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Is Arsenal trying to buy Karim Benzema for real this time?

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But seriously, is it for real?

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Karim Benzema is one of those players who's been linked with Arsenal so often and for so long that I honestly can't remember when it first happened. I'm pretty sure Cesc Fabregas was still here the first time I saw it, so it's definitely been a while. And – this should shock nobody – it's happening again this summer.

Various sources (the Sun first, I think, but here's the Independent talking about it because I have some standards) have been reporting over the past couple of days that Arsenal is preparing a £40 million bid for the French striker, and that with Rafa Benitez taking over at Real Madrid there may not be a place for Benzema anymore, even as good as he is. Marca claims that the team has been training with Gareth Bale as a central striker, but this bit from the Independent report casts some doubt:

However, Benzema, Bale and [Cristiano] Ronaldo all took part in a training session together, with Benitez playing a 4-2-3-1 formation that hinted at his preferred side.

No matter how they're training or not training, it doesn't necessarily point toward a transfer for Benzema. Teams work on lots of things in the preseason and it's dangerous to read a lot into any one thing that may or may not have actually happened in July. Arsène Wenger, for what it's worth, was noncommittal when asked about it.

I don’t know where that story comes from, but that is not happening at the moment. I am happy with the squad we have. If I find an exceptional player to strengthen, I will do it. It depends what’s on the market. It is not easy, there are a lot of teams out there in Europe competing for the same player. We don’t rule it out and [also] don’t guarantee we sign.

[The title] is our target and we feel we have a chance in a very competitive league. We are not far away.

It's not exactly "I do not know Santi Cazorla," but it's tough to know what Wenger actually means when he talks about transfers.

According to our buddies over at Managing Madrid, the decision is entirely up to Real Madrid whether Benzema stays or goes – he will not attempt to force his way out.

So, what does that all mean?

Honestly it's tough to tell. There's a lot of smoke here, and many times smoke means fire. But smoke can also mean cigarettes (settle down, Woj and Jack, I don't have any). We've been down the Benzema-to-Arsenal path many times in the past. It's never happened. People I know who know Real Madrid well don't think they'll sell, at least not unless they buy another big-name striker like Sergio Agüero. They might do that! But I feel like this is something that's not super likely at the moment.

That could change, though. There's so much talk about this that it's hard for me to totally discount it, even though the cons all make sense. There are a lot of reasons it could not happen, but you could say that about plenty of transfers. All of them, actually. So I'd say this is unlikely to come off – just like every other time the rumor's been floated – but it's worth keeping half an eye on.