Showing posts with label Schalke. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Schalke. Show all posts

16 June 2015

Lebewohl, Lukas. Could Podolski's departure open the door to Draxler?

Amid reports that Lukas Podolski has been sold to Galatasaray for some £1.4m, potentially clearing his £100,000 weekly wage from Arsenal's books, minds wander to whom we might sign to shore up that left side, where we don't have many "true" options other than playing someone out of position (Aaron? Fancy a run-out on the left?), another German comes to mind, one we haven't flirted with since January 2014: Julian Draxler. The pacey left-winger might be available, with a release-clause of some £34m, not outrageous and well within our wheelhouse.

11 August 2014

Just one more player could push Arsenal to the top of the Prem...but who?

After in which we've seen Arsène eclipse almost all previous expectations for his behavior in the transfer-window (four new players in and almost £60m spent with three weeks still left before the window closes?), it seems a bit silly to both wonder and demand yet another signing. Elsewhere, Man City have been pretty quiet, Liverpool have to cope with the departure of nearly 33% of their goals-scored, and Chelsea will go into the season with Fernando Torres as their only forward after Lukaku joined Everton, Ba joined Beşiktaş, and Drogba succumbed to injury. Still, there's a nagging feeling that we haven't quite anted up to the point that would see us overtake any of these rivals while also staving off Everton, Spurs, or Man U, each of whom could shoulder their way into the top four. Who, then, can we look to?

14 January 2014

Julian Draxler: Stats, strengths, and weaknesses

It's January, and surely, the silly-season is in full effect. Stories abound about the possibility that we might prise Julian Draxler from Schalke 04 for a hefty buy-out clause of something close to £37.8million. While this at first might seem a hefty tag to attach to a 20-year old, he's already made more than 100 appearances for Schalke and he's drawing rave-reviews for his performance on the pitch and studiousness off of it. Further fueling the fires of speculation, Schalke manager Horst Heldt admitted that the club may be powerless to prevent his departure, saying that "We continue to hope that Julian remains, but there are factors that we cannot influence.” While that stops a bit short of putting him up for sale, it is tantalizing news as we look for options to strengthen the attack.

Thinking about the move might prompt questions of why we might move for yet another midfielder when we already seem to have quite a stable. However, while Draxler has plied his trade as a winger for much of his career, he has done well  playing more centrally as a #10, a position that puts him in a position that can maximize his strengths, namely, dribbling, aerial duels, and finishing. It's not as if he's yet another crafty little playmaker, either. He stands at 1.87m, just a touch short of Giroud's 1.92m, and there have rumors that, should Arsène be able to bring him to Arsenal, Draxler could be converted into an out-an-out striker, a conversion that Arsène has pulled off with more than one winger/attacking midfielder in the past, namely Thierry Henry and Robin van Persie.

Because of Draxler's youth, he has quite a lot to learn, and this could make such a plan even more feasible. Arsène has suggested that players frequently don't settle into a "permanent" position until they are 23-24 years old, which would give Draxler several years to grow into the striker's role. Already, though, he's developed a reputation for strength on the ball and at bringing others into the game. While this may not quite match the hold-up play that Giroud is known for, Draxler is a big-enough and skilled-enough target to make himself available for that role, and his apparent skill with the ball at his feet, whether on the dribble, pass, or shot, could add a very different and valued dimension to our attack.

Draxler himself has spoken warmly of a move to Arsenal, saying that  "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...Arsenal is a very, very nice team. They always have very young players, they play attractive football and that's what I like." Take that for what it's worth, for he went to say that "I better not speak too much about it because tomorrow I can read that I like to play for Arsenal. I think the people at Schalke would not like to hear that.”  This is hardly a full-throated promise to stay with Schalke, and it's enough to set tongues wagging.

