Scouting Report: Can Arsenal Turn Julian Draxler into a Superstar?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJanuary 16, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 18: Julian Draxler of Germany warms up during a training session at Wembley Stadium ahead of their International Friendly against England on November 18, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images

Schalke could "be open to offers this month" for Julian Draxler, increasing Arsenal's chances of signing him (as per Jeremy Wilson at The Telegraph), so here is a scouting report on Draxler, a 20-year-old German international.


What Is Draxler's Best Position? 

Draxler has predominantly played on the left wing but his preferred modus operandi is from a central position.

Source: Kicker

Source: Kicker

Last December, he said, as per Kicker (h/t Joe Krishnan at The London Evening Standard): "I have now resigned myself to the fact that I am not welcome in the No. 10 position here at Schalke."

Draxler's quote makes sense when you put it in this context: watching his teammates flourish in a central attacking role has been a theme in his career.

First it was Raul (played behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar), then it was Lewis Holtby and now it is 18-year-old Max Meyer, who has taken up the Wunderkind mantle from Draxler.

Then factor in the summer signing of Kevin-Prince Boateng from AC Milan, who has alternated from being a deep-lying forward to a No. 9, which has further limited the likelihood of Draxler making a move centrally on a permanent basis. 

Though, it was later revealed the quotes attributed to Draxler were misconstrued, as he did not voice criticism of Schalke manager Jens Keller nor was it an attempt to force a move away from the club.

In an email interview [1] with Bleacher Report Bundesliga expert Clark Whitney, he told me Kicker made a clarification regarding their interview with Draxler after his quotes were used by various publications to support the theory that he wanted out: "Draxler's words could have been interpreted as criticising Keller or that he's not happy, but neither really represents what was actually said."

If Draxler was 5'5", did not have a quick first-step, could not take on players, was low-risk and a pass-first midfielder, he would never play on the wings.

He is a victim of his own freakish tangibles: 6'1", quintessential technique, supreme ball-control and a willingness to take on opposing defenders.

This is why managers who have coached Draxler are inclined to play him out wide.

Source: Bundesliga

He can try to convince himself that he is a No. 10 (he wears the number on the back of his shirt) but he is more Thierry Henry than Mesut Ozil.

Draxler has a deep shooting range as then Greuther Furth goalkeeper Max Grun will attest to.

During Schalke's 2-0 win over Greuther Furth last season, Draxler darted inwards from the left flank, launched a shot with such velocity that the ball hit the back of the net before Grun completed his dive.

Source: Bundesliga

The power of his shot was on display again in a 2-0 UEFA Champions League win over Basle this season.

The manner in which he remained composed amid five Basle players charging towards him suggests he has the potential to become a 15-20 goals per season type of player. 

Source: Bundesliga

Instead of being a No. 10 or a No. 11, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger can turn Draxler into a superstar by moving him up front, like Henry. 

When Arsenal announced the signing of Henry from Juventus in 1999 for a then club-record transfer fee of £11 million, Wenger was taken aback when there were suggestions of placing Henry back on the wings.

"I don't know why you would put a player with his physique on the wing," Wenger said, as per Roy Collins at The Guardian. "You have to at least try to play him down the middle."

It was an indictment on Carlo Ancelotti, Henry's manager at Juventus, as per Philippe Auclair's biography of Thierry Henry:

At no point did it cross Carlo Ancelotti's mind that the [1998 FIFA] World Cup winner [Henry] who had been signed at his predecessor's [Marcello Lippi's] request would show rather more of his talent in a different position.

'I didn't think I could play him in the middle,' he [Ancelotti] chuckled, 'and he [Henry] never told me he could.

Yes, of course, when you see what he did at Arsenal, you have regrets.

It would have to take injuries to Adam Szalai and Boateng (Huntelaar has struggled with injuries this season) for Keller to even contemplate about playing Draxler up front.

Draxler can become Wenger's latest project. 


Draxler Concerns

Draxler's campaign thus far has been up and down. 

He has performed better in the Champions League (three goals and one assist in six games) than in the Bundesliga (one goal and four assists from 14 games).

He is ranked Bild's 90th best Bundesliga player right now and it is even worse on Kicker (108th). 

Source: Bild

Source: Kicker

A recent issue is his tendon injury but no one seems to know when he will return.

Sami Mokbel and John Edwards at The Daily Mail believe Draxler will be inactive until March.

Jan Aage Fjortoft tweeted that according to Sky Sport reporter Dirk Schlarmann, Draxler will be back mid-February.

German football expert Raphael Honigstein was the voice of reason saying Schalke had yet to provide an estimated injury lay-off time


Will Schalke Sell Draxler Anytime Soon?

Draxler's buyout clause is £37.8 million (as per Jeremy Wilson at The Telegraph) but get that number out of your head because the clause will only be active in the summer transfer window. 

What Arsenal should do is submit a £15-20 million transfer bid in this window. 

Given the inflated nature of the Premier League transfer market, Arsenal fans may think £15-20 million is a "bargain" for a player of Draxler's quality, but to all German clubs not named Bayern Munich, it is a substantial transfer fee.

Do you know how many times in Schalke's 109 years of existence they have sold a player for £15 million plus? 

Once, Manuel Neuer to Bayern for £19.5 million in 2011.

The advantage Premier League clubs have when dealing with most Bundesliga clubs is they generally always make the financially sound decision. 

Draxler is currently injured, has been inconsistent out wide, has a preference to play in the No. 10 position, but the Schalke management see Meyer as the long-term central attacking midfielder, so it will be hard not to sell Draxler.


[1] Allan Jiang is the Transfers Correspondent for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand via email interview.


Statistics via WhoScoredFFT Stats ZoneSquawka and Transfermarkt.


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