Connect in the back of the net

The most telling part about Arsenal’s transfer deadline day was the planned protest outside the club’s Emirates Stadium over their failure to do more business over the summer than their £10 million capture of Petr Cech.

Come the evening, after the 6pm deadline had passed with Arsenal quiet, the scene outside the ground was desolate. Their irate supporters had decided to protest against inaction with mass inaction, presumably.

It probably seemed a bit much to stage a protest against a team that had just won a second FA Cup in succession and finished third in the Premier League. The new campaign has seen them make a stuttering start with questions asked about their lack of potency in attack and the failure to spend the vast money the club’s board boasted was available to manager Arsene Wenger in the summer to address the issue has borne frustration.


Massive spending

Wenger has spent hugely over the past two off-seasons to land first Mesut Ozil from Real Madrid for £42 million then Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona for £35 million. This year there was to be no Karim Benzema, the Real Madrid striker so widely linked with the Gunners, who fuelled speculation by posing for a cryptic photo on his private jet before stamping it profusely by addressing “the clowns” who thought he would leave the club he calls “home”.

As suspected, in a move that always seemed a media-driven narrative of unsubstantiated word of mouth, the French striker confirmed that there was nothing in any of the rumours linking him to north London. “I’m happy at my current club, it’s the best in the world. I’ll continue to work here and be happy where I am”, he said.


Benzema would’ve been the man for Arsenal

Benzema would have no doubt solved Arsenal’s problems at centre-forward where Olivier Giroud and Theo Walcott, a pair of forwards who aren’t prolific enough to fire a title challenge, will battle it out for the central-striker spot with Alexis Sanchez and Aaron Ramsey in support. But he remains a Madrid player and an important asset for new manager Rafael Benitez to have available in the first year of his reign.

The 27 year old has managed 215 goals across a 450 game career in which he has won everything available during his time in Spain. He has 134 goals in all competitions from his seven years in Madrid and although he has endured poor patches of form in that period, his constant tallying of 20+ goals a season, barring the nine he got when adapting to his new surroundings in his first year, suggests that he is the type of predatory striker Benitez can’t afford to be without in a crucial campaign where he aims to win over fans doubtful about his succession to Carlo Ancelotti.

The rumours concerning Benzema and Arsenal are likely to have been fired by a pre-season in which Benzema struggled for game time as Jese Rodriguez, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were all fielded in the centre of Madrid’s three-striker line.

Sensing Benitez was searching for a system that doesn’t include him, Benzema managed just two halves of warm-up action then missed the opening day fixture with Sporting Gijon with a thigh injury. Jese would be given his chance, but ended up withdrawn for James Rodriguez in the 56th minute of the 0-0 draw.


Key for Real Madrid

Benzema’s worth to the team was on show even if he wasn’t, with his clever movement and ability to draw defenders away to create space for others desperately lacking as Real were limited to speculative efforts from distance against the newly-promoted side.

A week later, against another newly-promoted outfit, the Frenchman was back and the goals flowed in a 5-0 win, tellingly from the creative players that thrive on his knack of bringing them into play in dangerous areas. Ancelotti saw the Frenchman as the key behind the success of his Ronaldo, Bale, Benzema (BBC) frontline due to his all-round play.

Benzema himself would also open his account with a fine header from Bale’s cross. His threat in the air was also notably absent during the stalemate with Gijon as only seven of Real’s 30 crosses connected.

The French striker offers something different, power, instinct and clever movement that is vital to breaking disciplined teams down, than those he faces competition from for his number 9 slot. Benitez is quickly finding that out.

Benitez’s focus from the start of his time at the Bernabeu was his desire to see Real defend better as well as a quest for them to keep dominating games. As the game in Gijon showed, where the visitors registered 27 shots on goal to go with their 66% possession, dominance is worth nothing without goals and Benzema not only trades in them but creates them too.


Madrid have Wenger’s passiveness to thank for

The links to Arsenal are finally over and Benzema prepares himself to play a major role in Real Madrid’s season. They have the passiveness of Wenger to thank for that.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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