SCOUT: Lars Bender – the missing piece

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I’ve tweeted endlessly about how Lars Bender would be one of my most desired transfers of this window, many people ask me what makes him such a special player – so I decided to blog.

Standing at 6ft and at 24 years of age, the first thing you will notice about Lars Bender is his athletic build. That representation accurately describes Bender’s approach to the game. When I watch Lars Bender he reminds me of Laurent Koscielny if he played in midfield. The anticipation and ability to read the game is wonderful, but they both also have that turn of pace to beat an opponent to the ball and get that crucial first touch. It’s that ‘bite’ which I feel Arsenal are missing in the midfield. With a robust nature, Bender knows how to use his body strength to win duels – a similar trait to Aaron Ramsey.

Photo via boomcha7 - http://www.flickr.com/photos/91743969@N00/
Photo via boomcha7 – http://www.flickr.com/photos/91743969@N00/

Where would he play? Bender could play in either role in the pivot of the 4231 which Arsenal deploy. His work-rate could see him succeed in the box-to-box role which Aaron Ramsey made his own in the last few months, whilst his discipline and defensive attributes would allow him to play in the deepest midfield role. Where would I play him? I think it depends on who else comes and who leaves to be honest. Francis Coquelin and Emmanuel Frimpong look set to leave the club this summer, and with Diaby injured it leaves just Aaron Ramsey, Jack Wilshere and Mikel Arteta as first-team options for those roles at the base of the midfield. Statistically, let’s see how Lars compares to that attack-minded trio.

WhoScored Match Rating
Lars Bender – 7.48
Mikel Arteta – 7.30
Jack Wilshere – 7.07
Aaron Ramsey – 6.85

Tackles per Game
Lars Bender – 4.4
Mikel Arteta – 3.2
Aaron Ramsey – 2
Jack Wilshere – 1.3

Interceptions per Game
Mikel Arteta – 2.9
Lars Bender – 2.4
Aaron Ramsey – 1.2
Jack Wilshere – 1

 I picked those three areas to compare (all from the brilliant WhoScored.com) as I felt these were the areas that were key to how well a player plays in that position. In the deepest role in midfield it’s all about getting your foot in and making those tackles. Whilst Arteta comes up impressively, Bender beats him too it overall. Wilshere’s stats may show why Wenger sees the player as a more advanced midfielder – his defensive contribution is not good enough. One area Lars does finish below the other three is in pass success. The German averages 80% whereas all the others are all above 85%. Lars could easily adapt his game to Arsenal’s passing style, but perhaps it would be best if he didn’t? Don’t Arsenal need a change? You can argue that, but you can also argue that to play in the deepest role of a 4231 you must be a brilliant passer of the ball, the game flows through you and it’s crucial that you can pass a ball consistently well. That’s why Michael Carrick and Mikel Arteta have impressed so much this season. It’s also why I think Bender would be a target to play in the box to box role. I think that’s where Arsene wants someone – Fellaini would be great in that role too. Someone who takes risks and sacrifices pass success rates to break through the lines is what you need in that role. Ramsey’s similarities to Arteta make me think the Welshman will in the end become a successor to Mikel – once his passing accuracy becomes more consistent. Someone like Lars Bender or Fellaini is exactly what the club need. Here’s how I think they will fit in:

The midfield trio
Arteta – deel lying playmaker
Fellaini / Bender – box to box
Rosicky – number 10

The future midfield trio
Ramsey – deep lying playmaker
Chamberlain (Fellaini/Bender) – box to box
Wilshere – number 10

Obviously some of that ‘future midfield trio’ will be involved heavily in the first team next season, and when Wilshere is fully fit then he will play and start. I still think Chamberlain will be mainly used on the wings for at least another season, but that trio above is where I feel Arsene has earmarked the players for future positions. Santi Cazorla will stay on the left wing I’m pretty sure. I do think he helps the team there and is just as effective – differing with popular opinion. Adding someone of Fellaini or Bender’s ilk would give the Arsenal midfield the perfect balance in my opinion. We have that player to sit, the runner alongside – a playmaker ahead – an inside winger to support (Santi / Chamberlain) and finally an advanced winger in someone like Theo Walcott to push up with the striker.

In this video you can see a typical Lars Bender performance – full of energy

Although I could not find it written in stone at any reliable source, it seems to be common knowledge that the German has a €15million (£12.2million) release clause. If this is true then it would be criminal not to at least activate the clause and try and persuade the player to move from his native Germany to the bright lights of London. Maybe Arsenal’s growing German contingent could help in a bid to land the player. Bayer Leverkusen comfortably qualified for the Champions League group stages, a stage ahead of Arsenal – but with Bayern Munich set to dominate German football for the foreseeable future, is this a good time to leave for Lars?

I hope you enjoyed this article and it gave you a bit of an insight into Lars Bender, his style, background and ability. Please let me know your feedback on the first ‘Scout’ article I have done for Fresh Arsenal, either by commenting below or tweeting me at @OliPriceBates