29 January 2014

Could we sign Draxler—and get Vucinic and Tello on loan?

As the transfer-window rushes headlong to a close, the rumors are flying in all directions faster than a blind short-order cook with ADHD on crack can fling burgers. Everywhere one turns, it seems, there's a new story out about who's linked with who. Even as we adopt an attitude of healthy skepticism, it's hard to resist the pervasiveness of one rumor and the more-recent appearance of two new ones—all three of them tantalizing, even if only one of them directly addresses our needs up top. To wit then, and in apparent order of interest, I submit to you a round-up of the three musketeers...

Cristian Tello, Barcelona

  • Age: 22
  • Height: 178cm
  • Weight: 65kg
  • Position(s): forward (left/right); attacking midfield (left/right).
  • Strengths: holding on to the ball, through balls, key passes, dribbling.
  • Weaknesses: aerial duels, defensive contributions
  • Odds: betvictor puts us at 4/1, behind Liverpool's 1/5.
The case for him: Simply put him, he's fighting for playing time in a crowded area, with only two starts to his name. Ahead of him in the pecking order at Barcelona are no fewer than six other players, depending on how Barca lines up: Messi, Pedro, Sanchez, Iniesta, Neymar, and Fabregas. He's clearly become extraneous to manager Gerardo Martino despite doing quite well when given a chance. His best appearances have come in the Copa del Rey, where he's had three starts, played all 90', and notched a hat-trick and an assist in each of the other two matches. Not too shabby. He's young enough to probably want more playing time; he's been with the club long enough to have won silverware from the bench, and his familiarity with Barca's style would help him adjust to Arsenal's similarly fluid attacking style.

The case against him: he's essentially another crafty midfielder, standing similar in height to Wilshere or Walcott, and, while it's interesting to ponder the idea of a starting XI that consists of crafty little midfielders who can dart around, passing and dribbling and whatnot, at some point, we're arguably in fine shape in that area even with various knocks and niggles. This is not to say that I oppose a loan. As the only move of the window, I'd be sorely disappointed. The attacking midfield is easily among the lowest priorities that we have to address, after (in my opinion) striker, right-back, defensive midfield, and perhaps center-back. He's cup-tied, for what that's worth, having played (and scored) against in the second leg against Celtic back in the Champions League group-stage.

Long story short: Why not? A loan would cost next to nothing and would add some reinforcements over the course of the season. And, hey, if it turned into a longer-term arrangement, that's fine with me as well. We've been after him for a few years now and could probably sign him for £10m or so.

Mirko Vucinic, Juventus
  • Age: 30
  • Height: 186cm
  • Weight: 76kg
  • Position(s): attacking midfield (left), forward
  • Strengths: through balls, key passes.
  • Weaknesses: holding on to the ball.
  • Odds: no betting odds. transfermarkt.co.uk rates a move to Arsenal at 39%.
The case for him: Like Tello, we'd be looking at loaning him in, so the financials are minimal to nonexistent. When he's on his game, he can be a prolific scorer, a man with a nose for goal. Like Tello, he's been marginalized by other, higher-priced and perhaps more-consistent and prolific scorers. In Vucinic's case, this would include Llorente, Tevez, and Quagliarella. Even in a 3-5-2 system (two forwards), Vucinic has struggled to find time on the pitch and would welcome a move that would give him more playing time. He brings a bit more height to the pitch and could therefore fill in as needed as a striker for Giroud. That's an attractive possibility as it does more-directly address one of our pressing short-term needs.

The case against him: He strikes me, at best, as a short-term stop-gap. Whereas a loan for Tello—young, hungry, talented—feels forward-thinking, even aggressive, a loan for Vucinic feels a bit flimsy or paltry. I feel like we'd be better-off grooming Podolski for a striker's role. Vucinic is cup-tied, having played a grand total of 35 minutes in the Champions League. He's apparently a bit of a loose cannon, prone to occasional lapses of concentration or temper. While he's earned a reputation for scoring vital goals, he's also been criticized for failing to score as often as he could or should, disappearing or fading when his club might otherwise look to him for a goal. That, and the fact that he can't seem to crack the lineup at Juventus, despite being one of four forwards in a two-forward lineup, suggests that his best days might be behind him. 

Long story short: Meh. Who am I to oppose a loan that might help us to address a pressing need? He might just go on to prove me wrong, reclaiming the form that drew Juventus's interest in the first place. He's had a few seasons of 12-15 goals; maybe a move would do him good. For all I know, the loan's already gone through. 

Julian Draxler
  • Age: 20
  • Height: 1865cm
  • Weight: 74kg
  • Position(s): attacking midfield (center/left)
  • Strengths: dribbling, aerial duels, long shots, finishing, through balls.
  • Weaknesses: none.
  • Odds: Betfred offers 1/5; Betvictor offers 1/10. transfermarkt.co.uk rates a move to Arsenal at 38%.
The case for him: Do I really have to state the facts? A quick run-down. Versatile. Dazzling. Already pressing for more international caps in a crowded German midfield. The rumors around Draxler coming to Arsenal have made for one of the hottest stories of the winter window. It's even been rumored that we were more after him than we were for Özil. There have been comparisons to Bergkamp and to Henry, not in the sense of legends of course but in the sense of players whom Arsène might convert from a wide position to a more-central one. We've been salivating over him for some time now, and rightly so. In the short term, he could add depth and attacking verve to a midfield that is sometimes long on clever passes but too often short on finishing, whether in the air, from distance, or off the dribble. In the long term, he could become the kind of versatile striker who can both contribute to the build-up as Giroud does while also shifting more fluidly with the attacking midfielders.

The case against him: Hard to conjure, really, unless one is worried about spending big in two consecutive windows. His ruptured tendon is a concern, of course, but it's been suggested that he might return in a week or two. This update might make a move for him even more urgent when we consider the various injuries to players like Ramsey, Wilshere, and Rosicky. It appears that I've run out of points to raise against him and am now transitioning back to the case for him. So it goes.

Long story short: Yes, please. He ticks a number of boxes, and the only legitimate complaint I could summon is the cost. However, he's said himself that he's keen on a move to Arsenal, and if we wait until summer, that £37m fee would only balloon as other clubs get interested. There's been talk of packaging Podolski or Fabianski along with the fee, but it's hard to get too worked up about funding in the week that we announced a record-setting deal with Puma (even though that money's not officially available until summer).

We go into a fiendishly difficult stretch of matches once we get past Crystal Palace on Saturday. I don't want to look past Crystal Palace. We saw how Chelsea—try to keep the schadenfreude under wraps—stumbled a draw. At home. To West Ham. West Ham. In other words, we can't risk underestimating or looking past anyone to assess future fixtures. In the meantime, then, we'll just have to see how the next few days pan out.

'Til next time...