Karim Benzema Is A Pussycat, Not Arsenal's New Lion

Technically gifted, deadly in front of goal and able to play up front on his own Karim Benzema might be. But he is a shy, introverted footballer who won't add the teeth Arsenal require to shake the reputation as a team that can be bullied...
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Technically gifted, deadly in front of goal and able to play up front on his own Karim Benzema might be. But he is a shy, introverted footballer who won't add the teeth Arsenal require to shake the reputation as a team that can be bullied...

Technically gifted, deadly in front of goal and able to play up front on his own  Karim Benzema might be. But he is a shy, introverted footballer who won't add the teeth Arsenal require to shake the reputation as a team that can be bullied...

Who is he?

Florentino Pérez was so in love with the idea of signing Karim Benzema that he personally travelled to the Frenchman’s house in Lyon to get his signature in a €35m deal. Yet there were some pretty good reasons for the Real Madrid president in wanting to make Benzema one of his three big signings in the summer of 2009 to kick off his second Galactico spell at the club.

At that time the then 21-year-old was regarded as one the best young forwards in Europe having scored 37 league goals and 9 Champions League strikes in his final two seasons in France. The problem for Benzema was the huge transition involved in moving from a club and city that was his whole life to the media madness of Real Madrid, a tough challenge for anyone, but especially so for a footballer who is particularly shy and introverted.

In Benzema’s first season with Madrid, the forward struggled with the language and with la Liga and only managed eight league goals from 27 appearances with Gonzalo Higuaín the first choice front man with 27 goals for the then Madrid manager, Manuel Pellegrini.

The early months under José Mourinho were not much better with the Portuguese a constant critic of his striker’s less than impressive work rate and slacker boy nature seen as too “cold-blooded” by his coach. When Higuaín suffered a back injury last November, Benzema got his chance to show off his undoubted talent as the club’s only striker, although Mourinho was less than pleased with the situation complaining that he was having to go out hunting with a cat, when a dog would have been better.

The second half of last season was mixed for Benzema. Whilst the young forward improved his goal tally for Madrid by finishing with 15 in the league, the Frenchman was largely absent in the all important Clásico clashes to leave Benzema claiming in the press that Real Madrid fans had still not seen the best of him.

Mourinho was less than pleased with the situation complaining that he was having to go out hunting with a cat, when a dog would have been better.

Strengths

Benzema has all the technical skills required to become a world class striker as he has shown in some performances for both his club and country, with France’s 2-1 win over England in last year’s friendly in mind. Benzema is quick, powerful, inventive and is a wonderful poacher who can bury a chance before his defender is even aware he has the ball. The Frenchman can also play the wide man in a front three as he has occasionally done for Madrid over the past two seasons.

Weaknesses

Just seeing Benzema amble past in the mixed zone after games sums up the problems the striker has in impressing José Mourinho. Laid back, lazy and more than a little sulky is Benzema’s vibe in both in his on and off the pitch demeanor and that is a problem at a club where both the coach and supporters demand blood, sweat and an awful lot of running about in every game and quite simply that isn’t Benzema’s footballing way.

Technically, Benzema is better than his striking rival, Higuaín, but it is the Argentinean’s work rate that still sees him as the top dog for The Special One, something that Benzema is beginning to discover as the key element missing from his game.

The Frenchman is still adapting to the life and language in Madrid but is beginning to win his battle. Moving to another country and another culture - one where running yourself into the ground for the fans is a requirement - would see Benzema’s progress going back to the beginning.

Chances of signing him

Extremely slim. José Mourinho has already said that he has no intention of selling Benzema over the summer and as he is now his own Sporting Director, he can be pretty much held to his word. With Kaká potentially being sold, Florentino Pérez will not be a big fan of losing another one of his prized purchases from 2009, either.

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