12 July 2014

And now, on to Sami Khedira...

Now what? Having already signed Sánchez for something in the £30-35m range and with rumors that we'll have Mathieu Debuchy in for close to £10m, we face an awkward and uncertain period. It's 12 July, and we've completed one major signing already. Do we sit back, content with the notion that we've bolstered the squad quite well enough already, or do we keep scratching the silly season itch? I suspect the latter, if out of habit if not out of necessity. With six weeks or more still to go before the transfer window closes, we're probably going to crave more news, not less. Could we really count on ourselves to leave well enough alone? Nope, not with a rumored £65m or still in reserve and names like Sami Khedira drifting in the breeze...

Do we really need him, though? Sure, Arteta and Flamini are not getting younger or faster. There is talk that Arteta could leave for as little as £6m to Fiorentina and others, but even if he does leave, does it make sense to go after Khedira? We already have a number of young, aggressive, players who could play "DM". Even if none of them fits the mold of the rugged, holding midfielder who can shield the back four, Jack Wilshere, Abou Diaby, Aaron Ramsey, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain have each shown that they can play as the more-forward thinking box-to-box midfielder with Arteta or Flamini sitting back. The question then becomes, could we field two such players alongside each other, trusting one to show the discipline necessary to stay back while the other presses upfield?

If the answer to that is "no", it begs the next question of whether we should go after Khedira in the first place. After all, he's no more a holding midfielder than Wilshere, Ramsey, or Ox have been. He's not a particularly good tackler, nor is he especially fast, and his eagerness to get up the pitch, even under Mourinho's more-stubborn, bus-parking days, suggest that he's not the defensive destroyer many have pined for as they look for Vieira's heir. With Khedira likely to command a transfer fee upwards of £25m, this current question becomes a bit more pertinent. At 27, he's possibly more set in his ways and is certainly a more known quantity than are other players we're linked with, such as Lars Bender (25) or Morgan Schneiderlin (24). Each of them plays a more defensive role for his respective club.

However, Bayer Leverkusen have already sold Emre Can to Liverpool and seem unlikely to part with both him and Bender in the same window, and with Southampton likely to demand a princely sum for Schneiderlin, getting a player like Khedira for that £25m might make sense. For one, I'd question our putative need for a midfield destroyer; it's not as if Arteta or Flamini has inspired terror in our opposition. Much like the acquisition of Sánchez, adding a player like Khedira might enhance our fluidity and flexibility on the pitch. His class and experience probably make him one our best options for a defensive midfielder, and his relationship with Mertesacker could help ease him into a more conservative, defensive role without tethering him too tightly to shielding the defense.

With Khedira and Ramsey partnering in front of the defense, then, we could feature two marauding, box-to-box midfielders that could extend the Wengerball notion one step further—if they can forge an understanding that reminds one of them to stay back while the other bombs forward. Can such a relationship hold? If not, could we trust Khedira to commit to a more-defensive role? Arsène has admired Khedira for some time now, and so the larger question might be whether he's willing to open up his checkbook for another marquee signing. If he is, Khedira's role, as well as the selection-dilemma referenced above, becomes just the kind of quandary we could relish discussing. "Khedamsey" might not be a great mashup, but it certainly sounds better than "Flamteta"...
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