The 20-year-old Schalke attacker has not been ruled out directly by manager Arsene Wenger as other suggested targets have been, leaving the door open for a potential £37 million transfer if the Gunners are to meet the midfielder’s release clause.
Arsenal have been linked predominantly with strikers this month, given their over-reliance on Olivier Giroud compounded by long-term injury to top scorer from last term Theo Walcott, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season.
Draxler is deployed as a winger or attacking midfielder – he can, of course, score and make goals – but at his age, with such immense potential and undoubted quality, he could be converted into a striker in the long run.
That being said, it’s a tall task for a Bundesliga youngster to come in and make an impact in a Premier League title fight at the business end of the season.
Arsenal have tended to adopt a 4-3-3 system in recent years with Wenger incorporating more of a 4-2-3-1 this term. Olivier Giroud has been dependable up front, not only in his goals and assists, but in his holding and build-up play, as well as even his defensive contribution.
A £37 million spend on an other attacking midfielder following the smashing of the Gunners transfer record this summer to sign Draxler’s elder compatriot Mesut Ozil for £42.5 million would be a slight surprise but not one that I couldn’t envisage Wenger making, given the player’s talent and the manager’s inclination towards developing German youth at present.
But, with the likes of Ozil, Santi Cazorla, Jack Wilshere, Aaron Ramsey, Tomas Rosicky, Lukas Podolski and Serge Gnabry all available to play in a midfield system in front of Mikel Arteta and Mathieu Flamini, what kind of system would Wenger have to deploy to incorporate Draxler into the team?
Obviously, if Giroud is fit, there would be no immediate requirement to change the current system, a staring XI something like this:
Giroud could and would remain the lone centre-forward with Draxler or Cazorla or Gnabry or Podolski or even Rosicky, Wilshere, Ramsey, and the returning Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain operating as wide-forwards in attacking phases and wide midfielders in defensive situations.
However, if and likely when Giroud does need a rest, picks up a suspension or an injury at some point between now and May, what kind of system would Wenger need to operate without Walcott or Nicklas Bendtner to cover up front?
Lukas Podolski has just returned from a hamstring injury which will have had an impact on his relatively anonymous performance against Cardiff recently – a long spell out is going to affect his effectiveness, at least initially, but Podolski can function as a striker if called upon.
Meanwhile, when Walcott played through the middle against Tottenham in the FA Cup, he may have on paper appeared to be playing as a striker but at many times throughout he game he functioned more as a ‘false 9’ forward. This is not something Wenger is not capable of changing his system to adopt – we have seen in in the past with Andrei Arshavin filling in as a ‘false 9’ much the way Cesc Fabregas has for Barcelona and Spain.
It’s unusual in the Premier League but, with Arsenal’s unrivalled ability to boss the midfield, for the most-part completely dominating and controlling the game as a result this term, it could be an effective system in which players like Draxler could flourish.
Draxler’s finishing ability, not all together dissimilar from a young Podolski, would make him ideal for this ‘false 9’ role and whilst it might take him time to adapt to the rough and tumble of the Premier League, we have seen Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj come in from wide and deep areas to cause problems for defences this term in a similar way to Draxler in the Bundesliga over the last 12 months.
Over time, Wenger may opt to pull his trick of converting a winger (like Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie) into a centre-forward but that is unlikely to happen overnight or even over the course of the season, if he joins the Gunners and it must be acknowledged he would be completing for a place with the likes of Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain, and Gnabry.
The potential for Arsenal to wipe the board with them majority of teams even without a traditional centre-forward is still there, especially with the kind of technical quality they have elsewhere on the pitch and in the team.
All of the players mentioned above are capable of scoring, creating and providing goals as well as the quality in moments of brilliance we have been used to seeing in North London since Arsene Wenger arrived in 1996.