Lukas Podolski – Coming out of his shell

Posted: December 30, 2012 in Arsenal
Lukas Podolski celebrating with German counterpart Per Mertesacker.

Lukas Podolski celebrating with German counterpart Per Mertesacker.

Often dubbed as ‘Mr AWOL’ by some Arsenal fans, Lukas Podolski has started to find his feet in the Premier League. Podolski’s first goal for the Arsenal, competitively, came away at Anfield in only his third start; he also picked up an assist in that game. Since then, Lukas Podolski has been involved in a heap of Arsenal goals, be it through assisting or scoring.

Whilst giving Arsenal a good return in terms of goals and assists, there have been games where Lukas Podolski really doesn’t show up. It sometimes seems as though he doesn’t have enough space in which to manoeuvre in, which is understandable considering it’s his first season in the Premier League. There have also been times this season where, when Gibbs has been out, Podolski had to keep dropping deep to cover the holes left by, the ever so enthusiastic, Andre Santos; by doing this, Podolski had barely any opportunities whilst going forward to influence the game.

Having mentioned his dropping deep, this works well when Gibbs starts because it allows the Englishman to get on the overlap, Sagna-esque, and have a go at creating something for the team, as Podolski can put in a shift defensively. This is a good asset, in my opinion, that the German brings to the club: he’s willing to put in a shift defensively, if it means the club benefits from it. So, in a nutshell, I wouldn’t say he’s been ‘AWOL’ or ‘invisible’ in some games because, at times, he’s dropping deep and doing the dirty work – something a winger hasn’t done for us in the last few seasons.

Having called him a winger, I like to think of him as more of an inside-forward/wide-left midfielder because I don’t think he’s one to pull tricks out of the bag and skin full-backs. Having said that, he does have fantastic crosses in his locker, some of which have led to goals. The only problem with him taking this inside-forward role is the fact he doesn’t have many pockets of space to run into, when Giroud starts. Although Giroud creates a lot of space, he does so for himself; to get himself in good positions. With the lack of mobility that Giroud shows, this means he’s never looking to interchange with his wingers. Essentially, this means Podolski is constricted to left-flank and forced to curb his intent in coming in centrally. I, personally, feel that this isn’t much of a bad thing as it means Podolski can concentrate on finding Olivier Giroud with his, as mentioned previously, fantastic crosses.

However, since Theo Walcott started leading the line, Podolski has come out of his shell and shone more often. At the time of writing this, Walcott has played three games up-top (including the 7-3 thrashing of Newcastle): in two of these games, Reading (A) and Newcastle (H), Podolski has played out of his skin and has, arguably, played his best two games in an Arsenal shirt. Theo Walcott is as mobile as you’ll get, with a striker. Here’s my theory: as opposed to Olivier Giroud, Walcott drags defenders away with him in order to open up space for the two wingers either side of him (putting Chris Waddle’s ridiculous comment on the Englishman, “he has no footballing brain”, down the drain). Thus opening space for others, this means someone as clinical and deadly in front of goal, like Podolski, will thrive.

Apart from opening up space for others, Theo is forever interchanging with Podolski, this means the two can weave in and out of that centre-forward role and create/finish chances. I think that, with these two in the line-up, Arsenal always have a goal in them; as demonstrated with the five against Reading and seven against Newcastle.

For a player who’s supposedly a flop, I think nine goals and seven assists isn’t anything to turn your nose at. Despite Van Persie’s 37 last season, everyone in this team seems to be playing for eachother, in terms of creating chances. Giroud has nine goals/eight assists, Walcott fourteen goals/nine assists and Cazorla seven goals/five assists – a good return from all of them. With the goals being spread around, there are more players who are coming out of their shells, like Podolski, and willing to put in good performances to contribute to goals.



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