In a manager’s ideal world, their players would play when and where they are told with minimum fuss, and constantly hold the thought that they are doing what is best for the team . However, with player power being what it is, this is highly unlikely to ever be the case.
Being played in your unnatural position is one of the pet hates of most top level footballers, or in fact anyone who has played the game. I personally, am still furious at being deployed at centre back for my primary school team, when it was obvious to everyone but my coach that I was more of a central midfielder.
Lukas Podolski is the latest to vent his frustration at being played in his unnatural position at Arsenal. The German was bought in over the summer with the idea he would be used as a central striker, however has spent the majority of the season playing on the left of a front three.
“I’d rather play as a central attacker,” Podolski admitted.
“On the left I have to do a lot of defensive work, constantly running up and down. I am not a classical winger.
“I am getting along well, for sure, but I demand more of myself. I want to play even better.”
This has simply added to Wenger’s selection headache, as Theo Walcott has also spoken of his desire to move from the wing to central striker on several occasions.
With the problems going on at Arsenal at the moment, the comments from Podolski could be viewed either as unhelpful, or as confidence in his ability to improve things for the Gunners. Speaking about it publicly could be viewed a desperate attempt to win a starting place in his favoured position as a central striker. However, it remains unlikely his manager will see it as favourably, and will probably not enjoy having his selection policy questioned publicly.
It all depends on how well the side is doing when it comes to judging if comments such as those made by Podolski are helpful to the cause. If the team is playing well and getting results, you do not want comments such as these as they can prove distracting to the team ethic. As in Podolski’s case, with Arsenal struggling for results, he perhaps feels he cannot benefit the team fully being deployed as a square peg in a round hole.
There are still those however who play where they are told with minimum fuss and fully for the benefit of the side. A perfect example of this is former Liverpool forward Dirk Kuyt, a man bought in as a striker but who was constantly deployed on the right wing for the duration of his spell at Anfield.
His former manager Rafael Benitez was not known for ever giving out individual praise during his time in the Anfield hot seat. However upon the news Kuyt would be leaving Liverpool for Fernabache in the summer, Benitez offered a glowing recommendation of the man he described as an “excellent professional.”
“I don’t know of many players who have played for the Liverpool shirt like he did from the day he arrived to the last second he played for that red shirt,” Benitez said.
“Never, not once, did he complain about having to play in a different role or out of position to help the cause. Not everyone can say the same. He was always the first to train, to improve, to progress and to set an example, he was a true team mate in all senses of the word on the pitch and a model human being off it.”
High praise indeed for a man who was often criticised for his lack of goals in the Premier League, with many overlooking the many aspects of his play that proved so crucial for Liverpool in their success under Benitez. He proved to be one of the most used and important players of the Benitez era. But again, Kuyt was unlikely to complain about being stuck out wide, with his side winning more often than not, and a certain Fernando Torres firing in the goals up top.
In my opinion, if Podolski feels he can help the team by playing as a central striker, he should not have said so publicly as it undermines the manager. It may be an attempt to cover his back for his poor performances of late, and you can feel a certain degree of sympathy for him in that case.
But with all the problems going on at Arsenal currently, and the unrest felt by supporters, comments that could be seen to be undermining the manager would have been well advised to have been kept private.
While feeling frustrated, Podolski would do well to remember how quickly everything can change in football. A goal and a win for Arsenal this weekend, will make everything appear rosy once more.