Julian Draxler to Arsenal doesn’t make sense. Or it makes all the sense in the world. Stockpiling is one thing, but this is slightly different.
Draxler at Arsenal wouldn’t have a defined role, and that’s part of the worry for some people. “Where would he play?” is the question that followed Cesc Fabregas to Barcelona and Mario Goetze to Bayern Munich. Even Mesut Ozil’s arrival in England had most wondering what the point was of his pricey capture.
Draxler is an attacking midfielder. For now. He has all the subtlety and ingenuity of those currently in the Arsenal team, but he’s cut from a slightly different cloth. In the past when it looked like Arsenal were heading the race to sign the Schalke youngster, it made sense as a means to lift the weight of responsibility off Jack Wilshere, at the time Arsenal’s leading light heading into the future.
Now, the onus is different. The picture has changed somewhat. Arsenal are a fantastic attacking team with a manager who allows for a limitless horizon. Draxler at Arsenal, playing through the middle, reads from the script currently in play in Spain and Germany. It’s not beyond logical thinking. It just needed someone in England to go against the grain and get the ball rolling.
And it shouldn’t be forgotten that a Draxler “project” is the norm for Wenger. He’s done it in the past, either from the point of view of transforming wide players or midfielders into centre-forwards – Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie – or simply looking to youngsters with immense talent to build for the future – Aaron Ramsey, Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
Wenger’s perceived stubbornness can be a good thing. He knows what he wants from Arsenal and how to take them there. With the club’s recently available wealth, that task has been made easier, allowing for the very best pieces that fit the puzzle to be acquired.
No one would say no to seeing Schalke’s 20-year-old midfielder at Arsenal. It just so happens that this latest storm of transfer discussion arrives at a point where Arsenal are in need of an “anti-project” to aid in their charge on the Premier League title. A player defined by his qualities in and around the penalty area and one who leaves no doubts about what he is capable of on the pitch. So while Draxler would be a great buy for Arsenal one way or another, it’s understandable if the excitement level on this proposed move hasn’t quite reached its peak.
But Arsenal are in need of a player who possesses the qualities of the German: tall, skilful, good in front of goal with a hammer of a shot. And then there’s the matter of talent. Draxler is the crown jewel at Schalke, one of Germany’s absolute finest at this time, possibly only surpassed by the youngster who made the stunning switch from Dortmund to Bayern last summer. The image of Arsenal, one that was crafted through the signing of Ozil, would only be enhanced further.
The plea for Wenger to buy an established striker will only get louder, and with it you feel the Arsenal manager will do the exact opposite. In fact he’s already played that card, by acquiring Ozil from Real Madrid when many fans, I’m sure, would have settled for Karim Benzema or indeed Gonzalo Higuain if given the option. Primarily because the two strikers fit a more obvious need. It almost seems like Wenger is toying with supporters, such is the humour in their clamour for one thing, only to be offered something else, yet with equal or greater star-status.
Draxler may not even become a centre-forward in the traditional sense if he arrived at Arsenal, and I don’t particularly see that as Wenger’s aim in this. Draxler is a complement, another piece, someone who can play alongside the ensemble of attacking midfielders Wenger has assembled but offer that much-needed cutting edge for the final phase of play.
In the German, Wenger has clearly identified a player who he believes he can mould into the perfect player, the perfect Arsenal player. For Wenger, it’s not about creating something that others want; it’s about fine-tuning what he already has.
It doesn’t make a great deal of sense due to the obvious pressing need in the team. But this is Wenger’s way, dealing with a problem in a far less obvious manner.