Tag Archives: Lukas Podolski

Poldi, we hardly knew ye.

As part of a clearout that included an emotional farewell to long-serving and long-suffering Abou Diaby, the apparent sale of Lukas Podolski seems to have merited nary a ripple. The contrast between the two does explain that a bit. Diaby busted his butt (UPDATE: Diaby sidelined indefinitely by busted butt) but rarely got to play. Poldi sat on his butt and, well, rarely got to play. Of the players signed that season, he’s the only one to fallen short of our expectations and needs, and so it’s no surprise to see him go. Still, he delivered some scintillating moments on the pitch and some entertaining ones off it, and that Mjolnir-esque left foot will be missed—at least, in those last ten minutes of a match when we want to see someone score a screamer.

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. 

Lebewohl, Lukas. Could Podolski's departure open the door to Draxler?

Amid reports that Lukas Podolski has been sold to Galatasaray for some £1.4m, potentially clearing his £100,000 weekly wage from Arsenal’s books, minds wander to whom we might sign to shore up that left side, where we don’t have many “true” options other than playing someone out of position (Aaron? Fancy a run-out on the left?), another German comes to mind, one we haven’t flirted with since January 2014: Julian Draxler. The pacey left-winger might be available, with a release-clause of some £34m, not outrageous and well within our wheelhouse.

Our flirtation with Draxler in January 2014 came at a time unlikely to lead to a deal—significant deals rarely happen in January unless there are extraordinary circumstances at one or both clubs. At our end, we’re apparently not voracious enough to push for blockbuster-deals in the winter, and Schalke were under no pressure to sell as they were in fine form, finishing third in the Bundesliga and qualifying for the 2014-15 Champions League, where they lost to Real Madrid in the knockout phase.

However, like Borussia Dortmund, Schalke struggled in the Bundesliga this time through, falling to sixth, just good enough to qualify for Europa League play. Similarly, Draxler struggled, sidelined for a significant chunk of the season by a hamstring injury that limited him to 15 league appearances. He made a confident return in March, though, and looks ready to revive the form that made him such a darling a season ago.

Speaking of that time, it’s possible that our dalliance with Draxler might endear us all the more to him, and the prospect of playing in the Prem for a title-contender that has also qualified for the Champions League might make a deal all the more likely—far from certain, of course, just “more likely.” At just 21, he’s yet to hit his full stride, and his versatility would make him a strong match for our set-up. He can play all across the front-line, dribbles and shoots equally well with both foot, and is a big,physical presence (1.87m). He’s been dubbed the German Ronaldo, which might be a bit hyperbolic. His hometown, after all, is a stone’s throw from the Netherlandishian border and—oh. I’m being told that the hyperbole refers to the “Ronaldo” comparison…and that Netherlandishian isn’t a word.

The best news of all, at least at this point, is that Draxler’s name hasn’t yet started making the rounds and therefore conforms to Wenger’s Law of Inverse Relationships, which specifies the following:

[t]here exists an inverse relationship between how early and numerous are the rumors linking us to a player and the likelihood of us signing him.

That is, the less is said, the better. That doesn’t mean that Petr Čech is now off-limits or that we will sign Draxler; it only means I pulled Wenger’s Law from out of my arse.

Draxler would make for a great fit for our set-up while potentially being groomed to become a full-time centre-forward, something that has been part of Arsène’s interest in the man. Would his arrival, though, solve our centre-forward needs? One thing’s sure: there’s plenty of time to ponder it over the next 76 days before the transfer-window closes…

Prince Podolski and Lord Bendtner remind us of what we're missing…

The interlull is well and truly upon us, and you might therefore be suffering from acute symptoms—withdrawal from meaningful news, propensity to believe transfer-rumours, a pervasive fear that someone will will suffer a life-threatening if not career-ending injury whilst playing out the final minutes of a 13-0 win over San Marino, among others—but interlullitis, for all of its pernicious aches and pains, is not without its potential benefits. For one, we saw our own Mesut Özil elevated to captain of the German squad against the Socceroos. For another, two cult-favorites showed just enough of what they’re occasionally capable of to make us perhaps a bit wistful for the salad days. Lukas Podolski netted late on to equalise against Australia, and Lord Bendter notched a hat-trick against your correspondent’s home-country in a 3-2 win for Denmark. It’s almost enough to make us wish we’d never bid either one farewell…or lebewohl…or farvel…

To be clear, it’s not as if we’re suffering for their departures. Quite the contrary. We’ve been on a fine run of form of late, winning nine of our last ten, and so it would seem just a bit churlish to pine for players whom we’ve cast off. In Bendtner’s case, of course, we have finally bid him a firm (if not fond) farewell; in Podolski’s, we reserve the right to recall him (eventually) from his loan to Inter.

