It was supposed to be different this year. After splashing unprecedented cash on a marquee signing, discovering a fully-reliable backline and making a strong start to the season, Arsenal were meant to finally challenge for the Premier League crown this term.
That’s all unravelled quicker than a ball of string being pawed by an excitable kitten following a 2-2 draw with Swansea, which leaves them as 150/1 no-hopers for the league title and anxious top-four clingers.
With the FA Cup, which they’re 4/9 to win, as their only viable option for some silverware this season, Arsene Wenger has seemingly pinpointed some midfield muscle as the next commodity he needs from Germany.
Bayer Leverkusen’s Lars Bender has been chased by the north London club for some time now and was even the subject of a reported £19m bid by the Gunners last summer.
When that didn’t materialise, Wenger brought Mathieu Flamini back to the club to perform the same Yorkshire Terrier duties that Bender provides.
While the Frenchman’s second stint at the Emirates has generally been well received, it’s clear reinforcements are needed in the tough-tackling department to help Arsenal shake the “mentally-fragile” tags from around their necks.
Not just restricted to ankle-snapping, the 24-year-old twin of Borussia Dortmund’s Sven is seen as a well-rounded midfielder capable of roughing it and fitting in with the Gunners’ aesthetically pleasing playing style in equal measure.
With Flamini and Mikel Arteta both in their 30s, Bender’s arrival would give Arsenal’s central midfield some much-needed vibrancy.
Wenger has introduced more rigorous scouting trips to Germany over the past 18 months and it’s no surprise that, should attempts to land Bender fail again, Dortmund’s Ilkay Gundogan is thought to be next on the hitlist.
Southampton’s Morgan Schneiderlin is another option for Wenger, but for now it’s the Leverkusen man he has his heart set on.
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