Arsene Wenger is right to pursue Julian Draxler. The chance to sign a player of his talent does not come around often. When it does, you have to seize it.
Should Arsenal pursue Julian Draxler?
In the press conference prior to Arsenal's victory over Fulham, Wenger ostensibly denied any interest in Draxler. Asked about rumours that the German international had been spotted at the Gunners' London Colney training ground, Wenger told ESPN:
Like with non-identified flying objects, some see them [footballers] everywhere.
I'm curious what will happen [with Draxler], it is my nature. The transfer period lasts until 31st January. Are we close to anyone, I'd say no.
However, a picture speaks louder than any words. Those who were present in the press conference, or who watched video footage of it afterwards, saw the familiar twinkle in Wenger's eye. His statements may have been evasive, but he could not disguise his admiration for Draxler's talent, waxing lyrical about the talent on show in Germany:
It's about talent and quality and at the moment, the talent is produced in Germany so we are, of course, interested where the talent is.
At the moment, Germany produces top level players.
We are interested in good education and top level players and at the moment Germany produce that.
Draxler is certainly a top-level player. He seems set to follow in the footsteps of Mesut Ozil, Mario Goetze and Marco Reus to become the latest in Gemany's remarkable production line of attacking talent.
However, is he the player Arsenal need? Arsenal are seemingly desperate for a striker to take the burden off Olivier Giroud. Draxler has played most of his football on the flanks. Is his signing really necessary?
Well, first and foremost, it's important to remember that Wenger rarely does what is expected of him. In the January transfer window of 2009, he ignored the fans' demands to sign a centre-half and a destructive midfielder, instead pouncing for diminutive Russian playmaker Andrey Arshavin. Arshavin's short-term impact was significant, and he helped Arsenal qualify for the Champions League.
Last summer, Wenger was also being urged to sign a striker. He looked long and hard at Gonzalo Higuain, and he pushed hard for a move for Luis Suarez, but ultimately, he ended up empty-handed. On deadline day, instead of swooping for a centre-forward, he moved for Mesut Ozil.
Questions were asked: Did Arsenal really need another No. 10 to add to their stable of skillful midfielders? However, Wenger confounded the critics once again. Ozil's acquisition has been instrumental in catapulting Arsenal to the top of the Premier League.
Wenger is well-versed in ignoring the baying masses and trusting his instincts. If his gut says that Draxler is the right addition, Arsenal fans would be well-advised to trust it.
There is also an undoubted logic to pursuing Draxler. Arsenal have lost Theo Walcott to a cruciate ligament injury. Draxler could offer a replacement for Walcott's dynamism and goals in the wide areas.
Furthermore, he could provide cover for Giroud.
According to John Cross of Mirror Football, Wenger is considering converting Draxler in to a centre-forward. Although radical, it does make sense: Draxler's body shape is similar to that of Robin van Persie. When the Dutchman arrived at Arsenal from Feyenoord, he was known principally as winger. Wenger identified his goalscoring potential and exploited it. Now, he could do the same with Draxler.
However, the key reason Arsenal are right to pursue Draxler now is simple: They have a free run at him. Come the summer, several top clubs will be on the market and looking for quality players to improve their chances ahead of next season. According to pundit Jan Aage Fjortoft, the likes of Bayern Munich could soon be circling.
It's all up to Arsenal, Bayern or other clubs now. Draxler is ready and Schalke look like they can be persuaded to sell— Jan Aage Fjortoft (@JanAageFjortoft) January 18, 2014
Draxler has spoken in positive terms about the prospect of joining Arsenal, telling Darren Lewis of Mirror Football:
I have always said English teams are very big clubs and Arsenal is of course one of them.
Of course I sometimes speak to Mesut or Per about the team, about the club, and they always have good words and they tell me nice things. You never know what happens in the summer but Arsenal is a very, very nice team.
It almost sounds like a come-and-get-me plea. Now is the time for Wenger to answer the call.