Arsenal’s numerous unsuccessful attempts to bring in a world class striker has been well documented in recent times, and rightly so. Once again, this ‘weary-tale’ has begun to take centre stage this summer, with a section of the fan base already bracing themselves for what has now become a customary ‘market impossible’ mission at the Grove, in satisfying this lingering crave for a well-rounded #9.
The likes of Gonzalo Higuain, Karim Benzema, Edinson Cavani, Robert Lewandowski and Africa’s finest frontman Pierre Emerick Aubameyang (who even oil rich Manchester City cannot have their way around) seem to be off the market with respective clubs ready to dig their heels in by refusing to entertain any bids below the £60m-£65m.
In the case of the ‘second tier’ of quality strikers, astronomical figures have also been labelled by clubs in possession of attackers such as Alexandre Lacazette, Romelu Lukaku and Alvaro Morata.
Now as I do quite often, I’ve taken a look at the options above, as well as those not mentioned (Arkadiusz Milik, Vincent Janssen, Mauro Icardi etc) and then another view of the broad scheme of attacking tale of talent in Europe and then it struck me that there could be a real German story brewing, as it often does in that part of the world.
It is widely believed that Ozil (not Alexis) is the crux of our offensive strength and signings will hinge on how much chemistry can be built between the German and new offensive teammates.
With that in mind, a certain German duo could extend their understanding with Ozil to club level, the first being the ever-improving Julian Draxler, while the other, once known for his golden touch, needs to create room to warm his way (like he did in the World Cup final) back into elite reckoning.
If the rumours are true, it would seem Arsenal have genuine interest in him and maybe did the right thing by watching him leave Schalke for a relatively bigger/richer club to monitor his growing influence on the domestic and international front.
With the exciting winger turning 23 in September (an age that always interests Arsene), perhaps this presents the best chance to swoop for a player who is already moulding himself into more than just a wide playmaker.
Believe it or not, Draxler is a blend of many. However, this isn’t a premature attempt to put him in the same bracket as the ”finished articles” in the game but to emphasize how his development has been far from orthodox, thanks to his numerous qualities.
Unlike a traditional Wiseman, Draxler has time and again showed his willingness to play with his back to goal, frequently using his size to hold up play. He did that to great effect for Germany at the Euros and wouldn’t be surprised to see him leading the line for Germany someday.
That sharp instinct of strikers to lose their markers with sharp turns while backing goal is a personal favourite and Draxler has also displayed similar instincts recently. Granted, not every twist and turn leads to a measured top/bottom corner finish but having that knack of unpredictability would be priceless at Arsenal. I feel I should emphasize that once more….
With that now properly emphasized, perhaps it then shouldn’t come as a surprise to many that the ex-Schalke man is also very much aware of his natural height advantage (despite being used more from the edge of touchlines) and well capable of winning aerial challenges at both ends of the pitch.
Adding presence and more body building to the German’s attacker’s steady development of a forward’s technical security as well as his acceleration and change of pace, and then you begin to relish him taking the game to the opposition at any area in the final third.
As explained already, Draxler’s game still involves a bit of rawness like we saw in Thursday night’s cracker in London, as he battled against experienced fullback duo, Bacary Sagna and Patrice Evra on either side of the pitch. That, coupled with the occasional rashness to win the ball (which earned him a booking) could well turn out to be a pleasant learning curve to navigate through, especially with the huge appetite for the game he has shown thus far in his career.
Much like the well prepared French fullbacks he faced on the day, Draxler’s mental attributes will only improve with more experience. However, his fantastic technical ability simply speaks for itself. The quick feet in tight areas, decision making under pressure and shooting technique are all signs of effective forward forays. In modern day football, attacking players tend to fancy their chances by striking the ball to produce that famous dip and swerve en route goal.
In recent times, we’ve seen technical experts such as Gareth Bale, Aubameyang, Hakan Calhanoglu etc basically put a lot into perfecting an art that Cristiano Ronaldo was once a King of, and Draxler seems to have bought into the science of being one of such striking proponents. Thus, the 22-year old has already begun to carve a fine niche for his largely refined status.
Such niche however, even while adapting his game to pursue more centre-forward responsibilities, can still be used in different forms. This is simply down to the balance that comes with his versatility. He’s already shown his capability of making direct bursting runs on the right, going inside and outside his marker from the left-hand side, as well as playing on the shoulder of the last defender, and also switching the play to the fullbacks in order to create the room he needs to receive any eventual cut-back or near-post square-play. That’s a quartet of chance creation AND conversion methods that even the most delicate technicians at Arsenal would be happy to welcome.
Multiplying the little numbers of Gotze.
Now while Julian Draxler appears to be high on Germany’s current soccer elite list, even the most loyal of Mario Gotze fans can no longer hide behind the fact that he produced the golden touch in Rio two (2) summers ago.
In his first season at Bayern, the diminutive attacker was selected regularly (45 apps in all competitions) and picked up lovely pockets of space en route to bagging 15 goals and 13 assists in all competitions even at a time when Thomas Muller rose to that unplayable ‘stroke of genius’ status.
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The 24-year old had a similar 2nd season at the Allianz Arena, matching his debut season return of 15 strikes and just over half a dozen assists.
Now the ex-Dortmund man has always maintained he’s happy to remain at the German Capital (like Ozil said, 48 hours before signing for Arsenal), but deep down somewhere in him he knows a player of his quality should be getting minutes week in week out and Arsene appears to be a fan.
Having learnt playing alongside the likes of Muller and Lewandowski, the timing couldn’t be more apt to become his own man and focus on the goal scoring habit he admires C. Ronaldo for.
Despite bursting onto the scene as a wide/central attacking playmaker, Gotze has adapted his game to enhance his instinctive movement and clinical tendencies. Although the World Cup winner is miles away from replicating Antoine Griezmann’s extraordinary strike rate, he has the potential to become the best at what he does, an insight Bayern Munich have refused to tap into, three years after his big money move.
It should be recalled that this was the exact experience faced by Ozil & Alexis at Barcelona & Real respectively, at the end of by their 3rd summer in Spain.
Like Draxler, Gotze’s versatility is an asset worth exploiting. The same can be said of Gotze’s predatory movement, which his German teammate can take a leaf from.
Now like we’ve seen with recent signings of young attackers like Raheem Sterling and Anthony Martial, the going rate for promising talent is quite astronomical. Also considering Draxler has spent just one season at Wolfsburg, Die Wölfe will dig their heels in to maximize any opportunity to sell.
Trying to get Bayern to sell Gotze on the other hand shouldn’t require as much Die härd bargaining, given his current situation in the team. However, considering how much quality both possess individually and collectively especially with their best years ahead of them, as well as the added advantage of having Mesut around them for good, the club will do great to swoop for both with a budget floating between £60m-£65m definitely looking steep enough.
After all, Granit Xhaka’s arrival and rumoured interest in the likes of Neven Subotic and Ricardo Rodriguez clearly indicates Arsene was already considering a technical quality revolution with a Bundesliga Core.