THE PUZZLE OF PODOLSKI

29 Apr
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LUKAS PODOLSKI

I’m still not sure if the arrival of Podolski will bear the fruit we expected. This is a German international player who hit 100 caps by the age of 26; this is not to be taken lightly. I really like Podolski but I fear he is more of a cult figure at the Emirates as opposed to being a fans favourite because of brilliant performances. At the age of 27, he is due to hit his peak years but in what position do Arsenal fans or, more importantly, does Arsene Wenger see him holding down and eventually becoming a key member?

My initial thoughts upon signing Lukas Podolski, were that he would be nurtured to become our main centre-forward but that thought has deteriorated drastically over this season with his rightful lack of playing time in this position. He started there on his debut against Sunderland and was poor. His movement, energy, mobility, first-touch were not at the level required for our team to dominate the ball and keep the ball moving at a good tempo. However, this was the first game of Podolski’s career at Arsenal so he will be forgiven… by the fans anyway because Wenger had decided not to start him there again until yesterday.

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ARSENE WENGER AND LUKAS PODOLSKI

In my knowledge of Wenger, you can say what you like about him being a soft-touch but one thing he won’t do is play you when he doesn’t believe in you. He doesn’t play Podolski as a striker and in my eyes that clearly represents his clear lack of belief in Podolski as a striker. A manager that has transformed the likes of Henry, Anelka, van Persie and even Adebayor into top-level strikers knows exactly what he is looking for in a striker and Podolski will never be a centre-forward for Arsenal. Based on the mould of previous Arsenal strikers, its hard to see what Podolski brings as a striker. We have always been used to seeing strikers of strength, speed, mobility, technique & creativity. Podolski doesn’t seem to fit into any of those brackets. Same could be said with Giroud. What is hard to doubt about Podolski is, he is extremely clinical. In front of goal he is ruthless, which 9 league goals from 46 shots proves.

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ARSHAVIN: NOW SITS ON THE BENCH

Also, his ability to put a cross where it needs to be, is devastating but I remember a player called Arshavin, who had great stats, but his all-round contribution was becoming less and less by the week. Fans had a similar love-in period with Arshavin and I actually think there is an interesting correlation between Podolski and Arshavin in their Arsenal careers.

Arshavin came in as a big signing to play on the left, as has Podolski, but as his form deterioated he was suddenly being played in the wrong position by the manager according to the fans. The difference’s between the players would lie in their creativity; Arshavin had the flair and the creative instinct to drift in of the flank and link up with the midfielders and strikers whereas Podolski is more of an efficient wide-forward who craves service. Arshavin, for all his shortcomings, even had a stint up-front where he scored a cracker against Liverpool in a 2-1 victory at Anfield.

The thing is, Podolski wants to play as a centre-forward for Arsenal and there are so many theories relating to his recent exclusion from the first eleven. There have been reports that suggest Podolski has an ankle injury, (that in a way, I hope is true) which is being fuelled by Wenger’s refusal to let him complete more than 4 full games since being at Arsenal. It is also hard to ever recall such a left-sided player being used by Wenger on the left-wing for Arsenal. We have been used to the likes of Overmars, Pires, Rosicky, Nasri, Arshavin; all in the main creative midfielders who come infield onto their stronger foot. This helps us keep the ball a lot better and allows our full-backs to get on the outside.

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PIRES: THE ARCHETYPAL WENGER LEFT-WINGER

Now, as I don’t ever see Podolski being a centre-forward at Arsenal, I do see a system that can eventually integrate him into our team as more of a striker and even get a better Theo Walcott again. The difference lies in the centre-forward they are playing with. Giroud will naturally make our wide players (that are strikers by nature), play as wingers; get wide and cross the ball in as he is a target-man type of striker. Walcott can just about get away with it because of his rapid pace.

The problem with this system is it makes us so rigid and Arsenal’s game has got to be fluid and based around players that can interchange positions and keep possession – thats modern day football.

Couple this with all the strikers that are being linked to Arsenal recently, the most frequently linked player has to be Stevan Jovetic of Fiorentina. He is not reknowned as a clinical goal-scoring striker so why would Arsene Wenger want him? What would he bring to the team? Firstly he is a creative player that drops deep in order to get onto the ball and make things happen. Typically in a system with a new striker we would be assumed to be playing in a 4-3-3 formation but with the winger-cum-strikers (Podolski & Walcott) we possess, we need to find a way of utilising such serious goal threats.

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STEVAN JOVETIC: THE KEY TO PODOLSKI’S FUTURE

I believe a player in the mould of Jovetic will give us an interesting system that wouldn’t be matched by many teams in Europe. The fact Jovetic will drop off deeper throughout the game will make him harder to mark and will force Podolski and Walcott to make the runs through the channels as Jovetic gets onto the ball, in the spaces between the opposition defence and midfield. This essentially is Jovetic playing the false No.9 role but Walcott and Podolski will then be playing as inside forwards as a partnership up-top. In effect this “4-3-3” formation will alter into a 4-3-1-2 formation, with Jovetic playing in the hole behind Podolski & Walcott.

The benefits behind this are its going to give us a more creative and fluid team which can change shape during the game. As we know, if Podolski or Walcott need to retreat into winger positions as a counter-attacking measure, they are familiar with the duites. I think the system can be judged to be narrow but if the balance is correct in midfield, our full-backs will give us that effective wing threat.

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LJUNGBERG: TIMED HIS RUNS OFF THE WING TO PERFECTION

In order to be effective from these positions, Podolski and Walcott will have to study the runs that Ljungberg would make when Bergkamp (who would be perfect as a false No.9 in modern day football) picked up the ball looking to make a killer pass.

In my opinion, Podolski can succeed at Arsenal but it desperately hinges on the type of striker we recruit in the summer. I think with the signing of a hybrid striker, a 9.5 striker or whatever you want to call it, we will see a better Podolski and definitely that signing could kill two birds with one stone as Walcott also looks to make the step up as a striker. We have seen the benefits of what this type of striker can bring to the team in previous seasons with the Van Persie – Walcott partnership, so its reasonable to say Podolski can still have a big impact at Arsenal.

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2 Responses to “THE PUZZLE OF PODOLSKI”

  1. @OneDirtyGooner April 29, 2013 at 1:39 pm #

    That was a good read

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