Ever since the departure of Alex Song to Barcelona, Arsenal have been unable to fill the void at the holding midfield position.
Although Mikel Arteta has filled in admirably, his lack of defensive know-how has let him down at times. The integration of Jack Wilshere into the Arsenal starting line-up has also been difficult, so a true defensive midfielder is a must in the summer transfer window to give Arsenal a natural balance in defence and attack.
It took Arsene Wenger a season to fill the position Cesc Fabregas vacated with Santi Cazorla, so maybe the same will happen after the summer of Song's departure. So then, in no particular order, here are the possible names Arsenal should consider.
Sven Bender | Borussia Dortmund
The 24-year-old German international has seen his season cut into chunks this campaign, having only made 20 appearances for Borussia Dortmund.
Yes, he is injury prone. This makes him a less than ideal target to have, but Bender's style of play focuses almost purely on his defensive duties. The Dortmund player loves to tackle, and does so with great success, averaging 3.7 tackles per game in the Bundesliga. But with his strengths lying mainly in defensive areas, he will free Wilshere to move forward.
Bender's concentration rarely lapses, allowing him to intercept the ball with ease and really start attacks. Most of his passes go forward and his hard work, grit and determination will fit in very well with this new look Arsenal side.
He has been linked with moves to Manchester United and City, but if Arsenal were able to snap him up for his £12.5m valuation, it would be a great bit of business for the Gunners.
Lars Bender | Bayer Leverkusen
We then swiftly move on to his brother, Lars Bender. Arsenal are linked to a move for this player after a very impressive campaign with Bayer Leverkusen, helping them all the way to third in the Bundesliga.
Valued at £17.5m, he is much more expensive than his brother - but better. Averaging 4.5 tackles and 2.5 interceptions in the German top-flight, his defensive capabilities and statistics are instantly better. Even more impressive is the fact that he has made 13 more appearances than his brother this term, making him less injury-prone and more likely to justify his value.
He would also settle in quicker to the Arsenal setup as he already is able to play a great short passing game. What justifies his £5m higher value is that he is able to add a new dimension to the Arsenal attack.
His ability to thread a long pass through a team and give the attack a one-on-one situation is sublime and that option would be great to have. The directness of his play would help Arsenal, but at the same time freeing his partner Wilshere from the shackles of incessant defending and allowing him to focus on the attack.
Arsenal having been directly linked to this player makes the possibilty more credible, but quite low considering that Leverkusen achieved an automatic Champions League spot this season. He would be a great addition, and after the season he has had it seems like more is yet to come from Lars Bender.
Etienne Capoue | Toulouse
My personal favourite on this list is Etienne Capoue. The French midfield giant is versatile, having to play at centre-back and in a more advanced midfield position this season - and is a great all-round footballer.
His 2.4 tackles-per-game do not sound that good, but having scored seven goals for Toulouse in his position is very impressive. Unlike the Bender brothers, Capoue also is a great threat in the air. Standing at 189cm, his aerial ability is incredible giving Arsenal another physical aspect to their team, but also another player to aim for from set-pieces. However, his passing accuracy and sheer range of passing give Capoue a true Arsenal look.
He often plays long passes that allow the play to be switched, while his 80% accuracy of these passes shows just how precise they are. He can also thread the ball through to a running Theo Walcott and like all players in this position enjoys the tackle. His 7.5 average game rating is one of the best of the lot and playing at the moment for a seemingly small 10th placed Toulouse, he probably desires a step up.
Should Arsenal eventually target the physical Frenchman, his £10.5m value shouldn't be a massive obstacle to a side armed with £70m. The Gunners have even already been linked to him. All in all, this player is most like Song, but also more disciplined and one who can really give Arsenal's midfield a stronger look.
Maxime Gonalons | Lyon
Already linked with a move, Maxime Gonalons is possibly a close second only to Capoue on this list.
A very capable defender and a born leader on the pitch, Gonalons is technically a very good footballer. Making 41 appearances in all competitions, he has played more games than anybody else on this list. Completing 89% of his passes, you can see why the Lyon captain is being linked with the Gunners.
Rated at £8.8m, his price could drop even further knowing the financial turmoil Lyon are suffering at the moment - he is possibly the cheapest in this list.
But defensively, what is Gonalons like? Well, he wins 4.1 tackles each game and intercepts a further 3.1, making him a solid player to have in any team. Not only this, Gonalons is also very capable in the air, adding to the already tall combination of Per Mertesacker and Olivier Giroud.
Arsenal, and Arsene Wenger especially, have been able to pick out those special players from Ligue 1, so Gonalons could assert himself both in the Premier League and even on the biggest European stage.
Morgan Schneiderlin | Southampton
The third Frenchman on the list is also the first player to have experienced the pace and the physicality in the Premier League.
Morgan Schneiderlin has been the buffer in midfield that Southampton have needed to stay in the Premier League. His value is currently only £2.6m, but it could go up to £10m.
Schneiderlin signed a new four-year contract with the Saints in January which gives Southampton all of the bargaining power if Arsenal are willing to negotiate with them for the player.
The Gunners are already said to be interested in signing the 23-year-old and after such a strong first season you can see why: 4.1 tackles and 3.9 interceptions per game speak for themselves.
But Schneiderlin also possesses the ability to pick out a pass; 0.8 key passes per game coinciding with an 85% completion rate is very impressive. Although Schneiderlin dons many key skills to succeed with the Gunners, I can't help but think that, for £10m, there are better options out there.
Out of the five I would most like to see Capoue donning the red and white of Arsenal, with Gonalons and Schneiderlin coming in a close second and third respectively.
The main reason behind this being that they are much cheaper than the Bender brothers, who seem overpriced compared to the skills that the Frenchmen in this list have.
Only time will tell what Wenger will decide to do in a position Arsenal desperately need to strengthen.
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