Signed in July 2012 to either convince van Persie to stay or to replace the man, Podolski earned rave reviews for his cunning crosses and devastating shots. Although he amassed just 16 goals in 42 appearances, many of those 16 were of the jaw-dropping, head-slapping variety—that laser-beam against Montpellier stands out, but that howitzer against West Ham deserves a mention—but there also many fox-in-the-box goals, such as the headers against Newcastle, Bayern, and Wigan. On his day, he was a lethal, clinical finisher. It’s a shame then than his day arrived so rarely. Once he got the ball on that left foot of his, anything was possible.
However, for as much as he lived by that left foot, he died by it as well. Deny Podolski time or space to set up that shot, and the threat he posed was negated. Had he possessed a more-relentless demeanor, he might have overcome that through constant movement off the ball. Sadly, though, he rendered himself irrelevant as he waited in vain for those magnificent moments to present themselves. In that second season, he still delivered a number of dramatic goals, none more emphatic than that middle finger at Allianz Arena, the one that almost took Neuer’s head clean off. By that point, though, the writing on the wall was emerging, and Podolski’s playing time was waning, and it wouldn’t be long before his presence on social media was more pronounced than it was on the pitch.
Ultimately, he was too one-dimensional for Arsène’s vision. Brought in as van Persie’s partner or replacement, he never evolved beyond what he was already capable of. That might have worked with FC Köln, a club perenially on the verge of relegation from the Bundesliga, but it wasn’t quite enough to work with Arsenal, a club with designs on winning the Prem. With Cazorla’s play on the left in 2013-14, and with the arrival of Alexis Sánchez last summer, it became increasingly apparent that a player of such limited skills as Podolski would not last long at Arsenal. He was loaned out in January to Inter, playing sporadically and failing to make any kind of real impression, and here we are.
A player of his potential will still find a home, eventually, even if it’s not among his own top-five choices. Galatasaray are apparently interested enough to put in a transfer-bid of some £2,8m. Whether he’ll continue to cash a £100k weekly cheque is another question, but it seems as if he’ll do better than other out-of-favour attackers like Bendtner or Arshavin, who had to swallow quite a bit of pride before securing their next contracts. Gala did qualify for Champions League play and so it is possible that Poldi will visit the Emirates at least one more time, all the better to deliver one last “a-HA!”.
Best of luck to you, Poldi.