How Paris Saint-Germain can fit Julian Draxler into their starting XI
Julian Draxler’s career threatens to be one characterised by taking the wrong turns at the wrong times.
The 24-year-old German exploded onto the scene at Schalke, but after four successful seasons in Gelsenkirchen elected to move to Wolfsburg, where his career stalled alarmingly, though not so much as to dissuade the likes of Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain to take interest.
Booed by his own supporters, while playing in a team in which he looked like an outsider, the opportunity to move to PSG last January for €35m seemed like a dream move for the attacking midfielder.
Initially, he seemed set to live up to his promise, and though his level dipped slightly towards the end of the campaign, being named the outstanding player at the 2017 Confederations Cup, which was won by Germany, seemed to have teed him up perfectly for the campaign ahead.
But, there was trouble coming to Paris in the shape of a mercurial Brazilian bought for a world-record fee, and a young French winger eager to make his name in his hometown.
As PSG spent the best part of €300 million on Neymar and Mbappe, it suddenly relegated Draxler, whose pre-season was curtailed to a peripheral role once more, due to his international commitments.
He was even drawn to admit that his club-mates have “an advantage on paper” over him.
It does not necessarily need to be that way for the Gladbeck-born player, though.
Certainly, Germany legend Michael Ballack believes that is the case.
“He’s made enormous progress and it’s not always easy to go abroad,”
the former Chelsea man told Sky.
“With the deals for Neymar and Mbappe, he has two players ahead of him in the hierarchy, but I think he’ll still have his chances in Paris.”
Emery’s preferred 4-2-3-1 formation could open up a spot for him in the starting XI, playing as one of the supporting players to Cavani.
Draxler enjoyed some success on the right wing last term, and due to the versatility of both Neymar and Mbappe across the attacking line, Emery could shuffle his side around to accommodate him there.
Emery has already tried to use the player as a more orthodox No.10, doing so in PSG’s Ligue 1 meeting with Lyon, but the tendency of Neymar to drift inside off the left flank left him with limited room to manoeuvre – hardly the ideal scenario for a position that requires its practitioner to be able to pick pockets of space between the lines.
The Spanish coach, who enjoyed enormous success with Sevilla using that system and had intended to implement it at PSG when he moved to the club in the summer of 2016, may persist and attempt to teach his players to implement his ideas better.
With Neymar very much the boss of the offence, though, pinning him down to one particular role will be no easy task.
Indeed, given the success that PSG have enjoyed with a 4-3-3 formation, it is likelier that they will retain that as their go-to formation.
Marco Verratti’s absence due to suspension in their last three league matches necessitated a move away from that scheme, but it is in that manner that they have looked to be at their devastating best.
In this case, Draxler must hope that PSG go deep in all four of the competitions they are involved in.
That will mean that squad rotation is essential for the well-being and success of the team, in which case he is liable to get plenty of opportunities as Emery shuffles his pack to deal with fatigue and injuries as the campaign goes on.
Even being the first reserve at PSG this season is no mean feat, however.
Lucas Moura, Angel Di Maria and Javier Pastore are all liable to be joining Draxler on the bench in the first half of the campaign - it is difficult to see all four seeing out the season in the French capital.
Despite this competition, the German is maintaining a positive outlook.
“It’s not easy for me … The coach will decide ahead of every game and you have to show him that you’re the right man for the situation,”
he told Deutsche Welle earlier this week.
“I had to fight in training but now I'm going forward step by step. I will give my everything to be in the starting XI and I'm convinced that I have got that in my locker.”
His biggest problem now, is the crazy offensive form of the golden three at the forefront of the attack.
The €222 million-man Neymar has five goals and five assists in six outings, while hometown hero Mbappe already has a couple of strikes to his name.
Further, Cavani has found the net nine times in only eight games - an absolutely staggering pace.
Breaking into such a rotation will take great mental fortitude.
With a bit of patience and a pinch of luck, though, he can yet be a major player in Paris.
There is, after all, a reason why Barcelona and Arsenal are still circling. His bad luck must end sometime.