It said as much about his quality when Lukas Podolski rifled home the third goal in Arsenal’s 3-1 win on the weekend; a natural in front of goal with plenty to offer in the way of leadership. Talk of the forward only completing two Premier League games all season was something worth putting in the back of your mind, and it would have been extremely uncharacteristic of Arsene Wenger to sell Podolski after only one season. But at this stage those concerns are coming to the fore.
And it should be a worry. Whatever may be said about Podolski playing on the left of a front three, he is still one of the better players at the club and one who can evidently provide moments of brilliance to seal a game.
The German represents the level of talent that Arsenal should be targeting in the market. He isn’t someone who falls into the bracket of the very best in the game, but his transfer fee always meant he’d be an attractive proposition for the club.
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In many ways he’s a steal. No one really fancied him because of his history with Bayern Munich, forcing most to arrogantly and inaccurately label him as a flop. His performances this season haven’t totally won over everyone in England, either. However, suggestions of him going missing and failing to have an overwhelming effect on a game says more of the team as a whole rather than the player – a level of thinking some have maintained for a long time.
Joachim Low saw Podolski as an important part of one of the best national sides in the game today. He brings experience and a scoring record of just under a goal every other game to a side who have been moving towards their next generation of footballers. Whatever can be said of his season so far, an international footballer of Podolski’s calibre does not come around too often for clubs like Arsenal.
And here’s the disappointment if hints of an imminent sale are true – Podolski is one of the better players the club have bought in recent seasons. Had he been the alternative striker to Robin van Persie, onlookers would have praised Arsenal for having a very good backup to arguably the best striker in the country. So it’s a shame that players either less effective or far less talented have been given countless opportunities, including those whose fitness means they’ll never be considered an asset to the club over the long term.
Podolski is that leader that everyone used to cry out for. Does it get much better than picking up a player approaching his prime who has a history of captaining football teams? Well they’ll say he only came from FC Koln after a “failed” stint with Bayern. But then why are so many in England claiming Michu is good enough for one of the biggest clubs in the country, despite arriving from one of the lesser teams in Spain? It doesn’t really matter and it shouldn’t.
I don’t think there is a huge problem with Podolski on the left flank. Going back to the earlier days of Wenger’s management with the club, his teams always had goals from the wide positions as well as through the middle. It’s difficult to say why the German international has seen very few full games in England so far, but he’s a far better guarantee for goals than many others at the club. And if it really is a matter of the player being less effective from the wide position, why not simply alter the formation? The current team are set up to play for a player who is no longer at the club. Yes, I can see where the emphasis may be in terms of getting the best out of Jack Wilshere and not exposing the midfield, but why not make the most of the best players currently in the squad?
For Arsenal, players like Podolski have not come around too often. Even with his recent performances, it’s baffling that Gervinho has been able to keep the German out of the starting XI. And who can really blame Podolski for feeling uneasy about his situation? For the first time in a long time, Arsenal has a player who wants to play football and who isn’t just sticking around to collect wages that are undeserved.
If Arsenal are looking to build for something far better this summer than just a team who fall over the line for the top four, then players like Podolski need to be the centrepiece of an expansive and ambitious new project. For all that Podolski can bring to Arsenal over the long term, there is absolutely no excuse for letting go of a player who can make a genuine difference at this club.
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