A £30million move for Schalke's Julian Draxler is a risk for Arsenal, but one worth taking, writes former Arsenal midfielder Adrian Clarke...
So, Arsenal have lost top spot. If today’s gushing - and well-deserved tributes - to Manchester City’s attacking brilliance are anything to go by, Arsene Wenger and his merry band of foot soldiers might as well forget the title right this instant. The dream’s over.
Except it isn’t, is it? At the last count I spotted that 45 more points are up for grabs this season. And that’s quite a lot.
As difficult as February and March look on paper for the Gunners, away fixtures at Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal and Manchester United aren’t exactly shoo-in victories for Manuel Pellegrini’s side either. Chelsea will have their say too, despite Wednesday night’s 19th Century struggles.
As hot as City are, there are many more hard yards for all the contenders to run on that treacherous road towards to the summit.
Will Julian Draxler come along for the ride? Sanctioning a deal to sign the gifted 20-year-old from Schalke for around £30million (now, rather than in June) would suggest to me that Wenger isn’t ready to concede defeat. It seems a lot of money, for a boy that’s still wet behind the ears.
Mesut Ozil, at £42.4million was pushing the boat out by Arsenal standards, and that was for an established world class performer approaching his peak. To spend almost as much on a whiz kid that’s not the finished article, not even a proper striker, seems unusually risky. Yet, I firmly believe Draxler would be well worth the outlay.
As Arsenal fans have witnessed of late, you tend to get what you pay for with these world-renowned talents. Lukas Podolski, Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, all arrived for lower fees and with less hype, but each had universally approved pedigree. We shouldn’t be surprised to see them consistently delivering end product. The same applies to Ozil too, of course.
I’m no Bundesliga expert, and I can’t pretend to possess a colossal amount of in-depth knowledge of his 133 appearances for the Gelsenkirchen club, but from what I have seen, from what genuine local experts have said, and most importantly from what his fellow German players say; Draxler’s the real deal. When international footballers openly claim a young player is mustard, and well worth top dollar, I tend to believe them.
He’s seven months younger than Ravel Morrison. Yes, that young. So, for Julian Draxler to be part of Germany’s World Cup plans, and rated as a £30million plus footballer already - there’s your proof that he’s likely to be better than half-decent.
Whether Draxler’s a centre forward or not is, for now, largely irrelevant. Remember, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robin van Persie were once wingers too.
If he signs, Wenger will drip-feed him opportunities in attacking midfield and as a striker, until he’s comfortable enough to grasp the mantle long term. Just having a top class alternative who scores and creates goals, would be enough for this season - even if he is learning on the job. Who doesn’t educate themselves as they go along, anyway? Players of this ilk, come for a high price tag because they have a smidgen more quality when it matters.
As we’ve seen with Ozil, expensive signings do sometimes mess up and have the occasional shocker, but even so, they’ll almost always have a positive influence. They’ll lift others, they’ll produce one, magic defining pass, and when that important chance in that important match, falls at their feet, they tend to stick it in the onion bag. They make the difference.
I do like the sound of possible loan deals for Mirko Vucinic from Juventus, Christian Tello from Barcelona, or Alvaro Morata from Real Madrid. They all have talent, and would each improve the Gunners’ title prospects. But for me Draxler is the one Arsenal want most.
I’m not claiming he’ll be the next Ronaldo, but at 20, he was regarded as a skilful, if frustrating young right winger for Manchester United. Look at him now.
If they land their man – and that’s a big if - long term I know he’d be a quality addition. For now, he has the ability to be a mid-season game-changer that tips the balance Arsenal’s way.
In a title race decided by fine margins, you can never have too many fine talents. And his, is one that’s well worth investing in.
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