When Robin van Persie left Arsenal in 2012, his reasoning was that he “club’s future strategy and their policy.” It was a warning sent out throughout Europe. Arsenal are not a club that is looking to buy top players and challenge with the best, and who could argue with him? Having sold every quality player that had come through the door since 2005, things were looking ominous at Arsenal.
It is often said class attracts class. Have a world class player in your side, and other players will want to join to play alongside him. Most players in world football would walk across hot coals to play alongside Messi, Ronaldo, Xavi, Ibrahimavic, etc. The theory also works in another way. If you are selling your class players, it is very hard to attract other class players. Robin van Persie could have been a watershed moment in Arsenal’s history. The only true world class performed. Who would want to join us after he left?
Well, Arsene Wenger pulled out a master stroke. In the squad, he already had Per Mertesacker. Whilst he was heavily criticised by those less educated in what it takes to be a great footballer in his early days, he was very highly regarded in Germany. This a centre back who made his international debut at 20 years old. The presence of Mertesacker would have been key in the signing of Lukas Podolski, currently Germany’s 3rd highest capped player with 111 (Mertesacker now has 95 caps).
Moving the story forward, you have to think that having 2 German legends in the squad (and go to Germany, speak to people, they do consider Mertesacker and Podolski as legends) played a big part in the signing of Mesut Ozil. Would he have signed for Arsenal had Mertesacker and Podolski not already been at the club? Probably not.
So now we have Mesut Ozil, the man named German Player of the Year 3 times in a row. Lukas Podoslki, the youngest European to reach 100 international caps. And a Big Fucking German who commands respect throughout the German national squad. Nearly 250 international caps between them. With these 3 in the squad, we are very attractive to any German player. Maybe not as attractive as Bayern Munich, but we are fast becoming a German players second favoured club to join.
This is just a small example of how buying the correct, class players can fairly easily attract other class players. Players want to play with their hero’s. It was a reason why Thierry Henry wanted to join Barcelona, as he wanted to follow in the footsteps of his idol, Sonny Anderson. It is almost certain that, when growing up, Mesut Ozil idolised Lukas Podolski. And in the same way, these links, these idolisation’s, will be key in attracting Julian Draxler.
Let me go into some history. Mesut Ozil was born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, in 1988. 5 years later, Julian Draxler was born in Gladbeck. Draxler’s birth town is a mere 10km away from Ozil’s. Julian Draxler joined the Schalke youth team in 2001, at just at years old. In 2005, Schalke had discovered a 16 year old playing in the youth side of a German second division team, Rot-Weiss Essen. Ozil was a revelation in the Schalke youth set up, where within a year of signing, he had broken into the first team and was being labelled as Germany’s “next big thing”.
Now we have to make an assumption here. As Ozil was breaking into the Schalke first team at 17, it would not be unusual for other youth players to take notice and start to idolise their fellow youth players who are making the step up. As Ozil was making this break through, a 13 year old attacker was being nurtured in their youth team. By the time Ozil had left Schalke in 2008, Draxler was 15. With both Ozil and Draxler playing in similar position’s, their paths would have cross and Draxler would have felt a connection with his hero.
Fast forward the next 5 years, Ozil went on to play for Werder Breman, Real Madrid, and now Arsenal. As this was happening, Julian Draxler was beginning to be labelled as the “next big thing”. Whilst Ozil was becoming one of the best players in world football, and the best German player, Draxler was becoming one of the best young players in world football, and the best young German player. I bet you would not get great odds that Draxler once had Ozil’s picture on his wall…
Anyway, what you are seeing is a path of succession. One player becomes world class. Another player, born in the same area, makes a break through, a younger player idolised him and wants to follow in his footsteps. Ozil will become the deciding factor when it comes to Julian Draxler.
Like Ozil would not have joined Arsenal without Mertesacker and Podolski being at the club, Draxler is unlikely to have been so keen to join us with Ozil not already being their. It just once more highlights that class attracts class. Once Draxler is on board, many more young German players will be keen on joining the club.
Where as when Robin van Persie left due to our future strategy and policy, the club has done a complete 180. With no class players in our squad, it would have been hard, near impossible, to attract others – without just chucking 200k a week to everyone ala Manchester City. With the likes of Mertesacker, Podolski and Ozil we have a lot of class. Add in Cazorla and Monreal, two Spanish internationals. And then we have the cream of the English/British crop in Wilshere, Ramsey, Walcott & Oxlade-Chamberlain. Suddenly Arsenal are a very attractive proposition to both young and senior players.
When it comes down to where Julian Draxler ends up, you only have to look at his options. Join the side where his boyhood hero currently plays, someone who he will feel he has a connection with, where there are 2 German legends already at the club, or go elsewhere. It will be a slam dunk.
Julian Draxler. Welcome to Arsenal.