Arsene Wenger may have seemingly ruled out any new arrivals this month, but that has not stopped the links to Schalke starlet Julian Draxler.
Whether now or next summer, it appears – at least as far as anything can ‘appear’ when swathed in mystery and speculation – that the Gunners are favourites for the 20-year-old’s signature.
He will be pricey, though, with the €45million cited in his release-clause likely to be non-negotiable.
After all, even though the clause does not kick in until the end of the season, Schalke were only reportedly prepared to do business this month if the fee was matched or beaten. Although the fact the player is currently out injured now makes it highly unlikely he will leave midway through the current campaign.
Gossip reigns at this time of year, but one of the most interesting things to come from that gossip is the suggestion that Wenger is keen to turn Draxler from a winger to a central striker – just as he did with Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie previously.
And here is the crux of my article. Henry signed for Arsenal for a reported fee of £11million, with Wenger already aware of his talents from their time together at Monaco. There was far less risk involved in the transformation because the Arsenal manager had seen first-hand what Henry could do.
It is even suggested that Wenger only played Henry on the wing for the Principality club because of his pace, and the impact that would have against opposition full-backs; so in essence the move to Arsenal was rectifying his own earlier decision.
With van Persie it was a far less expensive but arguably a far more risky experiment. Signed for just £2.75million from Feyenoord, Wenger again had the idea to convert an attacker with the ability to play in a variety of positions into – ultimately – an out-and-out front-man.
Both instances were unbridled successes, which brings me to Draxler. While he can play in any attacking-midfield position, his strength is on the left side, but for the fee required to bring him to London…why doesn’t Wenger simply sign a striker?
Given that Jackson Martinez would be available for less – €40million to be exact – and is a bona fide front-man with an outstanding record, spending more on an experiment, on a transformation that will take time, is not what Arsenal need now.
They almost have the squad to bring sustained success back to the Emirates. And all they are missing is a quality goal-scorer; a striker of today, not one of tomorrow.
While I am all for building for the future, in this instance it makes far more sense for Wenger to spend big on the final piece of the jigsaw.
Of course, if the money is there, sign both. But otherwise, considering the continuing improvement of Manchester City and the regrouping at Chelsea, Arsenal cannot afford to take their time anymore.
Instead they need to make sure this is their time.
image: © DerHans04