Note for TA: this blog was written prior to yesterday’s game against Fulham.
How to get the best out of Podolski: Combine him with Gibbs and Ramsey!
Back in 2012 when Arsenal announced the signing of Lukas Podolski well before the opening of the transfer window, I was more than excited. The prospect of him playing alongside Theo and RVP convinced me that we were well on the way to concluding our trophy drought. However, the cruel nature of fate made sure that that summer window didn’t go as I hoped. I won’t go into details lest I awaken sleeping demons.
Anyway, my point is, even though we ended up losing RVP, in the back of my mind I knew that even though Poldi wasn’t as good, he could go a long way in replacing his goals. His first season was satisfactory at best. He started well but as the season wore on he seemed to lose his ability to influence the proceedings of a game. He was then dropped from the starting eleven and spent the rest of the season as a substitute. His goals didn’t dry up as his finishing ability is currently second to none in our team. Towards the end, injuries and suspensions to fellow attackers meant that he was our starting striker for the last three games; and to be honest he didn’t do badly.
The new season has begun and it is obvious that Wenger has picked up where he left off last season. Poldi has been involved in both games but only as a very late substitute. For a man who has over a century of international caps before the age of 30, and for one of the world’s best national sides, it is quite bizarre how his club career is panning out. In a time when Arsenal’s squad is thread bare owing to departures and injuries, Poldi’s omission is more than just a little baffling. But I do understand Wenger’s dilemma.
Poldi’s case is a strange one. On one hand, Podolski is one of the best finishers around. Even when he is having a poor game, for him it usually still is ‘one chance one goal’. He is also quite the crosser, especially from that left flank. On the other hand he has little to no influence on a game and therein lies his problem. Podolski’s movement is poor wherever he is played. He doesn’t know how to make runs, has no discernible dribbling ability and his pace is average at best. Podolski seems to spend 90% of his time on or around the halfway line, whether he is played on the left flank or as our target man. Every single time he is played up front the situation arises where a full back will make a run down the flank, but when he gets to the opposition box Podolski is nowhere to be seen and has no intention of getting into the box.
He has no grasp of how a striker should move whatsoever. This makes the team play around him. On the flank, Gibbs does a better job as a winger than the German. This, to me, is the reason why Poldi is second choice. It seems that his best position is as a second striker in a 4-4-2 formation, where he would play between the hole player and the main striker, because there his movement is limited but opportunities to shoot are plenty. Sadly, that is not how we play.
However, I have another suggestion. Wenger can start him on the left but he drifts inwards. Yesterday’s game against Fenerbahce showed that this can work so long as it is Gibbs who plays behind him. Gibbs was outstanding on that left flank, sending in crosses and even getting a goal. Ramsey was also outstanding, covering him perfectly when he went forward. This means that in this set up, Gibbs can do all the wing-work while Poldi drifts in, without having the pressure of being the main CF on him.
Whatever Wenger does about him, he should do it soon, because Podolski’s stature is such that he is not a bench warmer. If this continues, it is very conceivable that he will look for game time elsewhere.
Written by: Marcus.