If you believe media reports, Chelsea and Arsenal are locking horns for the signature of Real Madrid midfielder Sammy Khedira. The German world cup winner has been unsettled at real Madrid and this was intensified following the arrival of fellow compatriot Ton Kroos. The question that begs for an answer is, where will Khedira fits perfectly? At Chelsea or Arsenal?
In my humble opinion, I sincerely think that Sammy Khedira is far from being a good fit in the present Arsenal squad. What the Gunners require, and which was briefly papered over by the early season good form of Mathieu Flamini last term, is a defensive midfielder. But that is neither the role best suited to Khedira’s game or the responsibility he has been handed in his career to date.
Khedira has never averaged above two tackles per game in any season, and, statistically at least, is a long way short of the numbers produced by the world’s best destroyers. He is hardly a proficient interceptor either – a good indicator of a players’ awareness and anticipation – and has ranked inside the division’s top 100 for either tackles made or interceptions on just one occasion in his career (in the 2012-13 season, where he placed 98th in La Liga for tackles per match). Moreover, Khedira offers only a minimal degree of serenity on the ball, preferring a more all-action approach. As much as Mikel Arteta’s increasing lack of mobility is derided (no Arsenal player has been dribbled past on more occasions since he joined), and as much as Wenger needs to think about finding a successor to the 32-year-old, he has always been a reliable and consistent rudder for the Gunners in recycling possession and beginning attacks from deep.
Khedira is considerably more attack minded too, as noted at the World Cup, a tournament in which he failed to make a single successful tackle. He briefly lost his place in the Germany side to Bastian Schweinsteiger, with the Bayern Munich “strategist”, as Joachim Low dubbed him, bringing order to matches that had previously been open and stretched. It is important to note that Khedira has never been either the possession-dictator or the ball-winner in any of his midfielder partnerships. He provides energy, zip and drive, but is never the dominant tackler or protector sitting in front of the back four
That, however, seems entirely at odds with the type of player burgeoning talisman Aaron Ramsey ought to have alongside him, and the search for much-needed midfield reinforcement should centre on finding the perfect partner for the Wales international. Ramsey was in devastating form last season – though his campaign was cruelly curtailed by injury – but Khedira is unlikely to grant him the same freedom that Arteta does. Playing two such similar players together, both of whom will burst forward at will, will be tantamount to Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard trying, and failing, to coexist for England.
For Chelsea, Khedira is exactly the kind of energetic, box-to-box midfielder the side require, a blend of both surging power and subtle technique. The Blues already have a specialist defensive midfielder in Nemanja Matic and a vast array of attacking options, but have been missing a link between the two. It is this role that Khedira performs with distinction. Mourinho’s side were devoid of someone to set the tempo last season, their own “head of incidental pressing”, to borrow a phrase from Louis van Gaal.
Khedira is that player, a whirlwind of urgency and aggression, but also teaming that work-rate with driving runs into the box and a credible goal threat. He is the quintessential all-rounder. It is easy, therefore, to see why there is such a clamour to sign the former Stuttgart man. He is ready-made for the Premier League and in the prime of his career, while recent achievements for club and country have put him in an exclusive club; he is only the 10th player in history to win both the Champions League and the World Cup in the same season, and the first since Roberto Carlos in 2002.