However, ears are bound to perk up when we hear that a Gunner, former or soon-to be-such, scores in international duty. In the case of Podolski, he delivered in a style all too familiar: subbed on late in the second half, chasing a result, and poaching a goal against an inferior opponent. Germany were indeed a bit fortunate to come away from this one with a draw, and it’s down to the indomitable industriosity of Prince Podolski that they did. Give me a moment as I roll my eyes…aaaaand…done.

Elsewhere, The Greatest Striker that Ever Lived delivered a hat-trick, with each goal more sumptuous than the last, as Denmark overcame a fiesty but ultimately overmatched United States side. As his squad’s offensive focal point, he flourished, reminding us of what might have been and could have been. At his best, he could have been a target-man along the lines of Charlie George, someone who could latch on to crosses with the best of them.

Now, no one will mistake the likes of Australia or the United States for high-quality opposition just yet, and so it would be a bit hasty to wonder whether we might be better off having held on to the likes of Podolski or Bendtner rather than doing our level best to cast them off like so much already-used tissue. Let’s be honest. Neither one impressed to a degree that warranted their staying.

Then again, each one was marginalised, each in his own way. Bendtner was, in essence, van Persie-ed, shunted aside in favor of the newer, shinier model, and he never really recovered the form that made him that TGSTEL in the first place. Had it not been for the Dutch Skunk’s exploits, we might still bow down at the throne that is Bendtner.

So too goes it go with Podolski but for very different reasons. He was Arshavin-ed (a corollary to the being van Persie-ed), made to play on the wing when he might have delivered more through the middle; as a result, his lack of industry was all the more exposed. It’s one thing to linger and skulk about the edges of the area as a striker; it’s quite another to do the same as a winger. Like Bendtner and Arshavin, Podolski delivered moments and even sustained periods of brilliance, but, none of the three showed that they could be depended on to deliver reliably. So it goes.

If nothing else, we should wish each of them well in their endeavours for club and country and hope that their performances offer a useful template for Gunners still in the fold: play well, deliver a goal or two, and avoid injury. That doesn’t sound like too much to ask, now, does it?

Thanks, as always, for your visit, and add your two cents to the comments-section, and don’t be afraid of a shout-out via the twitter, reddit, or facebook links below. ‘Til next time…

Danke schön, Poldi; Auf wiedersehen, Per?

How do you solve a problem like Mertesacker? On one hand, he’s become one of the most likable, affable members of the squad. His pairing with Laurent Koscielny had built a firm foundation for the defense, with the pair reaching in early 2014 an unbeaten streak of 31 games (ending in the ignominious 5-1 loss at Anfield). On the other hand, his Achilles’ Heel has been two-fold—his pairing with Koscielny is only as good as Koscielny’s Achilles, and his own pace is his weakest spot. We’ve known this since he first joined the club in 2011; the problem has only worsened as he’s aged. With his bestest buddy Poldi having been loaned out to Inter, could we soon be bidding auf wiedersehen to Per as well?

With Poldi, it had become abundantly clear that he just didn’t fit into Arsenal’s plans. Even more than other wingers, Poldi was a one-dimensional presence (albeit an occasionally devastating one). Without the ball at his feet, he was too often a desultory player, offering only the most-cursory defending and movement off the ball. Yes, he was a cut-up, and yes, he delivered some dramatic moments, but, on the whole, he offered more sizzle than substance, and so he was loaned out to Inter.

Like his German compatriot, Per had developed a penchant for scoring vital goals: the opening goal (and game-winner) against Hull in this season’s FA Cup third round. Last season, a game-winner in a 3-1 win over Stoke. A late equaliser against Wigan in the FA Cup semifinal. In the 2012-13 campaign, he scored an emphatic equaliser in that pulsating 5-2 North London Derby victory, and he scored again in the reverse-fixture as we fell 2-1 at White Hart Lane. Later in that same season, but no-less significant, he scored the only goal in a 0-1 win at Craven Cottage as we surged forward to wrest control of North London from Tottenham.

However, there’s always a “however.”

Would we still be extolling the BFG if Fabianski hadn’t turned in such a dramatic performance against Wigan in that FA Cup semifinal? After all, it was Mertesacker’s desperate tackle that led to Gomez’s spot-kick (which Fabianski very nearly saved). For Per to score that equaliser might have saved his hash, but it begs the question of why his hash needs saving in the first place. His dreadful lack of pace, all too apparent in 2011 when he first joined the club, has become a glaring weakness. We’ve only recently adapted our tactics, in some part to accomodate his weakness, adopting—at least at some level—his inability to cope with pacier forwards and wingers. Against the likes of Sturridge, Sterling, or Agüero,
Mertesacker is a liability. He can’t, won’t, and shouldn’t come out to meet them. He lacks the physicality to contend with Costa or Touré and can’t vie in the air with likes of Pellé, Crouch, or Carroll. Quibble if you will with the varying threat-levels each of the aforementioned poses, but you can’t deny the bigger picture: Mertesacker, for all of his affability, stands out as one of the weaker links in the current squad.

