“Arsene is incapable of spending big” they said…
From the moment that Arsenal secured fourth place at Newcastle to the moment before Arsenal signed Mesut Özil there was a tension among Arsenal supporters over signings. Some supporters believed that there was no money. Some believed that there was no plan. Some believed that the club lacked the corporate type who could get things done. Some believed in a late surprise. And some believed that Arsene Wenger was simply incapable of spending the kind of money needed to sign players like Suarez or Higuain. But whatever each person believed, the Arsenal supporters were united in one belief: that the club needed a signal of intent, a big signing.
Those doubts, if you harbored them, were not irrational. After the move from Highbury, the club were clearly cash strapped and spent very little on transfers. Moreover, if you read any of the broad tops, which everyone does in England even if they won’t admit it, the club was constantly being outmaneuvered in the transfer market: just missing out on this or that player as the more voracious clubs “swooped” up all our targets.
And not to drag out the corpus delicti of this summer’s transfers but you’d hardly be irrational if in looking at the way that players like Gustavo turned Arsenal down, the way that Arsenal were hemming and hawing over Higuain, and the absolutely brutal saga with Suarez, you concluded that there was little to no plan and that perhaps there was something Strangelovian going on in the Arsenal transfer war room.
So when Arsenal announced the signing of Mesut Özil there was a collective gasp that sucked the air out of North London. Özil? From Real Madrid? How did they pull that off?
As it turns out, they pulled that off with a little help from Tottenham.
See, Real Madrid wanted to sign Gareth Bale from Tottenham but they didn’t really have the money and Tottenham didn’t really want to sell. So when Arsenal found out that Real Madrid needed a wad of dough to fund the raid of Arsenal’s rival the Gunners’ management aggressively pursued several Real Madrid first-team players. Higuain seemed the most likely but let’s not forget that there were also stories about Arsenal contacting di Maria and Benzema. As we now know it was Real Madrid’s President, Perez, who decided that Mesut Özil was the one he would sell and every Arsenal fan has been thankful ever since.
So Arsenal took £40m, broke their transfer record, gave it to Real Madrid, which Real used to buy Arsenal’s closest rival’s best player, and in return Arsenal got the best playmaker in Europe. And as a direct result, Arsenal are top of the table, 11 points above last year’s champions.
“Players like Goetze don’t want to sign for Arsenal” they said
Now here we are in the January transfer window and Arsenal’s management has been aggressively pursuing Schalke’s Julian Draxler. Draxler is rated among the very best young prospects in Europe and with the stats he’s putting up at the moment you can see why.
Draxler plays in a dribbler’s league and among the dribblers is prodigious. Sorting all the players in Europe’s top 5 Leagues by individual dribbles per game, the Bundesliga is home to 13 of the top 20 individual best dribblers: Draxler is second in dribbles per game (5.1) just behind Balon d’Or runner up, Franck Ribery (6).
Comparing Draxler to Ribery, Draxler is dispossessed less (2.3 v. 4 per game), turns the ball over less (0.9 v. 1.3 per game), but is also fouled less (0.9 v. 2.2), creates less for teammates (1 KP v. 2.9), shoots less (1.8 v. 3.2), and scores a lot less.
That latter, the scoring, has been a bit of a problem this season. Last year, when he was 19 years old, Draxler scored a very respectable 10 goals in the Bundesliga and 1 in the Champions League and this year he has just 1 in the Bundesliga and 3 in the Champions League. I went back and looked at his shot positions and the problem is that Draxler takes far too many shots from outside the 18 yard box.
It’s not that he doesn’t penetrate, he dribbles in and around the 18 yard box, but he’s just not finding teammates nor his shooting boots when he does penetrate. He’s scored a lot of goals from distance (6/14) and so he no doubt has the talent to hit those shots but getting goals from close range is the bread and butter of top strikers: it’s the major difference between Suarez’ finishing last season and this. But, Draxler is only 20 years old and if you consider that players reach their peak between 24-28 this kid has a huge upside.
Given his current form and potential upside, it’s no surprise that Arsenal have courted him, going so far as to give the young man a tour of the facilities last week. And today, Schalke’s general manager has been quoted saying that “We continue to hope that Julian remains, but there are factors that we cannot influence.”
Draxler wasn’t supposed to be a January transfer target for anyone but Schalke are reportedly in financial trouble and have been for a few years now. This admission that Draxler could leave in this window is seen by many as the club desperately asking for bids.
Not only that but Lewis Holtby, former Schalke player and current Tottenham benchwarmer, is being lined up by the German team as Draxler’s replacement. Which would mean that once again, Tottenham could be clearing the way for Arsenal to sign a major target. Thanks Spurs!
If it’s true that Schalke need cash and are willing to let Draxler leave in January only if Tottenham will loan them Holtby then this is quite an incredible story. Just imagine, 6 months ago we were told that players didn’t want to join Arsenal, and now Arsene might not only get one of the world’s hottest young talents but might get him at a bargain 6 months earlier than expected, thanks to Tottenham.
Heads on both sides of North London would explode if that were to happen.
One thing though, don’t expect Draxler to contribute much this season. He’s apparently ruptured a tendon and is out until March. Just in time to face Bayern Munich in Munich? (sourced via Daily Mail, unreliable)