In all of the hyper-analysis about Arsenal’s squad, surprisingly Lukas Podolski has been often forgotten. The versatile German international has a role to play however in Arsenal’s quest for glory this season. Podolski can play wide on the left side or as an emergency lone striker, though he is more effective attacking from a wide position.
Podolski burst onto the scene at FC Köln as a youngster but after a successful 2006 World Cup, his move to Bayern was ill-fated. Three poor seasons with the Bavarian giants led to the German gaining a reputation as a better international than club player and not good enough for a top European side. A return to Köln and a strong 2010 World Cup rehabilitated him somewhat but many questioned Arsene Wenger when he bought Podolski early in the summer 2012 window.
However, the German did his part to help the Gunners finish in the top four last year scoring sixteen goals in all competitions and finishing among the league leaders in assists. Still it seemed he would be the odd man out this season with Arsenal.
After a disastrous opening game loss to Aston Villa, Podolski was called on and performed admirably against Fulham the next weekend. Scoring twice and helping to create other opportunities, it seemed he was a key to reversing the bad vibes the Gunners had faced over the summer and in the opening weekend of the season. But then injury struck three days later in Europe and with Arsenal flying high since, the German was forgotten.
When he returned from injury in mid-December he was simply a late game change of tempo/pace substitute since the Gunners rotation was essentially set. But with the injury to Theo Walcott as well as other less serious injuries to attacking players, Podolski’s versatility has come in handy in recent games.
On Friday’s FA Cup win against Coventry in a rare start the German recorded a brace. His manager said after the match:
“Podolski can score goals and when you have a goal chance you want him to have it because he is a clinical finisher. He has an unbelievable short and quick backlift and he is very accurate in his finishing. He can score goals when he starts, when he comes on he is always dangerous. He is a natural finisher. His performances have been more convincing on the flanks than through the middle as well.”
Arsene Wenger realizes he has a potential game-changer in Podolski, someone who can find lightning in a bottle if given any inch of space late in a game. While not much analysis has been spent discussing him, the German could be a critical factor in the title race.