The Inevitable Podolski – An Outlook on his move to Arsenal

So it appears that Podolski will finally transfer to a big club. Since his below par stint at Bayern München, the German striker has been the recipient of severe criticism concerning his attitude and quality as a league player. While there is no denying that Podolski has accomplished much for Germany at the international level (he is already the 6th highest goalscorer in his country’s history), doubts linger over his ability to perform consistently at a top club in the world’s most competitive league. Should a transfer indeed be finalized, Wenger’s timing appears impeccable – Podolski has come up with 17 goals in 25 appearances this season, is now a proven international and is heading into the 2012 European Cup full of confidence. However, what should  Arsenal expect from such a controversial player?

1. One dimensional style of player

Podolski’s game is said to lack the highly intelligent movement and link up play which characterizes Arsenal’s game. He is not particularly intelligent with the ball, preferring to run in straight lines along the wing and shooting rather than looking for his teammates first – and without it his movement can only be described as remarkably average. He is also a strictly left footed player and isn’t dextrous in the sense Benzema, Higuain or David Villa are for example.  In fact, 16 of his 17 goals have come from his famed left foot.

However, this is not why Wenger has sought Podolski in the first place and one could even entertain the notion that Wenger wants a more direct player with power and pace. Podolski might not be able to make that piercing pass or seamlessly dribble past players – but his direct approach to the beautiful game has made him something of an old school academic. What has come to characterize him is his pace, shooting and low crosses. He has garnered considerable notoriety from this approach and in this sense, compliments the rigorous demands of the Premiere League rather perfectly.

2. Strength, speed and a venomous left foot.

Contingent with the previous description is Podolski’s unbelievable ability when surrounded by creative players. He feeds off the ingeniousness of others and boasts a left foot which is arguably one of the best in the world. He may lack the elegance of Van Persie, and sophistication of Wayne Rooney – but can more than make up for it if supplied with plenty of balls.  Look no further than the National Team for that synergy.

Fans can expect to see Podolski participate in pressing opposing teams, run at defenders, and inject hastiness and precision into Arsenal’s counter attacks. As is the case with both club and country, he will disappear 70% of the time, but once he is in the box or anywhere near it, won’t hesitate to test goalkeepers with his powerful left foot. It’s a technique which has worked in both the European Cup and World Cup, and on both stages he has always impressed.

3. Very effective when involved, highly ineffective otherwise.

This point is neatly tied in with the previous argument, and is an intrinsic attribute of his overall game. Despite his shortcomings as a well rounded striker, Podolski’s perspicaciousness keeps him in tune with the overall flow of the game. If Arsenal can continually provide him with the ball, keep him involved and maintain trust in him – Podolski will respond accordingly. Given that this is the Premiere League and the ball is always on the move, the level of his involvement will most likely be higher than usual. This has best been illustrated at the international level against plenty of smaller teams, but also against bigger teams such as England, Portugal and Argentina. When afforded space and time on the ball, he is capable of anything and nowhere fits this description better than England.

However, should the team be starved of possession, it is unlikely this would be the kind of player they’ll depend on to get them back into the game. His consecutive appearances against Spain for example, in both the European Cup in 2008 and the World Cup in 2010 are perhaps the best examples of this. On both these occasions, Germany were chasing the game and desperately needed a moment of ingenuity, but he simply could not deliver and his engagement was far too infrequent. The reason for this is because he wasn’t granted the usual time and space he is accustomed to. This is a glaring weakness in his style of play, and has tainted his reputation as a striker.

Having scored about 12 goals a season for the past 4 – 5 years, Podolski is a changed man this season, scoring 17 goals in 25 games and assisting 4 in a team starved of quality and battling relegation is quite a feat even for someone of his talents. Once heralded as the future of German football and one of the brightest prospects in the country, it is safe to say that he has not lived up the hype until now. Given that he has had to endure myriad of criticisms for his inconsistent club form, he will be indefatigable but there is a maturity about Podolski that may finally herald a turnaround.

If there is one thing Wenger needs, it is experience. Wilshere, Walcott, Ramsey, Gervinho, Oxlade-Chamberlain – these players lack the experience necessary to eclipse Arsenal’s best years. In the 2006 World Cup Podolski scored 3 goals and took Best Young Player award ahead of both Messi and Ronaldo. In the European Cup in 2008 he scored another 3 goals and 2 assists and helped Germany reach the final. In the 2010 World Cup Germany reached 3rd place, and he scored 2 goals and assisted 2 in the process. Given the relative inexperience of this young Arsenal squad, Podolski’s experience and newly found level-headedness will prove invaluable to Wenger.

In conclusion, many back Podolski to succeed at Arsenal, as he is a dynamic forward capable of playing as a wing forward or a striker. One of the best attributes of this player, and undoubtedly why Wenger seeks him, is the fact that Podolski is a level headed, experienced player who pays back trust with goals and a fighting spirit which this Arsenal side are in need of. However, given the inconsistencies which have plagued in the past, an ever glowing doubt is cast on his abilities and energy to persevere. Wenger and the fans should maintain caution with this rather controversial signing yet maintain an optimism for what could turn out to be the ideal signing.

 

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