There are a lot of other puzzle-pieces that seem on the verge of clicking into place. Theo's injury. Our German contingent. Heldt's comments. A possible loan back to Schalke for Tottenham's Lewis Holtby, who has not played a minute at all in Tottenham's last three matches, could make room for Draxler to leave. Wouldn't that be something? Tottenham sell Bale, which in turn clears the way for Real Madrid to sell us Ozil. Tottenham then loan out Holtby, which then clears the way for Schalke to sell us Draxler? It's almost too much to contemplate. Well, until it happens or the transfer-window closes, that's all we're left to do—contemplate. And, well, salivate.

19 February 2013

Arsenal vs. Bayern Preview

I won't lie. I probably won't have the guts to watch this one. As much as I hope we can continue our strong form in the home legs of UCL matches in the knock-out rounds, whether it's a near-miraculous comeback last year against AC Milan, crushing Porto by five, or beating Barcelona 2-1. The statistics, this year more than most, not to mention the momentum, just don't give us much to hang our hats on, as the saying goes. The nearest proxy I can find is that Bayern has beaten Schalke, a team we lost at home 0-2 and tied away 2-2, by scores of 2-0 and 4-0. Schalke may have done well enough to qualify for this year's UCL, but this year sees them sitting 9th, scrabbling for Europa League qualifying. Our struggles against them do not bode well. Bayern, by contrast, has lost just two games in all competitions, having conceded seven Bundesliga goals while scoring 57. While it's true that they've conceded seven goals in six UCL matches (including three to BATE Borisov), this still leaves them conceding 15 goals in 35 matches while scoring 72 (including domestic cups, Bundesliga, and UCL). For what it's worth, all of this scoring has happened with Arjen "Ray of Sunshine" Robben sulks on the bench. May that be both the first and last times that the words "Arjen", "Robben", and "sulks" all appear in one sentence--from my lips to God's ears.

It's with that in mind that we ponder our defense, porous as ever and just as prone to conceding silly goals. Koscielny is still limping, and Monreal is cup-tied. That leaves us with Vermaelen, Mertesacker, Sagna, and...Jenkinson? Miquel? Coquelin has played back there, but I'd prefer to see Ramsey drop back as he did  against Sunderland. The other gents are fine as far as they go, but given that I'd like to see us borrow from "lesser" teams (and let's face it, at least in this leg, we are the lesser of the two teams) and get behind the ball and wait for counters, and Ramsey is better-equipped to trigger and participate in those counters. With Ramsey joining Sagna, Mertesacker, and Vermaelen, we can then field Arteta, Cazorla, Diaby, and Wilshere  in midfield and throw on Podolski with Walcott up top.

I rather like the idea of Podolski up top, having a crack at his former team. He says that there are no hard feelings after his less-than-stellar time with Bayern, but I'm sure that, deep down, he does have something to prove. He has settled in nicely with us but hasn't played in the last two games. I hope this is down to minor injury or strategy over a possible falling-out. Whether he has any kind of insider-knowledge from his time with Bayern or the German national team is cute to consider but unlikely to yield much. The pace that he brings, not to mention that wicked left-foot, might add nicely to the counter-attacks that I think we should wait for. Bayern is a very cross-happy team, so I think that having some speed up top can take advantage of clearances to create counter-attacks.. Anam at Arseblog has written about the fear that Walcott struck into Dante's heart when they met in the Brazil-England friendly, and although that performance has rightly put Walcott on Heyncke's radar, adding a second  attacker with pace and finishing (sorry, Gervinho) might just keep us in this one.

Last thought before the match, t-minus 5 hours, 41 minutes: I rather like the "fire" that Wenger "unleashed" on the press during Monday's press conference. Depending on who you ask, he's on his way out a year early or about to sign a new deal. In either case, it's nice to see a little bit of passion instead of that French sang-froid. Nothing like being cornered to bring out a little of the beast within. It's almost enough to convince me that we should press ahead with the UCL. After all, it's just as realistic as winning the Prem.

My prediction: Arsenal 1-0. Yours?