In recent years, Arsenal have developed a considerable contingent of Germans. Per Mertesacker and Serge Gnabry began the influx in 2011. A year later, Lukas Podolski was the next to move to London. And last summer, Mesut Ozil transferred to Arsenal for a club record, €50 million. To boot, arguably the club's greatest academy prospect, Gedion Zelalem, was born in Berlin.
The increasingly Teutonic Gunners are now linked with yet another talented German: Julian Draxler, a graduate of the same Schalke academy that produced Ozil.
At first, Draxler to Arsenal might be considered a match made in heaven: So well-regarded is the 20-year-old that Arsene Wenger is reportedly prepared to meet the player's €48 million buyout clause, as per Tony Stenson of The Daily Star.
A recent report by Wayne Veysey of Goal.com claimed that the manager is even trying to land Draxler this January, before the player's exit clause takes effect.
In August, a month before his 20th birthday, Transfermarkt valued Draxler at €30 million. For perspective, this is the same as former Wenger target Mario Goetze, via Richard Arrowsmith of Mirror Football, was rated at the same age, as per Transfermarkt. If Draxler undergoes development similar to Goetze's in the next year or so, he will be well worth his appraisal. The trouble is, Draxler has done little this season to justify the value of his buyout clause.
The highly rated attacker scored just one Bundesliga goal in the first round, and based on aggregate player ratings, he was ranked 44th among the league's midfielders in the first half of the season by Kicker. He failed to inspire a strong but leaderless Schalke side in domestic competition, and at the halfway point, the Gelsenkirchen side stand a disappointing seventh in the table.
To his credit, Draxler has performed at a very high level in the Champions League. His brilliance against PAOK lifted the Knappen into the group stage, and therein, he was arguably man-of-the-match in the first two rounds against Steaua and Basel. When Schalke desperately needed three points against Basel on the last matchday, it was he who scored the opener.
Draxler's performance in the Champions League should be no surprise; his talent is undeniable. He's effective with both feet, has magnificent technique and an outstanding shot, is great in one-on-one situations and can create as a playmaker. At such a young age, he will only get better.
The trouble is, Draxler has never played at a very high level for an extended period of time. He's found his form in some big matches, but these are few and far between, and when the stakes are high, he may and may not show up. As great as he was in half of Schalke's Champions League matches this fall, he was rather poor in the other half.
Arsenal would be a big step up for Draxler not only in terms of prestige but also expectation. It would be a big gamble for the player to move to London, where the competition is much greater than at Schalke, and where he will be expected to, for the first time in his life, produce on a week in, week out basis. It would also be a big gamble for Arsenal to spend a near-record sum on a player who, despite all his abundant talent, is still decidedly a work in progress.
One great positive for Draxler in moving to Arsenal ahead of another foreign club is the number of German players who ply their trade at the Emirates. But his direct competition in his favored central attacking midfield role is Ozil, and he would have to overcome Santi Cazorla and compatriot Podolski, among others, for a role on the left wing.
The position of striker is also a possibility, and Draxler has (albeit on very rare occasion) played as the attacking focal point. However, €48 million for a player who might eventually become a reliable center-forward would be a bizarre investment for an Arsenal side known for their shrewd investments. Diego Costa would cost less and is a reliable, proven striker.
Schalke are almost sure to turn down any January offer for Draxler, which leaves the player with half a season, plus the World Cup, to demonstrate his value. The odds are against him, though; he currently is recovering from a hamstring injury and has half a dozen or more established attacking midfielders ahead of him in the pecking order in Joachim Loew's Germany squad.
Schalke are also quite likely to be eliminated from the Champions League as they take on Real Madrid in the next round.
Draxler may emerge as a world-class star within the next couple years but only if he makes the right career choices and seizes the chances he's given. At this point, even a summer move to Arsenal would appear to be extremely risky.
For Arsenal, too, signing Draxler would be an expensive risk with tremendous downside potential. The player could well flop, which will be very broadly defined given his cost. If not, Draxler would freeze a well-paid and top-class player out of Wenger's lineup. Arsenal could use some reinforcements, but their depth in positions that Draxler can occupy is superb.
Whatever becomes of Draxler in the long term, Arsenal have more important issues to address. Draxler himself needs to start consistently making use of his talent, lest he becomes the next promising talent to stagnate before tapping into all of his ability.
Until he proves himself worthy of his price tag and until Arsenal address other, more pressing areas of concern, Draxler and Arsenal will not be the match made in heaven that it might initially seem.