Repetition is boring. Every season Arsenal fans have to read about players on their way out of the club, they have to read about what they’ve lost over the summer. So, instead of focusing on the impending doom and crushing depression of losing another captain, why not look at something Arsenal have gained this summer?
The first of Arsenal’s summer signings, which was actually announced in spring, was Lukas Podolski. The former Bayern Munich and FC Koln striker, who was signed for an undisclosed fee thought to be around £10m, had an exceptional final year at his boyhood club.
Podolski may not have been able to save Koln from relegation but he cannot be accused of not giving his all. On the final day of the season, a banner inside the Rhein Energie Stadion translated as “We don’t blame you for leaving, Poldi. If we could leave too, we would.”
So just what will Podolski, who has over 100 caps for the German national side, bring to Arsenal? Last season was undoubtedly one of his finest seasons, individually that is. He scored 18 goals, which ranked him as the league’s second highest German scorer, and provided 7 assists in the Bundesliga; he also had a pass success rate of over 75%.
Many fans will argue that his scoring record has not been as impressive as that of others, what should be remembered though is that Podolski scored these goals without the help of world-class players around him.
Podolski may have a reputation in the national team for being an industrious, consistent performer but that shouldn’t disguise the fact that he is capable of truly exceptional moments. Podolski currently holds the record for the most ever ‘goal of the month’ victories, with nine to his name; the previous holder of the record was Jurgen Klinsmann with eight.
At just 27, Podolski will bring a level of experience to the Gunners that belies his age. Apart from being an international centurion, Podolski has also won the top two German leagues, the German Cup and the German League Cup. He has also played in a final of the European Championships and was voted ‘best young player’ at the 2006 World Cup, beating the other nominees – Ronaldo, Messi and Fabregas – to the award.
His fortunes may have differed slightly to those considered his peers in 2006, yet Podolski has matured since his return to Koln from Bayern Munich. His disappointing time spent at the German giants was, for some critics, indicative of the fact that he could not succeed if he wasn’t the focal point of a team.
However, the striker has admitted that he was immensely immature whilst in Munich and, regardless of that, his success and longevity in the national side has proved that he needn’t be the main man in order to earn acclaim.
Indeed, his previous coach, Frank Schaefer, believed that the environment at Arsenal was ideal to bring the best out of Podolski.
“I think he could score lots of goals next season. Arsenal is one of the clubs that is absolutely right for Lukas…for lots of reasons.”
“First of all, he has the right coach in Arsene Wenger. It will be excellent for Lukas to have a quiet, experienced coach with good psychological abilities. It is also good for Lukas because Arsene speaks such good German.”
“Secondly, I think Arsenal play the type of football which suit Lukas. They play good, offensive football. Physically, Lukas is very strong so he will have no problems in this area.”
“Thirdly, Per Mertesacker being at the club is extremely helpful. He is a great person, an intelligent man, and he will be good for Lukas to have around at Arsenal. Per is a good influence.”
And, Schaefer could be right. In the last five seasons Podolski has, including international appearances, scored an average of one goal every 2.17 starts. Not bad for a player who is often deployed on the wing.
As his former coach stated, Podolski has both the strength and the pace to deal with the physical rigours of the English game and, with so much international experience, Podolski has had to pit himself against the best players in the world on a reasonably consistent basis.
His versatility will also be a valuable asset to Arsenal.The Polish born striker prefers to play centrally but is equally adept, as he has shown for Germany, at playing out wide.
He may not have come with a price tag that excites many fans yet you would be hard pressed to find such an exciting player for less. Arsenal have bought a physically impressive, technically astute, versatile player who is proven at every level and has experience of winning big trophies. He may not be able to replace van Persie’s goal scoring feats of last season but he will be a valuable player next season – equally capable of playing in Arsenal’s characteristic attacking style as well as providing a more direct option.
Follow me on Twitter @H_Mackay