August 31st 2011 is a day marked in history. The day Arsene Wenger signed 5 players on a single day. However, 8 months on, it seems like lessons have been learnt from that shambolic transfer window. Arsenal secured the services of German striker Lukas Podolski, on April 30, way before the transfer window even opens, from FC Koln in Germany. Podolski will be a great addition to Arsenal’s exisiting array of talents. Here are few of the qualities the German possesses.
Option in Attack
Apart from Robin van Persie, Arsenal do not have the firepower in the attacking department, that can score consistently enough. Marrouane Chamakh has been largely dissapointing, and Park Chu-Young hasn’t gained the trust of the manager. Apart from that, Joel Campbell, who will be returning from a loan spell at Lorient next season, is a bit too young to be blooded into first team action. Niklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela are headed towards the exits at the Emirates. Gervinho has been woeful in front of goal, while Walcott has been erratic and inconsistent. Arsene Wenger recently admitted that the team has been over-reliant on van Persie this season. This is where Podolski comes in and gives Wenger more options up front.
Eye for Goals
Podolski arrives with a reputation. He is an accomplished German international, and has netted 43 goals in 95 games for his country. He scored 46 goals in 81 league appearances for his childhood club Cologne, in his first spell there. An unsuccessful stint with Bayern Munich followed, where Podolski’s form and confidence dipped. He managed only 15 goals in 71 league games. He returned to Cologne, netting 33 goals in 87 appearances so far, and is the 4th top scorer in the Bundesliga, behind Klaas Jan Huntelaar, Mario Gomez and Robert Lewandowski.
Pace and Power
Naturally left-footed like Robin van Persie, Podolski packs a punch with his shots. He often operates as a centre-forward, who can not only score but also set up plenty of them. At times accused of not being skillful enough, he has the pace to go past defenders, and this is central to Arsenal’s style of play. It will be interesting to see how Arsene Wenger plays the German. He could be an option on the left, in place of the ineffective Ivorian Gervinho, or as a supporting striker to Robin van Persie.
Bags of Experience
At just 26, Podolski is one of the seniors in the national side, with nearly 100 appearances. He has played in two European Championships (EURO 2004 and EURO 2008), as well as two World Cups (2006 and 2010). He was named the best young player of the tournament in 2006, which was hosted by his homeland, ahead of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, owing to his 3 goals.
According to German coach Joachim Low, Podolski can fit into a variety of roles up front easily. The general thought is that he will be deployed on the left wing, because of his natural ability. He has played as a winger in the past, and this could be positive for Arsenal.
In the past, Podolski’s temperament has been the source of much debate and controversy. In a league, where tackles keep flying around, and frustration mounts faster than steam in a cooker, Podolski will have to manage his temperament, if he is to succeed in the English league. He once slapped national captain Michael Ballack during a game, and has reportedly got into scuttles with the coaching staff at Cologne. Podolski has even been accused of having a poor attitude at training.
Playing at the Highest Level
While Podolski is a fine player in national colors, queries have been raised whether he can succeed playing at top clubs. His stint at Bayern Munich went horribly wrong. After the arrival of Italian striker Luca Toni who immediately struck a partnership with Klose, he fell behind in the pecking order. Whether he couldn’t get on with the big names around, or whether the play didn’t suit his style, is still debatable. At Cologne, with Podolski being the only big name, and the darling of the club, he managed to blend in quite well, becoming a club legend, at a young age.
Whether Podolski can ply as a lone striker is a doubt. Robin van Persie, not having signed a contract extension yet with the Gunners, could still mean, he may be sold at the end of the season. Podolski partners Miroslav Klose at the international level, and at club level with Christian Clemens. Podolski prefers through balls to be played into him, as this allows him to venture further forward on the pitch.
Lukas Podolski’s arrival in North London could usher in a new era for the Gunners. Probably a change in the transfer policy, where we buy more top players, rather than just make them and sell them on. A word of caution, though. Burdening Podolski with expectation would be the last thing Arsenal fans would want to do. Patience is the key as he settles into the English way of life. Of course, he has Mertesacker and Szczesny to help him do that. Remember Jose Antonio Reyes, or the more recent ones such as Marrouane Chamakh. We don’t want one more of that.
Jai Arsenal 🙂
Also, do read Desi Gunner’s writeup on Podolski. It is a good article.