Even as I write this, I feel guilty. I like and respect the man, despite (or maybe in spite of) his flaws. He seems like an honest bloke. If we were to compile a list of the Prem’s ten-best centre-backs, would he make the cut? Unlikely. He’s been a very serviceable centre-back, but how much has he benefitted from the performances of those around him? Kos, Sagna, Chambers, Debuchy, and Monreal have all played alongside him and delivered solid performances. On the flanks, Gibbs, Monreal, Sagna, and Debuchy have offered him cover; then again, Jenkinson, Chambers, and Bellerin have at times begged for support.

Poldi was made expendable at some levels by the glut of talent we had at his position, and he never really displayed or developed the skill-sets we needed to play him elsewhere. At a risk of sounding heretical, I’d suggest that Per has been made indispensable by a scarcity of talent at his position. We have at best two attacking centre-backs (Koscielny, understudied by Gabriel), and a starlet-to-be in Chambers. Per’s contract extends until the summer of 2017, at which point he’ll be 32 and that even slower than he is now.

There’s no doubting Per’s character or dedication. Unlike Poldi, he has comported himself with dedication and fervor, even to the point of excoriating teammates for their perceived lack of commitment or passion. However, everyone reaches a point at which their commitment outstrips their ability. As sad as it makes me feel to say so, we’re fast approaching that point and will soon cross thath threshold. It’s too soon to suggest that we should put Per out to pasture, but that day will come sooner than his contract comes to an end. With youngsters like Gabriel and Chambers chomping at the bit, we’d do well to develop them alongside Kos (no spring chicken himself) sooner rather than later…

Podolski's Hammer of Mjölnir against some ordinary Hammers

Powerful, yes, but it does make for an awkward evening constitutional…

On Friday, Olivier Giroud was sent off. Along with him, it felt, went our chances against West Ham. Who would drop down to grapple with Carroll in the box when West Ham earns a set-piece? Giroud’s absence seems to expose us to all sorts of ills. Still, where he has seen red, a certain Lukas Podolski should see a golden opportunity. In four apperances against West Ham, Poldi has found time to score four goals and notch five assists. In Giroud’s absence, then, it seems all too fitting that the Hammer of Mjölnir should find a few opportunities to hammer home a shot or two.

Giroud’s loss might just be Poldi’s gain. Where once there was a flourishing relationship that saw each feed off of the other, we might see a somewhat more cannibalistic dimension in which Poldi feasts on the spoils of Giroud’s sorrows. Against West Ham, after all, it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to pick apart a defense carefully, and Poldi’s willingness and ability to let fly from distance might be a welcome and dangerous change of pace from our seemingly endless tippy-tappy, tiki-taka style, which produces endlessly intricate sequences of passes but is all too often bereft of final product.

Giroud’s absence will mean that we’ll lack that oh-so-deft flick in and around the box—a touch that Poldi has benefitted from—and, as a result, we’ll have to turn to other options. Perhaps alone in the current squad, Poldi has the power and proclivity to unleash devastating, howitzerian shots from distance, shots that may not find the back of the net but that inspire fear and trepidation among keepers who hope to someday walk the streets without terrifying women and children who might gaze upon their faces, flattened and blightened by a blast from Poldi’s left foot.

More seriously, this clash offers us at Arsenal a chance to restore order, as a favorable series of results could see us leap-frog both West Ham and Southampton to claim our, er, rightfulplace in fourth position. Tongue-in-cheek references aside, it’s not as if West Ham have coasted to their current position, abusing relegation-threatened clubs to this point. In fact, they’ve done better than we have against the so-called big clubs, taking seven points from five matches against the likes of Tottenham, Southampton, Liverpool Man City, and Everton. Compare that to our seven points from seven matches against the same. For a more direct comparison, we might point to West Ham’s recent 2-0 loss at Stamford Bridge, parallel on the surface to our own 2-0 loss.

For what it’s worth, West Ham held out just a bit longer against Chelsea than we did, conceding in the 31st minute rather than the 26th. Peeking beyond that, we have to admit that Allardyce does have his squad playing some interesting football. Rather than merely hoofing it forward, hoping that the Carrollian forehead will nod it home, there’s actually been a bit of tactics on display. This doesn’t mean that we won’t see a few crosses sent into the box, but it does mean that we’ll have to close down other threats as well, such as those posed by Diafra Sakho, who leads the club with seven goals scored. In other seasons, the absence of Olivier Giroud might handicap us against West Ham, who might have relied almost exclusively on crosses into the box, especially from set-pieces. This time through, however, we’ll have to be alert to that but also to Sakho on the wing, who will test Debuchy, Chambers, or Bellerin.
Given the stakes, though, it’s hard to see West Ham rebounding. They’ve suffered a dispiriting defeat away to Chelsea, lending new urgency to skulking questions about their long-term ability to challenge for a top-four spot. At our end, we know that a win would vault us back into contention for a position that we have plenty of experience contending for and earning.