It would be disappointing and a little inaccurate to suggest Arsenal and their supporters need to accept the poor signings the club make and be happy with it. The club aren’t struggling to part with large sums of money, despite the frustrating nature of their operations in the market. But ultimately it’s the targets that have been identified and subsequently brought to the club which raise concerns.
Notably not all, however. Arsene Wenger did a fantastic job of acquiring proven players who are either in or approaching their prime this past summer. While some may argue that the jury is still out on Olivier Giroud, there is certainly plenty of positives to take from the signings of Santi Cazorla and Lukas Podolski.
The German international’s contribution, though, has been questioned in recent weeks, with his game dropping off in certain matches and the obvious factor of his substitutions on almost all of his starts. But I’m not really convinced there is a problem with Podolski and what he can bring to the club, and much the same can be said about Cazorla, who has drawn similar worries from sections of the support.
It was a tremendous piece of business by Wenger to pick up an international player of Podolski’s calibre for what should be considered a very low fee. He’s in his prime, he knows how to find the net and he ticks all the boxes for what the team need either from the left flank or centrally: a hard working, technically proficient goal scorer.
The problem with Podolski is that many are too quick to look back at his time at Bayern Munich, assuming that his “failure” makes him unfit for a club with lofty ambitions. To reiterate, he’s a German international with a phenomenal number of caps for his age, and a player who Joachim Low has trusted in the first-team for much of the past few years. With the rising generation of superstars in Germany, it would have been easy for Low to dismiss Podolski and look to youth.
But it’s his experience and character that shines through and which makes him such a valuable asset to both Arsenal and his national team. Forget for a moment that he was the captain of Koln and look to the obvious nature of his game that suggests he is a player with a winning mentality. He was once the golden boy of German football, but things don’t always work out and culminate in the fairytale ending most would expect. A tough time at Bayern, yes, but that experience didn’t strip him of his qualities as a footballer.
The numbers during his first season in English football so far would certainly suggest Arsenal have landed a fantastic buy. 10 goals and seven assists in all competitions is a very promising return for a player operating from a wide position. Moreover, he’s shown his willingness to help out Kieran Gibbs defensively, while in tandem they are clearly Arsenal’s best attacking pair from either of the flanks.
Podolski’s problem at Arsenal has nothing to do with him being a lazy player or not quite up to standard. Again, we’ve seen Cazorla fail to have an effect on all of Arsenal’s games, yet there is no doubting that he’s one of Wenger’s best purchases in all of his time as Arsenal manager. Rather than looking to the deficiencies that may or may not exist in some players, it’s the setup of the team and club as a whole which creates this impression.
Both fans and journalists have spoken about Wenger’s lack of tactical awareness or instruction for his players over the years. The manager is far more liberal with his approach, entrusting his players to go out and express themselves and in turn pick up the victory. Naturally, as we’ve seen countless times, that isn’t always the case. However, it is normal for fans or the media to point the finger at senior players like Podolski, citing his lack of contribution when it was needed.
You can look at the opposite side of that argument and analyse the German’s performances in Arsenal’s better matches this season. He’s a consistent threat on goal, he links up well with a number of players in the attacking-third (his goal against Montpellier with the assist from Giroud should be remembered) and his time in a very good Germany squad has strengthened his mentality to win.
It may not be obvious to some, but Podolski is a very exciting signing for Arsenal. With the frugality of the club’s approach to the transfer market, picking up players like Podolski in that price-range is exactly what Wenger should be aiming for. His past isn’t questionable, and that’s a big misconception. I’ve always held that belief that not every good player can fit into every good team, and while Podolski may have felt the pressure from his move to Bayern earlier in his career, coupled with the presence of Miroslav Klose and Luca Toni, that specific theory could certainly carry some weight.
Yes, it’s often difficult to watch Arsenal and their lacklustre performances. But that’s a problem stretching beyond just certain members of the squad. Of course, it all filters down to the players, and you’ve got to wonder how much more people like Podolski could offer if they had team-mates of better quality. But regardless, I maintain that Podolski has been an excellent signing for Arsenal. A player of the right age and one who fits into the club’s comfort levels in terms of fee spent. I have every confidence we’ll see a lot more from the German international as his career in north London continues.