Manchester City’s reported interest in Julian Draxler is comprehensible: having missed out on the signing of Isco to Real Madrid, a young, dynamic, creative playmaker to potentially field the void behind a striker seemingly remains a necessity. While David Silva will likely occupy the number 10 role in Manuel Pellegrini’s favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, a combination of a lack of viable competition and burnout saw the Spaniard’s impact last year minimalised somewhat, especially when compared to his debut campaign with the Citizens.
Missing out on Isco would have certainly been a blow to Pellegrini. The young midfielder became the fulcrum of the Malaga attack under the Chilean, with the manager dubbed ‘El Ingeniero’ - The Engineer - regularly calling upon the creative talents of the 21-year-old to unlock an opposition defence. Nevertheless, with Los Blancos securing his signature last month, it has seen City swap targets, and understandably so.
Many the footballing connoisseur would’ve presumed Draxler to be unavailable this summer after signing a fresh two-year contract extension back in May, running until 2018. Yet, having failed to rule out a potential move away from FC Schalke 04, it has seen many a big spending manager cast a watchful eye towards the Veltins-Arena in the hope of snaring the youngster before the close of the transfer window.
The 19-year-old broke onto the scene in 2011 before making a name for himself during Schalke’s 3-2 DFB-Pokal encounter with 1. FC Nuremburg, netting the winner in the dying seconds of extra time of the quarter final encounter. Since then, it’s been a steady upward curve of improvement for the young German, who was handed the opportunity to step out of the shadows of first Raul Gonzalez and then Lewis Holtby in January after the pairing departed the Bundesliga side in the space of six months.
Netting 10 and assisting a further three goals last season has seen Draxler’s stock rise considerably, while a shot accuracy of 61.7% - the highest of any Bundesliga player to have fired away 35 or more shots over the season - would’ve certainly aided in seeing the continent’s biggest teams take a liking to the youngster. With a 22.4% direct contribution to Schalke's goals last season, his creative capabilities are clear, but combined with his shot accuracy, Draxler exhibits a goal-getting ability that City's current midfielders do not.
It’s an area where City could certainly improve upon from the previous campaign, with only 22 of their 66 goals coming from midfielders last season. In addition the recent acquisition Jesús Navas doesn't really add firepower, with the Spaniard failing to find the back of the net with Sevilla last year from 80 shots on goal, the worst return in Europe’s top five leagues. City's title-winning season may’ve seen the midfielders at the club net just 27 times - a drop of only five goals - but it’s a lack of strikes from deep that often hindered the former champions over the campaign.
The front-men failing to consistently find their rhythm in and around the 18-yard box would’ve also played a pivotal role in this, evidenced in that City only netted 66 goals compared to the 93 the previous year, but adding a further goal threat from midfield will be crucial to the club this summer as they aim to wrestle the Premier League title back from rivals Manchester United.
Evidently, Draxler could add the necessary goals from in and around the penalty area, while his versatility in a three-man attacking midfield, having played on the left flank and behind the striker for Schalke last season, would benefit his teammates significantly. Perhaps his arrival would help Silva in particular, with the midfielder not only providing the necessary competition as previously mentioned, but the system Pellegrini would likely adopt will allow both players to drift into pockets of space behind the striker and hurt the opposition.
Draxler's average of 1.5 key passes per game was significantly lower than that of Silva - with the Spaniard’s 3.3 per game the highest in Europe’s top five leagues last season - while he made just 28.2 passes per domestic encounter last season. However, with 2.6 successful dribbles per match, Draxler could offer a different threat to the City system, with that figure higher than any player currently on the books at the Etihad Stadium.
Moreover, with the club missing out on Isco, it can be argued that Draxler would be the more superior signing. The stats weigh in the favour of the latter when looking at the goals (9) and assists (1) of the former Malaga youngster, not to mention the successful dribbles (1.6) and key passes per game (1.2) of the Spain international, despite Isco’s pass success of 84.7% being stronger than Draxler’s 81.7%.
Following the acquisition of Fernandinho also, it’s fair to say that City could do with bringing in players that will add width to their game. While Draxler’s overall attacking game improved significantly when positioned behind the striker with Schalke, the option to place him on the flank will only appeal to Pellegrini as he looks to soften the blow that missing out on Isco caused.
His goalscoring capabilities from midfield will ease the burden placed on the shoulders of current strike pairing Sergio Agüero and Edin Džeko, while also allowing Silva to operate more centrally where the club can utilise his creativity and see his form from the 2011/12 season return. Having garnered an average WhoScored.com rating of 7.41 Schalke will likely strive to keep hold of the midfielder, but with the abundance of riches currently available to Pellegrini; City could be landing the German this summer should they pursue their interest over the coming weeks.