Correspondent Column: Arsene Wenger is weighing up a January move for the German youngster, who has the potential to become an attacking great in north London
DRAXLER CAN BE NEW VAN PERSIE FOR ARSENAL
It might sound like a lot of money for Arsenal to be paying so soon after signing Mesut Ozil but the €48 million move being weighed up for Julian Draxler, would be an absolute bargain should Arsene Wenger conclude a deal for the Schalke attacker.
For that price Arsenal would be acquiring the services of a player – not only of stratospheric potential – but one who is already among the top performers on the continent.
Quite simply, his signature would be the catalyst for Arsenal to take a step to the next level.
Schalke, for their part, seem to already be making plans for life without their highly-prized youth prospect. Last week they secured the services for next season of Sidney Sam at a cost of around £2m. The Germany international is capable of playing either side of the attack and can fill any slot left vacant in the Schalke team by Draxler. A €45.8m profit on a youth team product with a replacement sourced already would not be a bad bit of business on the part of Horst Heldt – the Schalke general manager.
Even if they do end up holding onto Draxler through January to the summer, Schalke have no realistic shot of keeping him for the duration of his latest contract. He signed it at the end of last season – through 2018 – on improved terms. But in all honesty it was an exercise in inflating Draxler’s price more than anything else. By committing the attacker to a new deal, Schalke guaranteed themselves a few Euros more.
Simply put, Draxler cannot fulfil his potential at Schalke. He is a player who needs a team around him who play with more consistency. He needs a coach with a better grasp of things than Jens Keller. His shunting back to the left this season for the accommodation of Kevin-Prince Boateng a damning indictment of Keller’s inability to see the most effective channel to goal in his squad.
Despite being only 20, Draxler is not shy about speaking up for himself either and, in early winter, questioned his coach’s decision to field him back out wide. Not only physically strong, but headstrong too. Despite the talent in their squad, Schalke look an unsteady bet for Champions League football next season and that is not the type of circumstance in which one of Germany’s brightest talents should find himself.
With Arsene Wenger guiding the next, key, portion of his career, there would be no limit to what Draxler could achieve. Wenger, previously, converted the left wingers Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie into north London goalscoring gods and the indications are that he has similar plans afoot for Draxler.
The recent glut of German attacking midfield talent have all been fielded at various intervals by club coaches, as well as Joachim Low, at centre forward. Count among that number Andre Schurrle, Mario Gotze, Marco Reus and Max Kruse. There is no indication that Draxler is incapable of performing the same function. He has demonstrated, since making his debut three years ago for Schalke, that he can play anywhere across the attacking midfield line and even up front.
This is a player who can become a great – provided he is at the right club. A wonderfully balanced, two-footed attacker with dribbling abilities, an eye for a pass and a goal, Draxler’s got it all. And standing at roughly 6’2, he is a strapping physical specimen. Arsenal could have the next Cristiano Ronaldo on their hands.
For that, €48m is small change indeed.
BALLON D’OR VOTE SHOWS ENGLISH SICKNESS
It is Ballon d’Or day but there will not be a lot of news about the award for best individual player of 2013 in England. It is a long time since the Premier League had any relevance in that respect.
There is no disputing that the final three candidates – Lionel Messi, Franck Ribery and Cristiano Ronaldo – deserve the plaudits but it is a blow to English football that no player available to Roy Hodgson was among the final 23 candidates.
It says plenty about the calibre of player now being developed in England. They are not making a significant impact on the world stage. There is no club towards the top of the Premier League table – like Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund or Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga – which still prides itself on developing home grown prospects through the youth academy.
Increasingly, the native players at Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal are either the wrong side of 30 or peripheral squad figures – albeit with a few notable exceptions. When the likes of John Terry, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Michael Carrick retire the situation will be bleaker still.
The days of World Cup 2002 or Euro 2004 – when the cream of Premier League talent was available to Sven Goran Eriksson – are well and truly over. It seems that a run of decent form for any club in the league will put a player in the national team picture; Jay Rodriguez and Rickie Lambert are the options now where once Andy Cole and Robbie Fowler were struggling even for a squad place.
Messi, Ribery and Ronaldo are all ‘foreigners’ in the leagues in which they ply their trades. Perhaps more Englishmen need to follow the path of David Beckham and test themselves in one of Europe’s other top competitions.
MCGEADY DEAL A STEAL FOR EVERTON
Speaking to Roberto Martinez about the Ireland national team while they were struggling under Giovanni Trapattoni, the Everton manager was bemused that they were faring badly considering the players in their ranks.
He named Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy as two of the chief reasons why the Irish should have been doing better and also identified Aiden McGeady as an attacker capable of turning matches. One of the best wingers in Europe, in fact, is how Martinez described McGeady and he revealed that he attempted to sign the 27-year-old while in charge of Wigan.
His excitement at the prospect of coaching Coleman was well judged as the full-back has become one of the best in his position in the Premier League under Martinez. Similarly, the Spaniard knew what he liked about McCarthy when he brought him south of the border from Hamilton and has since converted him into one of the brightest midfield talents in the country. The impact with McGeady will be similar; it is a signing the manager truly relishes.
Martinez has pulled off one of the transfer coups of the season, bringing in the former Celtic man for a cut-price £1.7 million deal. He will fit perfectly into the Everton way of playing and deliver a lot for his side when they are in sustained possession as well as on the counter attack.
McCarthy, Romelu Lukaku and Gareth Barry have been three of the best deals in the league this season and testament to Martinez’s ability to spot key components for his own side at other clubs.
Come the end of the season, with Everton in the mix for Europe, expect McGeady to feature on that list too.
BOTTOM HALF WEAKER THAN EVER BUT SACKINGS NOT THE SOLUTION
While the top teams in the Premier League can play decent football to good standard, the rope ladder has well and truly been pulled up on those beneath. There is a gap of seven points between Southampton in ninth place and Hull City in 10th. From Hull and Crystal Palace at the bottom – a total of 11 teams – there is a six-point gap.
While competitiveness among the top teams is to be lauded as an indicator of overall quality, a similar situation at the bottom does not mean the same thing. A sequence of two or three matches unbeaten will take any team out of trouble in the space of a week or two.
Club owners, then, at those 11 teams should take it as a fact that no matter what they do they will be in the relegation shake-up at the end of the season. Their squads are not good enough to do any better.
What is needed now among them is solidity, stability and a chance for managers to put their ideas across without the fear of losing their job. Changes have been made at Sunderland, Crystal Palace, Fulham, West Brom and Cardiff to no notable effect. Sacking coaches does not provide the solution.