Amidst all the criticism and condemnation of Arsenal’s sub-par performance against Manchester United one player appears to have got off lightly.
Lukas Podolski was miserable and anonymous; he failed in both his defensive and attacking duties on Saturday. A few goals early in his Arsenal career along with his regular role in the German national team has meant many have left the 27-year-old out of their damning verdicts on the 2012/2013 Arsenal team.
I’m yet to be convinced that Podolski is what the North London club need. The German international reminds me a lot of Dirk Kuyt, a striker who’s adapted to a wide role, and often provides graft but rarely creativity. Kuyt was able to complement Liverpool at their best but also didn’t have sufficient ability to improve the Reds as they degenerated. Joining an Arsenal side in transition facing a real struggle to get to fourth in the Premier League, I’m not convinced the German forward will bring the creativity and guile that has been lacking from Arsenal in recent fixtures.
What was so disappointing from Podolski against United was just how little defending the German did. One of his most impressive attributes is that for somebody brought up as a striker he often does his fair share of defending. In my opinion his only impressive performance at Euro 2012 was against Holland when the former Cologne man did a great job alongside the German captain, Philipp Lahm frustrating Arjen Robben to the point of despair. The two doubled up excellently to leave one of the most dangerous attackers in world football ineffective and irrelevant in a crucial international game. On this occasion Podolski was rarely ten metres from his full back, fast-forward to Old Trafford at the weekend and Podolski left the inept Andre Santos to his own devices against one of the most dangerous wingers in the league in Antonio Valencia.
The other area in which Podolski reminds me of Kuyt is that he isn’t good enough to play through the middle for a big club. The ex-Bayern Munich striker has only been tried as the main man up front once for Arsenal against Sunderland where he was substituted early into the second half after an anonymous display. The Dutchman’s career on Merseyside similarly found him to be inadequate up top on his own, where Fernando Torres went on to flourish. Like Kuyt, playing out wide and not being a natural winger means Podolski might chip in with ten or so goals but won’t often provide great service for the rest of the team.
My main point is Podolski represents one of the key problems that has made Arsenal irrelevant in both the Premier League and Champions League, he’s good but not great. As seen with Germany, Podolski can complement world-class players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Mesut Ozil, but he isn’t one himself. The Gunners are a football club full of £10 million signings who are good but not great. Players that demand decent wages but you will not need to break the bank to keep.
Unfortunately for the Gunners, Podolski symbolises the current decline at the club which has seen their former rivals move well ahead of them as highlighted in the drubbing they received at Old Trafford.
Have I been too harsh on Podolski and Arsenal? Let me know your thoughts on Twitter: @jimmylowson