The difficulty is always identifying targets who may be willing to move and who are available to move at the midway point of a season. With a World Cup looming, the difficulty of that job can understandably be heightened.
But the frustration most will feel, with Arsene Wenger’s latest comments regarding Julian Draxler, is that Arsenal always knew the game. The player has a €45 million buyout clause which kicks in at the end of the season, and with Schalke in a battle to finish in the Champions League places this season, there was no great incentive for them to sell the midfielder at this stage unless a deal could be reached which matched or at least came close to the summer buyout figure.
Part of the problem with this story is that both England and Germany have varied accounts of what has happened thus far. England have peddled the idea that Arsenal were in negotiations with the player, and due to Wenger’s answers on the subject, there’s little reason to suspect otherwise. But the German media appeared oblivious as to why there has been so much talk about Draxler potentially moving prior to the summer.
So for the point of argument: Arsenal are interested, Wenger possibly has an idea as to where he’d like Draxler to fit in to this current Arsenal team, and of course the club have the funds to get the deal done.
The worry now is that if Draxler remains at Schalke, has a much stronger second half of the season than he did in the first and goes on to have a very positive World Cup, other clubs around Europe will step in and take advantage of Arsenal’s reluctance to pull the trigger on the deal. Based on the money available at other clubs, history has a way of repeating itself in situations such as this.
It’s not to say Arsenal can’t enter into a bidding war; they very much can. It’s simply Wenger’s dislike of the idea. If he’s not willing to part with a figure reaching €45 million now, why would he do so in the summer amid strong competition from others on the matter of wages and further incentives?
The other side of the argument is that Wenger and Arsenal feel so confident on this deal with Draxler that they can afford to hold off and make such a high-profile signing when the issue of this season is over and done with. Of course that may not make much sense: Draxler could have a big say in the outcome of this Premier League title race.
But to return to the ambiguity of this deal, we’re not entirely sure what the situation is with Arsenal and Schalke. Perhaps a deal has been agreed. Perhaps it is just a case of the German side wanting to hold onto the player as a means to increase their chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season. Without a buyout clause in place at this time, Schalke can resist any offer, unlike Borussia Dortmund with Mario Goetze.
And to further the point of Arsenal feeling confident of the deal in the summer, why shouldn’t Draxler choose Arsenal ahead of others? Chelsea are in a position where they’ve had to let go of two attacking midfielders because they couldn’t get games; Draxler may be put off by the idea of moving to PSG, with the feeling that unless your name is Zlatan Ibrahimovic you’re not guaranteed a game; and Bayern Munich don’t have space or a need for him, nor do Real Madrid, Barcelona or Manchester City.
What should be said is that Arsenal, provided they really want Draxler and have identified him as their top priority, should know what it takes to sign him. Yes, at 20 years of age he is still raw, untested in a title race and doesn’t have a particularly bright scoring record this season
But that doesn’t matter. He’s still one of Europe’s most talented youngsters, in any position. There are few on the continent in his age group who can say they’re undoubtedly better. Goetze, Neymar and perhaps Isco are the names that immediately spring to mind. Each of them went for huge fees. It took Bayern €37 million to take Goetze from Dortmund; there is a lot conflict in Barcelona due to the nature of Neymar’s signing, with the figure said to be closer to €100 million; and regardless of Malaga’s financial situation, Real Madrid had to spend €32 million on Isco. Draxler may not be worth €45 million now, but you buy players like that because of what they’ll become three or four years into the future.
There is a danger of Arsenal missing out on the player in the summer, but the real question here is whether the club really want him. If so, they’re going to have to stump up a similar fee as to what others are spending on similarly talented youngsters.