for various reasons. Instead of signing any of those players, we settled for Mesut Özil, to whom we were linked only as the transfer-window was about to slam shut, thereby proving Wenger's Law. Of course, the more-recent signing of Alexis Sánchez might challenge the Law, demoting it to a mere Theory; then again, the signing of Sánchez might serve as the exception that proves the rule. In other words, you can't have an exception to a rule unless the rule itself exists in the first place.

With such ideas in mind, then, all of the bluster around Khedira coming to Arsenal (bluster to which, I might add, this blog has contributed...) might serve as a smokescreen of sorts that conceals the pursuit and signing of someone else entirely. For fear of triggering Wenger's Law in the case of this "someone else", we shall heretofore only refer to him as Mr S. Suffice it to say for now that, should Wenger's Law win approval from a peer-reviewed journal, all of the coverage of Khedira will itself prove the undoing of that particular transfer. Whether it's tapping up on the part of Real, Sami, or Sami's agent, a misdirect on the part of Arsène, Gazidis, or anyone else, I can't quite bring myself to shed a tear for us missing out on Khedira. He's a world-class player, no doubt, and I've suggested that we should go after him—unless the reports of his expectations around weekly-wages (upwards of  £180k?) prove true.

Instead, why not look a little closer to home? Again, without naming names, there's a certain Prem player to whom we've been occasionally linked, if not as early, often, or intensely as with Khedira. All you need to know for now is that he's French, he knows the Prem, and he's as close to a true defensive midfielder as we may find. A little research suggests that he's just now rounding into form. On many levels, this Mr. S surpasses Khedira: his transfer-fee might prove to be similar, but his weekly wages look like they could be less than half. What's more, he tackles at three times the rate that Khedira does (2.83 to 0.83). He makes more forward-passes per game (39.68 to 33.26) while passing more-accurately than Khedira does (89% to 86%). Still not convinced? Mr. S makes interceptions 2.21 times per game, nearly double Khedira's rate of 1.21. He's played in front of a high, pressing line, a role that has forced him to double down as a defender.

For all of Khedira's vaunted prowess going forward, accentuated by Real Madrid's dominance of what are known as "opponents", he's surpassed on several levels by this mysterious Mr. S. What's more, Khedira's rival also appears to play with more tenacity and grit. By contrast with Khedira, Mr. S is not coming back from ACL surgery and might see a move to Arsenal as a promotion rather than a lateral move.

For as much as we might dream of a German axis, a French one might serve just as well, if not better. We do have a French center-back, last I checked, and might add to that a French right-back. It might be sexy to think of two box-to-box types in the defensive pivot, but it might prove more pragmatic and productive to secure the services of someone else. Someone...frenchier.