Arsenal: Why Julian Draxler Could Be The New Jose Reyes (And Then Some)
It’s approaching ten years to the day that Jose Reyes, Arsenal’s record signing at the time, blasted them past Chelsea into the last eight of the FA Cup. The young Spaniard, signed for a total of £17 million including future add-ons, scored twice to turn things around and, although Arsenal didn’t win the FA Cup in the end, his signing proved a catalyst for Arsenal winning the league.
Ten years on, and Arsenal sit on top of the table, awaiting the draw for the fifth round of the FA Cup and facing a giant task in the Champions League knock-out round against Bayern Munich. It’s a very similar position to that of the 2003/04 season, which saw them famously win the Premier League without losing a single game, and the signing of Reyes was a big part of that.
In Arsène Wenger’s post-match media work after his team proved too good for League One Coventry in the FA Cup fourth round, he had to field several questions about Schalke 04 attacking midfielder Julian Draxler. The rumour mill is insisting that Arsenal are deep in negotiations with the German side for the player, although Wenger, typically, denied it.
As well as there being parallels between Arsenal situation in January 2004 and now, there are parallels between the signing of Reyes and the potential signing of Draxler. Both are 20 years old, the reported fees are massive for the Gunners (£17 million in 2004 wasn’t to be sniffed at, and there’s now talk of a deal in excess of £30 million for Draxler) and both are highly coveted. Most importantly, Reyes was a vital injection of quality to help Arsenal get over the line. Draxler could do the same.
Furthermore, when Reyes signed for Arsenal, they seemed well-stocked in the positions he covered: Robert Pires was an automatic first-choice on the left of midfield, while Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp through the middle are still revered by most as the best strike partnership the club has ever seen. However, his influence was clear to all: after his first two goals helped them advance in the FA Cup, he scored vital goals at Fulham and Portsmouth to name just two in order to help Arsenal complete an incredible feat.
And now, in January 2014, the Draxler rumours heat up while Arsenal await their opponents in the next round of the FA Cup. Like when Reyes joined, it hardly seems like Arsenal need attacking reinforcements. Draxler can also play on the left of midfield or centrally, where Arsenal currently have Santi Cazorla and Mesut Özil, not to mention Lukas Podolski, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Serge Gnabry, Jack Wilshere, Tomas Rosicky and Aaron Ramsey, who can all fill those positions.
Rumour has it that Arsène Wenger wants to do what he did with Thierry Henry and some Dutch guy by turning Draxler from a wide player (who wants to play centrally, albeit behind the striker) into a centre-forward, and the Arsenal manager said he “rules nothing out” regarding that in his press-conference.
Watching a compilation of Draxler’s Schalke performances this season, it’s certainly clear that he has both the skillset and the physique to lead the line at the highest level. Standing at almost 6 foot 2, the athletically-built attacker would be able to provide a target for Arsenal in the air while also providing ability on the ball, which he has in abundance.
For now, though, the focus is on the present. Jose Reyes was meant to have a long-term impact as well as the short-term one that he undoubtedly had, but his career sadly fizzled out as it became clear that he wasn’t going to adapt to the rigours of English football.
If Arsenal’s pursuit of Draxler comes to fruition this January – you get the feeling that they may have to do the deal now in order to stop the likes of PSG from pouncing in the summer, particularly with the German’s release clause of a reported £37 million coming into play from June – they will hope that he can go one better than Jose Reyes, spurring them onto silverware this season as well as his fulfilling his clear potential in the future.
Follow Sam on Twitter, @sdrewfootball