We’ve learnt in the past few years that Germany produces some of the best talents of World football. It is the DFB’s insistence on home-grown talents that has seen the national team flourish, and clubs like Bayern Munich to dominate the European stage. A look through the sides in the Bundesliga throws up a whole host of emerging talents; but the one that catches the eye more than all the others, is a certain Julian Draxler.
Who is Julian Draxler?
After stints with amateur sides, Draxler joined his boyhood club Schalke as a 9-year-old. Being a supporter of the club, his passion has been translated onto the football pitch as well. He became a regular with the Schalke youth sides playing for the U-17s in the 2008/09 season scoring 5 and setting up 2. These stats doubled when he was promoted to the U-19 side (mind you still only 16-yrs-old), as he scored 11 goals and created 6. He thus had to alternate between his school and Schalke, even as a first team call-up was imminent.
After developing through the youth sides, he was given his debut in the 2010/11 season by Felix Magath, becoming the youngest ever player to appear for Schalke’s first team. A week later he got his first start, playing under an hour against Hannover in a 1-0 victory. In the midst of his progress, Magath lost his job at Schalke and was replaced by Ralf Ragnick. A change of managers at an early stage would usually dent a players progress, but Ragnick continued from where Magath had left off. He called Draxler on as a substitute in his first game in charge, and the youngster didn’t disappoint, scoring against St.Pauli to earn a 2-0 victory. It was his first senior goal, and the only one he’d score that season.
Important for Draxler’s progress the regular run of appearances he was given in the knock-out rounds of the Champions League before finally make his debut in the tournament, playing the full 90 minutes at Old Trafford against Manchester United in their second leg semi-finals.
At the start of the 2011/12 campaign, Ralf Ragnick stepped down as Schalke boss due to health reasons and was replace by Huub Stevens. The new boss too was impressed by Julian Draxler as he regularly appeared for the first team. Draxler was flourishing in the first team, setting up goals for one of his self-confessed favourite players, Raul. Draxler would score twice and create six goals that campaign, as he made a total of 30 appearances. He also scored his first goals in Europe, scoring twice in the Europa League group stage. After progressing through the U-18s and U-19s for Germany, he made his debut for the U-21 side at the age of 18, against Cyprus.
It was in the 2012/13 campaign that the World stopped and took note of Julian Draxler, the player was in the provisional squad for Germany’s Euro campaign but never made the final cut. After an unimpressive start to the season, Schalke went on a run of 6 games with no win, losing 4 in that time. The Board sacked Huub Stevens in the winter break and he was replaced by current boss, Jens Keller. As he did under Rangnick, Julian Draxler scored in Jens Kellers’ first match in charge; a thrilling 5-4 victory over Hannover. He would score his first brace against Wolfsburg, following that up with a goal in the Revierderby as Schalke overcame rivals Dortmund 2-1 at the Veltins-Arena. Draxler had well and truly announced himself in the footballsphere; he even scored in the Champions League (interestingly though, he didn’t appear in both home and away ties against Arsenal, a club thought to be long time admirers of the youngster). He finished the campaign with 10 league goals and a goal each in the Champions League & DFB-Pokal.
Draxler was on the bench for Germany against Argentina prior to the start of the 12/13 campaign, making his debut in the next fixture against Netherlands. His first goal came against USA, in another friendly, as Germany lost 4-3 to Klinsmann’s men.
Following Lewis Holtby’s sale to Spurs the previous season, Draxler has been transitioned into his more favourable central role this season. Schalke have a talented squad, improved by the signing of Kevin-Prince Boateng, but Draxler has earned himself a regular starting place in Kellers’ side. He has been impressive so far in the campaign as Schalke again have the Champions League to compete in; Draxler will be looking to impress Joachim Low and earn a call-up to the World Cup in Brazil.
Julian Draxler featured in our list of 100 Best Young Players to Watch-out for in 2014. He was at #1 in our list of midfielders. See the entire list here.
Style, Strengths & Weaknesses
Julian Draxler has best been employed in the wide attacking zone, but one can’t call him a ‘winger’. He does possess the attributes which a player playing in the wide areas would require, but there is so much more to the dynamic youngster’s game that it would be unfair to restrict him as a ‘winger’. Having said that, Draxler can also play through the middle behind the striker, but one has to wonder if he can develop into a proper striker’s role as he progresses.
