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54% Duel Success: Should Arsene Wenger splash out for Lars Bender?

Lars Bender

Arsenal look set to revive their interest in Bayer Leverkusen's Lars Bender in January, but is the German international a sensible target?

According to reports, Arsenal will revive their interest in Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Lars Bender, as the club's priority target, Real Madrid's Sami Khedira, is expected to pen a new deal at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The 25-year-old was heavily linked with a move to north London last January but pledged his future to Leverkusen. However, with the Gunners in desperate need of a holding midfielder, Wenger is likely to make a second approach for his services in the new year.

Arsenal's lack-of-bite in the centre of the park has been embarrassingly evident this term. At 32 years of age, Mikel Arteta is slowly approaching the apex of his career, while Mathieu Flamini and Abou Diaby cannot be seen as long-term solutions, hence a move for Bender makes a great deal of sense.

A seasoned Champions League player, Bender has good vision and passing skills to accompany an impressive defensive work rate. Furthermore, he possesses great strength that would enable him to thrive in the Premier League. His injury record aside, he poses few risks for the Arsenal head coach. 

However, considering the German has only recently signed a new contract at Leverkusen, Wenger will have to pay around £20 million to secure his services. Is this a price worth paying? Below we compare the stats...

  TeamPass/ AppPass Succ (%)Tackle/ AppAerial/ AppAerial Succ (%)Intercept/ AppClear/ AppDribble/ AppAppsMins
Lars Bender Leverkusen 34.25 66 1.13 5 60.61 2.63 2.38 0.75 8 610
Mikel Arteta Arsenal 60 95 1.17 1 56.41 0.67 0.67 0 6 360
Mathieu Flamini Arsenal 54.67 93 2.33 1.11 58.67 2.89 1.67 0.22 9 743

The lanky German is terrific at winning the ball in the air, averaging a greater number of headed duels per match than both Flamini and Arteta. He is also extremely adept when it comes to reading the game, managing 2.63 interceptions per appearance, thus far; a total significantly greater than that of Arteta (0.67), and only marginally inferior to Flamini (2.89).

He has, however, made fewer successful tackles than the Arsenal duo. Flamini is the cream of the crop when it comes to dispossessing an opponent in this capacity, averaging 2.22 successful tackles. Bender has emerged victorious from just 28% of his attempts in his first eight appearances of the campaign. Nonetheless, he boasts the highest overall duel success rate, having won 54% of all his battles. 

One worry regarding Bender is that the German's general passing statistics are decidedly poor. He has completed just 66% of his attempts to find a team-mate this term; a success rate far below the current Arsenal average (86%). Wenger expects his team to dictate matches by playing a possession-based game, and this is an area that could cause doubt for the Frenchman.

His attacking distribution proves superior, however. He has fashioned a goal scoring opportunity - nine key passes - far more regularly than both the Frenchman (3) and the Spaniard (2) this campaign, despite registering far fewer passes. Furthermore, he has proven more successful in the dribble, averaging a 75% success rate. 

At 25 years of age, Bender is continuing to improve, yet he is already a vast step up from the club's current options. It's essential that Wenger signs a midfield enforcer this January - if he fails to do so, Arsenal can count themselves out of the title race - and the German international is as qualified for the role as anyone. The club could do far worse for £19 million. 

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