04 August 2015

Odds of Arsenal signing Benzema now at 5/2...

With less than four weeks left in the transfer-window, the hypetrain is only going to pick up speed. Our win over Chelsea in the Community Shield is bound to add more momentum; Arsenal are now direct rivals to Chelsea's hegemony in the Prem. With that thirteen-match hoodoo slain, it's only natural that the rumours will fly. The latest news has us about to sign Karim Benzema—finally—for a transfer-fee of around £46m. Rafa Benítez has been sounding less and less confident of Benzema's staying, saying "I think" he will stay at Real and he will "hopefully" stay. SkyBet pegs the odds of Benzema to Arsenal at 5/2, still a bit of a long shot, but one worth watching...

In each of the last two seasons, of course, we've benefited from a domino-effect as rivals Tottenham sold Bale to Real, who then sold us Özil, and then Liverpool sold Suárez to Barça, who then sold us Alexis. This summer's sequence could see Liverpool sell Sterling to Man City (confirmed), who might then sell Agüero to Real Madrid, who might then sell Benzema to us. It's as far-fetched as it seems. Having splurged some £43.75m on Sterling, and feeling a need to overhaul a squad that is ageing and perhaps jaded after a glut of trophies, Man City could be tempted to sell Agüero at a premium—the kind of premium that Real Madrid are known for paying.

Pause and ponder for a moment: could we really see a series of transfer-windows in which Tottenham sells their talisman, Liverpool sells theirs, Man U sells theirs (van Persie, just for verification...), Liverpool sells another (potentially) talismanic player, and Man City sells theirs? That two of those moves paved the way for us to strengthen our squad is almost too good to be true. Heck, I'm willing to throw in Čech to Arsenal and Begović from Stoke as another net gain. Begović will ride the bench at Chelsea while Stoke fret over who will replace him. Fine by me.

Back to Benzema. I'll admit that I'm not sold on him (not that he's been sold to us). Even moreso than Özil and Di María, I worry that Benzema benefits from Real Madrid's style and dominance of La Liga (bar Barça, of course...). While Messi and Ronaldo are clearly world-class players, so far above the next tier of players that it almost beggars belief, I suspect that players like Benzema, Higuaín, and others are like remoras, feasting on the spoils and scraps of their betters. As such, they might struggle when thrust into the limelight. Özil, widely regarded as one of the best at his position, struggled to make his mark in the Prem but has rebuilt his reputation. Di María floundered so thoroughly that he's been sold at a loss to PSG after just one year. Meanwhile, Gonzalo Higuaín, another once-coveted target, has also failed to fully impress at Napoli.

The question before us, then, is this: is Benzema a fighter, or is he a grifter? There have only been a few players who have left Barça or Real Madrid and have gone on to achieve feats of greatness elsewhere: Ibrahimović. Özil. Alexis. The rest—Villa, Afellay, Deulofeu, Song, Tello, Sahin, Higuaín, to mention just a few—have flirted here and there with the exploits and achievements that elevate a player to the elite echelons, but none of them has delivered to his new club the kind of sustained excellence that makes their previous club or jilted suitors shake their heads in regret.

Would Benzema reconnect with Özil, his former teammate at Real Madrid, while also benefitting from the French connection on offer at Arsenal? Something in me wonders if he's been touted and talked up as a red herring to distract us from some other marquee-signing, much in the same way that all of the stories of "Higuaín to Arsenal" distracted us from the signing of Özil in the summer of 2013.

If I'm on to something, who then would we be after who's (a) available and (b) better than Benzema?