Here above you can see Draxler stationed centrally against Dortmund as he moved into a block of space in the #10 zone, he performs a quick turn and plays a deft through ball to his team-mate making a run in; thus showcasing his vision (a crucial factor in his preference to play centrally).
His greatest assest (one of many) is thus his versatility, the young talent has great feet, capable of dribbling past opponents and an impeccable first touch to bring the ball under his control. His quick feet make him adept at taking on opponents, especially in those wide areas as he attempts to make space for a cross; but a regular feature of Draxler’s play is when he bears down on goal with the ball at his feet as he skips past opponents and runs at those backing off. In such a situation he is able to get past the opponent, play a through ball or even have a shot himself. Julian Draxler has the 4th best one-on-one dribble wins across Europe’s top league (72), at the time of writing, a list led by Frank Ribery. It must be noted that Draxler isn’t the fastest player, but he has a great ‘explosion’ (or acceleration) of pace which helps him skip past his opponent and retain possession. Below is an example of his dribbling ability.
The illustration below, from the Chelsea game, depicts Draxler picking up the ball and running at the Chelsea defence. Despite a number of Chelsea players bearing down on him, he shows immense composure to retain possession and confidently move forward. He’s calm enough not to get pressurised by the players around him, playing a nice little through ball to his team-mate who had peeled away.
Another positive of young Julian Draxler is that he is able to take shots with both his feet, he is capable of taking shots from long range, and more often than not, he prefers to strike with power rather than precision. He can regularly be seen cutting inside and shifting the ball onto his striking foot (shifting onto right when playing on the left and vice versa).
This season he has seen stints playing through the middle, thus taking away his ability to cut inside but retaining much of his play. The most striking feature of deploying Draxler through the middle is the way he makes space for himself. He can be seen dropping deep, with the ball in a wide area, and making space for himself to take a shot on goal. On the right is an illustration of Julian skipping away the line of Chelsea players, to the edge of the box, offering Uchida the chance to find him. This is what he likes to do often, get shots off after creating space for himself, away from any markers.
Draxler, at 6’2″, is a fairly tall footballers and would usually be a top candidate to play the lone-strikers role. But for one reason or another, he hasn’t been played in that position. The one criticism that has to be levied on Draxler is his inability to make full use of his height. Firstly, playing him in a wide area removes his opportunity to compete for aerial duels. When he is deployed in a #10 role, behind the striker, he should be looking to get onto the end of crosses by making late runs into the box. But Draxler prefers to work with the space and create opportunities for himself to take shots off with either foot. This lack of aerial prowess may be a problem that has to be addressed, although it may also be fair to say that Draxler hasn’t been given the chance in a centre forwards role because of the personnel at Schalke’s disposal during his 3 years in the senior team (Raul, Huntelaar, Prince-Boateng etc.).
Given the attributes that he does possess, if the youngster can develop his aerial ability, improve his finishing and progress more as a striker, Julian Draxler could make for a wonderful dynamic centre forward, rather than an attacking midfielder (a role in which he has flourished, but doesn’t get the best out of).
It’s hard to accept the fact that Juliax Draxler is still only 20 years old, the maturity with which he plays and the composure he has when in possession is remarkable. He has developed very early and could peak for a long period of time, making Draxler (probably) the best young talent in World football.
“Draxler is without doubt a fantastic played who has gained plaudits in every corner of the globe. He has brilliant dribbling skills and ticks a lot of the boxes when it comes to requirements of a Premier League footballer. Sadly, he’s played a large part of this season away from his most favourable position to accommodate Meyer/Boateng – it’s understandable from Schalke, they want the best side on the field. Due to this I can see a departure on the horizon, and he’d be a fantastic purchase for most clubs. Wonderful talent with many great years ahead of him.”
— Lucas Swain (@BundesligaLucas)
Could Julian Draxler be the next big talent from the Bundesliga? Can you see him playing for one of the bigger European sides? What is your opinion on him? Let us know, drop a comment below. View his SoccerWiki profile here.