Delighted to welcome back Chris Mader our German correspondent to report on Arsenal target Medhi Benatia.
It’s not a surprise that a place besides Koscielny is up for grabs for next seasons curtain raiser with Per Mertesacker and Gabriel both seemingly not the best solution for a long term central defensive pairing. Last month and gain recently it is suggested that Arsenal are monitoring Moroccan, Medhi Benatia’s the situation closely at Bayern Munich. So who is he and what could he bring to the current Arsenal squad.
Born in France, the now 29 year old central defender made his mark in the French league before heading over to Italy to try his luck with Udinese and AS Roma. His stay in Rome made him one of the top pics in 2014 when Bayern Munich signed him for around 28 € million.
Despite his huge transfer fee he has never truly got a run in in Pep Guardiola’s starting XI. In his first season he made a total of 24 appearances in all competitions and in the current season only 22. The main reason for that is easily identifiable. Benatia had several injury issues during both seasons. In the 14/15 campaign there were slight raptures of the muscle fibre last and this season he has had decent time out with thigh injuries was added to that during this season. In that regard a typical Arsenal signing one might suggest.
Seriously though let’s get to his strength and what he can bring to this Arsenal team. At 1.91m Mehdi Benatia is strong in the air which makes him a perfect addition for the Premier League. He can be decisively involved on both ends of the field which he not only showed in his time at AS Roma (5 league goals 13/140 but also during his current spell with Bayern Munich. Paired with Koscielny he could be the mobile partner he has never had in Per Mertesacker but with the same strength in the air. Benatia is also quite good in reading the game which gets him into positions earlier than most of his offensive counterparts. As an upgrade to Per Mertesacker he has better speed. Not Bellerin style but definitely an upgrade on the BFG. Last but not least Benatias’s passing is very good. One of the reasons Pep Guardiola wanted to sign the Moroccan so badly was due to his ability to be part of the Spaniard’s dominant passing system. Something which could be very helpful at Arsenal as well.
What are the chances to secure the Maroccans’s services? Monitoring his situation over the last few weeks I would say we have a good chance to add a solid central defender if we really want to. Munich just announced the deal for Matts Hummels which lets Benatia slip even further in the packing order while keeping in mind that Jerome Boateng will partner Matts Hummels not only in the National Mannschaft but also on club level. With Joshua Kimmich another versatile young defender has emerged at Bayern and will probably be part of Jogi Löw’s team going to France this summer. Don’t forget players such as Holger Badstuber and Javi Martinez who will fight for places in the new Carlo Ancelotti squad. Given all that the competition will be fierce for the 2 central defensive places Bayern next season so the 29 year old Moroccan Benatia might seek for a new challenge at the peak of his powers ad maturity.
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Reading his latest statements correct he’s aware of his situation. A few weeks back he said “if I have to leave I will.” And as it seems Munich are clearly looking to put him on the transfer market. It’s not a question if a deal is possible. It’s a question about how serious we want his signature. Besides the reported interest from Arsenal there are other clubs interested in the Moroccan’s service. With Juventus Turin and his former Club AS Roma being two potential competitors in the market which could push Benatia’s price tag up. Although it is my opinion that Munich would respect the player’s preferred destination if he has a preference. With a current value of around 18 € millions he could probably leave for 15 € millions with some decent Dick Law negotiations. Put in Mario Götze offer as well and the price tag could even lower more!! Although hot of the press Merio has fired his agent and wants to fight for Bayern future – Interesting so watch this space
So would I sign him for Arsenal or not? I’m not quite sure if we couldn’t do better this summer regarding the central defender position. We would certainly have a solid option for the next three seasons with Benatia although his injury record in the last two years is a bit worrying. On the other hand the question is if there is a world class defender available. With Benatia we would certainly get a top defender who could get back to world class with an injury free run in the team. Depending on what else we have on the radar I would probably do it for a cut price.
That’s it for now. If you want to keep up to date with possible transfers from the Bundesliga follow me on Twitter @germangunners