Arsenal may rue missing out on Draxler deal

Arsene Wenger's refusal to meet the Schalke star could prove to be a missed opportunity as the Gunners aim to fight for the title with a depleted squad

By Jonathan Birchall

So for now it appears that Arsenal seriously competing for the world's best players in the transfer market will continue to be the exception, rather than the norm.

With all due respect to Kim Kallstrom, a perfectly serviceable 31-year-old worth £3 million when he signed for Spartak Moscow 18 months ago, his arrival at the Emirates on loan - the only arrival in January - is hardly a statement of great intent. It's business as usual for Arsene Wenger.

Signing the Swede makes absolute sense. He is versatile cover for a midfield that has edged dangerously close to falling apart under the weight of injury after injury as Arsenal look to somehow navigate a title race against the hyperpowers of Chelsea and Manchester City.

But Kallstrom is eligible for Champions League football for a reason. Spartak Moscow are not the elite. His last taste of European football was a 4-2 defeat to St Gallen in the Europa League in August, at around the same time that Mesut Ozil was being coaxed to north London and fans were gathering outside the stadium late into a Monday night to celebrate a man signing his name on a piece of paper. It was ridiculous, brilliant and most of all significant.

If there were Arsenal supporters milling around the Emirates on Friday, you would expect they left early this time around. Perhaps it was around the mid-afternoon mark when it became clear that any hope of the club signing Julian Draxler had faded away.

Let it be made clear: it is not the manager's job to fulfil fans' every passing wish and whim. Schalke's asking price for the exceptional 20-year-old was more than Wenger was willing to pay. Therein lies the case for Arsenal's defence.

However, whichever way you look at it, this January can't help but look like an enormous missed opportunity for a club who has its best, tangible chance of a Premier League title in years.

Against City and Chelsea, who along with Manchester United are expected to spend huge sums in the summer, Arsenal have title rivals who, fairly or not, have depth to their respective squads with which the Gunners can't compete. Wenger is an absolutely superb manager, but even he has struggled against the financial might of the Premier League's nouveau riche.

So, sat only a point off the top of the league in the most unpredictable race for the championship in a decade, Arsenal leave January with less than what they started it with; a fighting chance, yes but major, perhaps crucial deficiencies.

The need for a striker of repute to lessen the burden on Olivier Giroud was already known inside and outside the club before Theo Walcott broke down with a knee injury that rules him out for the season. Wenger's five-strong striker shortlist has yielded nothing.

Arsenal have put themselves in a position of having to consider the ifs, buts and maybes. Should Giroud, for example, pick up an injury, Wenger's options up front amount to Nicklas Bendtner, Lukas Podolski and Yaya Sanogo.

The deadline day approaches for Miroslav Klose and Mirko Vucinic look little more than token gestures. It says very little of a club's title ambitions when they can't even secure the bare necessities.

It is the non-arrival of Draxler, however, that will stick in the craw. Wenger values the attacker at £30m but could have him for £7.2m more, as per the club's asking price. For a youngster of such obvious promise, who will be in the global shop window of the World Cup this summer, you wonder if the scrimping and saving is going to prove worth it in the end.

With Walcott, Aaron Ramsey and Jack Wilshere all currently injured, Arsenal are playing without a trio who have scored over a third of their goals in the league this season. Kallstrom, as it happens, has three goals since March 2012. He hasn't scored since September.

Wenger is prepared to wait and see with this title race, refusing to buckle under mounting pressure to spend at will. With hindsight come May, it could well look like a masterstroke, but still there lingers that familiar feeling at Arsenal. The doubt, the questions, the what-might-have-beens.

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