Lukas Podolski may once have been the hottest young prospect in German football, but today it’s difficult to ascertain if he can even command a spot in Arsenal FC‘s starting eleven. A look at what the left footed attacker has to offer the London club.

Lukas Podolski - Starting spot in doubt at Arsenal?

Lukas Podolski – What does he bring to the table?

It has been one season since Arsenal signed Lukas Podolski from FCAi??KAi??ln,Ai??Ai??and made him the highest paid player at the club. While he had played as a center forward for his boyhood club (he started there at age 10), at Arsenal he has primarily played on the left side in a 4-2-3-1 formation. As a Gunner, he has had his moments. Last yearai??i??s victory at Anfield and last week’s victory at Craven Cottage stand out as two particularly great performances. However, those performances also highlight the limited capacity in which Podolski helps the team, and makes one wonder about how long he will remain at Arsenal.

At Anfield and at Craven Cottage, Arsenal were set up to counter-attack their opponents. They looked to suck their opponents into their two banks of four, win the ball back, and break. In this set-up, having Podolski on the wing can positively contribute to the side. He does a good job playing the right pass in his own half to spring the side forward. His direct running allows him to efficiently attack the open space that counter-attacking sides often enjoy. Despite his lack of pace, his cannon of a left foot makes him a solid threat when bombing in late, as can be seen in how he scored one of his goals against Fulham. With Theo Walcottai??i??s pace on the right, Olivier Giroudai??i??s near post runs, and Santi Cazorlaai??i??s excellence when it comes to passing-based attacking football, Podolski can also trail the play and end up wide open attacking the far post, as the defenders get sucked to the right side of the pitch. Yet, while Podolski has found success in this role, he has found little success in any other role.

A One-Trick Pony

Lukas Podolskiai??i??s outstanding attribute is his cannon of a left foot. For anyone who has seen the film D2: The Mighty Ducks, Podolski is a lot like Russ Tyler. While both have an great way to score goals (Podolskiai??i??s left foot and Tylerai??i??s knuckle puck), both need to have a decent amount of space to hurt their opponents. Podolski gets this space on the break, but when Arsenal choose to play a possession-based style, or when an opponent defends deep, Podolski no longer has the space he needs in order use his left foot to full effect. You take this one outstanding attribute away from his arsenal, and you are left with a footballer who does not offer much to Arsenal.

Lukas Podolski does not make subtle or intricate movements that can create the space he needs. In other words, he is no Robin van Persie when it comes to playing without the ball. He does not possess the pace or quickness that could be classified as anything above average for the position. His dribbling is nothing to be impressed with either. Not only do these aspects hurt his ability to play in a side that is going to dominate possession, it prevents him from becoming a viable option as a center forward. While he may end up pressed into the position due to Arsenalai??i??s inability to sign a center forward, he does not represent a good option.

Cazorla offers more to Arsenal on the left flank than Podolski does

Cazorla offers more to Arsenal on the left flank than Podolski does

Lukas Podolski does not possess great vision or the ability to play that killer through ball. He does not cross particularly well. When he plays quickly with less space, his technique gets sloppy, causing him to lose possession. Instead of Podolski, it is clear that Santi Cazorla should be the first choice on the left if Arsenal plan to control possession or anticipate their opponent will bunker in and look to primarily keep a clean sheet. In particular, his movement deep and towards the center gives Arsenal another midfielder in the center of the park, giving them an one or two man advantage. Combine this with the fact that he seemingly never turns the ball over, and Cazorla gives Arsenal the ability to crush their opponents in the center of the pitch.

Now Lukas Podolski could prove himself more valuable than Cazorla on the left, in certain situations, if he was a valuable asset as a two-way player; much like Angel Di Maria at Real Madrid, a winger who tracks back well while offering attacking punch going forward, which is quite a valuable quality. However, Podolski offers little in this aspect. His inconsistent effort in tracking back is particularly damaging to the side as Arsenal push their full-backs up the field to create width when in possession. Arjen Robbenai??i??s defensive effort in the last part of Bayern Munichai??i??s magical season last year gave a new meaning to the phrase ‘never say never’. With Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla being must-start players for Arsenal, Podolski can perhaps serve Arsenal better only as a squad/rotation player, rather than a consistent starter.

Super-Sub or Squad Rotation Role

Lukas Podolski: Can he force his way into the first team at Arsenal?

Can he make a statement this season?

This does not mean that Podolski needs to leave Arsenal. He clearly offers Arsenal more ability to capitalize on the counter attack. This skill could make him a quality substitute. He could also serve as a starter against sides when Arsenal need to score a few goals to make up for a first leg defeat. Once he comes back from injury, he could prove to be a valuable player for Arsenal in a Capital One Cup or an FA Cup run. If Arsenal want to compete on multiple fronts, you need players like Podolski to play a role and provide depth. And mentioned earlier, Arsenalai??i??s inability to sign a center forward makes Podolski an actual option (although not a good one) in that position. For a squad as thin as Arsenalai??i??s, itai??i??s all hands on deck; at least until January, and quite possibly until the next summer transfer window.

Arsenalai??i??s signing of Mesut Ozil may signal a new era for the club. With their financial clout due to increased TV money and massively improved commercial deals, Arsenal can continue to add top quality players to their squad. Therefore, Lukas Podolski has the rest of the season to show his value to the club. He has to show a willingness and ability to play roles that the club need. For instance, during the past few games, Arsene Wenger has chosen to have Kieran Gibbs and Nacho Monreal ending games together on the left wing. Both are good going forward, but more importantly both understand and are willing to defend on the wing. This gives Arsenal an increased solidity on the left flank that could prove critical when it comes to protecting one-goal leads late in matches. If Podolski shows a willingness to track back and still offer a threat going forward, then he could become Wengerai??i??s first option off the bench to ice a match. It may not be a starting role, but it would be an important role for the club.

A Season To Prove Himself

Lukas Podolski is a seasoned Germany international. He makes over A?100,000 per week. However, that means nothing when it comes to deciding who should feature in the starting XI. In reality, Podolski serves Arsenal best from the bench. For him to continue his career at Arsenal, especially with the wages he is on, Podolski must show a willingness to do whatever job the manager asks him to do, because if he doesnai??i??t, his career as a Gunner might come to a swift end.

Written by THT Guest AuthorAi??Naveen Maliakkal

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