14 January 2014

Julian Draxler: Stats, strengths, and weaknesses

It's January, and surely, the silly-season is in full effect. Stories abound about the possibility that we might prise Julian Draxler from Schalke 04 for a hefty buy-out clause of something close to £37.8million. While this at first might seem a hefty tag to attach to a 20-year old, he's already made more than 100 appearances for Schalke and he's drawing rave-reviews for his performance on the pitch and studiousness off of it. Further fueling the fires of speculation, Schalke manager Horst Heldt admitted that the club may be powerless to prevent his departure, saying that "We continue to hope that Julian remains, but there are factors that we cannot influence.” While that stops a bit short of putting him up for sale, it is tantalizing news as we look for options to strengthen the attack.



Thinking about the move might prompt questions of why we might move for yet another midfielder when we already seem to have quite a stable. However, while Draxler has plied his trade as a winger for much of his career, he has done well  playing more centrally as a #10, a position that puts him in a position that can maximize his strengths, namely, dribbling, aerial duels, and finishing. It's not as if he's yet another crafty little playmaker, either. He stands at 1.87m, just a touch short of Giroud's 1.92m, and there have rumors that, should Arsène be able to bring him to Arsenal, Draxler could be converted into an out-an-out striker, a conversion that Arsène has pulled off with more than one winger/attacking midfielder in the past, namely Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie.

Because of Draxler's youth, he has quite a lot to learn, and this could make such a plan even more feasible. Arsène has suggested that players frequently don't settle into a "permanent" position until they are 23-24 years old, which would give Draxler several years to grow into the striker's role. Already, though, he's developed a reputation for strength on the ball and at bringing others into the game. While this may not quite match the hold-up play that Giroud is known for, Draxler is a big-enough and skilled-enough target to make himself available for that role, and his apparent skill with the ball at his feet, whether on the dribble, pass, or shot, could add a very different and valued dimension to our attack.

Draxler himself has spoken warmly of a move to Arsenal, saying that  "I sometimes speak to Mesut or Per about the team, about the club, and they always have good words and they tell me nice things...Arsenal is a very, very nice team. They always have very young players, they play attractive football and that's what I like." Take that for what it's worth, for he went to say that "I better not speak too much about it because tomorrow I can read that I like to play for Arsenal. I think the people at Schalke would not like to hear that.”  This is hardly a full-throated promise to stay with Schalke, and it's enough to set tongues wagging.

There are a lot of other puzzle-pieces that seem on the verge of clicking into place. Theo's injury. Our German contingent. Heldt's comments. A possible loan back to Schalke for Tottenham's Lewis Holtby, who has not played a minute at all in Tottenham's last three matches, could make room for Draxler to leave. Wouldn't that be something? Tottenham sell Bale, which in turn clears the way for Real Madrid to sell us Ozil. Tottenham then loan out Holtby, which then clears the way for Schalke to sell us Draxler? It's almost too much to contemplate. Well, until it happens or the transfer-window closes, that's all we're left to do—contemplate. And, well, salivate.