Julian Draxler was once again the centrepiece of Schalke’s win over Stuttgart on Saturday, setting up Jefferson Farfan for his first and winning his side a penalty in the second half.
For Arsene Wenger, nothing much has changed. For those who wish to look at Arsenal’s pursuit of the young German at face value, it does appear that the club are looking to flex their financial muscle in the market for a second time; some may even question the need for Draxler in Arsenal’s congested locker room of midfielders.
The only thing that has changed is the price and the financial scope Arsenal are allowing themselves. Under Wenger, the onus has always been to develop young talents. The club are seen as the final step in the schooling of young players. Of course, some like Jack Wilshere have been at the club for much of their lives, yet others like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain or Aaron Ramsey have been picked up with the view to moulding them in Arsenal and Wenger’s image. The talent was evident, but the final lessons were needed.
It’s much the same with Draxler. He’s considered one of Germany’s finest at present. At 20, he already has a wealth of experience at the top level of German and European football, continually looking more and more at ease with himself and the responsibilities that have been laid upon him.
But Schalke are not going to be the start and end of his journey. Like so many German youngsters over the years, he’ll either be swept up to the bigger power of German football, Bayern Munich (or Borussia Dortmund), or one of Europe’s top clubs will come calling.
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There’s no doubt about it that Draxler will make Arsenal a better team. There will of course be those who question the point of his signing, should it take place, while others will simply push for further reasoning behind Wenger’s famed stubbornness: Arsenal need a centre-back and certainly a striker, so the Arsenal manager buys another attacking midfielder.
But think of the depth Arsenal will have in that particular area of the field, and not just the use of the word to talk up numbers. Arsenal will genuinely have strength in depth. Is there any side in the Premier League who wouldn’t be better off with Draxler in their side? Manchester United; Manchester City could do with another creative figure when David Silva is out of the team. Only Chelsea can make a strong case that they don’t need the Schalke midfielder.
So Arsenal, who are known for hitting the self-destruct button in the past – something which was at times borne out of really poor playing personnel – will only be reinforcing their case as mainstays in this and future Premier League title races.
In hindsight, there is weight in the argument that Arsenal never made the most of their scouting network. Despite what some may think there’s nothing wrong with focusing on and acquiring youth to build good or even great teams in the future. Look at Dortmund, who initially didn’t have the spending power that they do now. But Dortmund were a contrast to Arsenal’s arguably wasteful approach.
Denilson was never an Arsenal player. How much did he really improve in the time he was at the club? Technique and skill is one thing, but a lot of it is in a player’s mental capacity too. Fran Merida is another, arriving with plenty of promise as another Cesc Fabregas. Joel Campbell, currently on loan at Olympiacos, may be doing well at other clubs around Europe, but I question whether he’d offer much to the current Arsenal team. Ignasi Miquel is yet another name who will never make it at Arsenal.
The point is Arsenal had a scattergun approach, stockpiling young players – and notably cheap players – in the hope that a few would stick. Obviously no one is expecting every player who comes through to be as good as Fabregas – he was one of those players that you land on once in a lifetime. But considering how long Arsenal have been at work with this youth approach, it’s taken a long time, and counting, to see any real return.
Draxler, on the other hand, is a proven talent, despite that phrase being something of a paradox. How can a talent be “proven?” If he was proven, he wouldn’t be a “talent,” with the implication being he’s still young and ripe for moulding. But the point is you know what you’re going to get with Draxler. His qualities are much, much clearer than previously mentioned Arsenal “talents.”
Arsenal now, like Dortmund, have the spending power to take themselves into higher tiers in the market. The club could go on in the manner which they started this past summer by bringing in another readymade superstar like Mesut Ozil, but Wenger wants to continue the approach of developing youngsters as his primary means of building.
There are some who would rightly argue that Draxler falls somewhere in between. He’s young, but there are few doubting that he’d be a superstar in the future. The point is he is young and he does have further room to develop. At 20, no matter how high the transfer fee, no one is the finished article. Look at Mario Goetze as an example.