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Somewhere deep inside Tottenham Hotspur’s headquarters, at the end of a dark and foreboding corridor, Daniel Levy sits cross-legged in an imposing black leather chair, caressing his cat, head tilted with one eyebrow raised, plotting the demise of North London rivals Arsenal.
His devious and somewhat underhanded plan, if successful, is reportedly to scupper Arsenal’s attempt at signing Julian Draxler by restricting the movement of one of his own: Lewis Holtby. At least, that was the image portrayed by a whole host of national newspapers this week.
The truth though, according to Schalke general manager Horst Heldt, is that Arsenal can lure Draxler away from the Bundesliga simply by activating his release clause – an estimated £37 million. Therefore, Tottenham’s chairman can play the ruthless and scheming James Bond villain all he likes, but it would seem that Arsene Wenger still has the upper hand in this cunning game of chess.
It’s clear to see why Levy would want to scupper Arsenal’s attempt at landing one Germany’s brightest prospects. A youthful, vibrant and creative attacker would be a welcome addition to any side; that much is true.
However, if you scrutinise Wenger’s track record of developing promising youth players, with many establishing a world-class reputation later in their careers, Levy is right to be worried about the prospect of Wenger transforming Draxler and enriching his performances for many years to come. Especially considering the versatility of Schalke’s talented attacker.
Following Holtby’s transfer to Tottenham in January 2013, Schalke found themselves in somewhat of a predicament.
Holtby had scored four goals in 19 appearances throughout the 2012-13 campaign before switching to English football, with a total of 28 goalscoring chances (seven assists) – second only to Jefferson Farfan – created in that period.
An influential and creative component had been plucked from the heart of Die Koenigsblauen. Schalke needed an answer to their problem. Step forward, Draxler.
Draxler had, for the most part, played predominantly on the left flank during the first five months of last season, cutting inside at any opportunity in an attempt to carve through opposition defences via direct and silky running.
But following Holtby’s transfer, Draxler was shifted to a second striker role, resulting in the teenager (at the time) scoring six goals in 13 appearances from the new central attacking position, via a phenomenal shot accuracy of 89% (24 shots on target).
The change of position also coincided with an increase in creativity for the inventive forward.
Draxler created 18 chances when attacking from out wide, but having been moved to the centre, he laid on a total of 27 chances for team-mates as Schalke finished the season in a respectable fourth place.
The Mirror’s John Cross has suggested that the reason Wenger is pursuing the availability of Draxler is because he sees him as a future Robin van Perise, or Thierry Henry; a wide player who can be transformed into one of the world’s best and most feared strikers.
Schalke’s talented inside forward is more than capable of surging past his marker – 151 successful take-ons since the start of last season – down the left flank (see above), before supplying the killer ball to onrushing midfielders.
But, however good his wing play might be, Draxler’s positive change in form for Schalke last season upon Holtby leaving would seem to suggest that his remarkable raw talent is best suited to a central role off the striker.
If Wenger can entice Draxler to the Premier League this month, with the aim of extracting the German’s natural ability and converting him from a winger into one of the league’s most prolific strikers – like Van Persie and Henry before him – it will be a marvelous transformation that Tottenham's Levy can only sit back and watch.