Lukas Podolski likely can’t wait to put on an Arsenal shirt.
His final game for FC Köln saw the team relegated, and his thank-you lap-of-honour was spoiled by scenes of unrest on the terraces. It was far from a fitting end to a career that had seen Podolski break into the Köln side at the tender age of 18, before returning to the club in 2009 after a three-year stint at Champions League finalists Bayern Munich.
The striker, who is just five caps shy of a century of appearances for Germany, definitely brings much-needed fire-power to a club with only one player – Robin van Persie – in double figures in the league this season. And while Arsene Wenger’s call for the supporting cast to step up in the final game of the season was heeded, there’s little doubt that the front line needed bolstering.
But just what kind of player is Podolski, and how will he fit into the Arsenal line-up?
Well, like van Persie, Podolski finds the net with regularity. For his country, he’s almost on a goal a game, with 43 goals in those 95 appearances. This season, in spite of playing for the basement team in the Bundesliga, he still managed 18 goals in his 29 appearances.
Podolski can score with both feet, although he is primarily a left-sided attacker that can run from deep midfield, take on players and unleash fierce shots, sweet volleys and cultured curlers. While not a typical poacher, Podolski can find space and play off another striker to complete moves. And while there may be similarities with van Persie, watching the talented German play shows that the two could certainly complement one another, provided the service they receive from midfield is good. Podolski is a clinical finisher, has excellent acceleration and, importantly in the English game, strength.
Since his move, many of his goals have appeared in Youtube compilations, although many of them are similar and include penalties. Podolski’s movement from deep, ability to run at players, strength and instinctive finishing prowess are clear. One such example of some of his goals can be found below:
The biggest question seems to revolve not around Poldi, as his German fans call him, and whether or not he can play alongside van Persie, but whether or not he’ll get the opportunity.
If van Persie does stay, the threat Podolski brings down the left side will likely also mean more space on the right for van Persie, creating difficulties for central defenders in knowing which one to track. Like the Golden Boot winner, the German doesn’t need an invitation to shoot, and will instinctively try for goal from anywhere. And while some strikers (Andy Carroll and Fernando Torres spring to mind) go through barren spells connected to a lack of confidence, Podolski is brimming with self-belief, and creates plenty of opportunities for himself and others.
Assuming van Persie stays with the club, it almost certainly means a dropping down the pecking order for Gervinho, and offers options for the club to sell some of the more peripheral forwards, such as Bendtner, Chamakh and Vela.
One has to believe that Podolski was told Arsenal are ambitious, and that the double threat he and the Flying Dutchman would propel Arsenal into the forthcoming season. No doubt van Persie was also told the signing of the German international was proof of intent, and, hopefully, the first of several new acquisitions.
There’s little doubt that negotiations are not just carried out in private. Rumours are spread in order to increase players’ value, and to coerce clubs into paying over the odds for services. The fact van Persie has not signed a new deal is being seen as him leaving: at this point it’s impossible to say. Perhaps he’s waiting for new signings to occur. Perhaps he’s hoping a massive performance at the Euros equates to an even better deal. In an age when we want answers now, the only thing left is speculation and reading between the lines. And, sometimes, knowing when to sell a player is as important as knowing when to buy. However, van Persie is currently an Arsenal player, and the answer to the question can he play alongside Podolski is a resounding ‘yes.’ It would, perhaps, be the best strike partnership in the Premier League.
And with loanees including Joel Campbell, who spent the season at Lorient, in France, Ryo Miyaichi (at Bolton) and Benik Afobe (Reading) awaiting their chances, plus rumours of further attacking signings, the future does seem brighter than simply hoping that the Dutch Master neither picks up an injury nor goes off the boil, given the reliance upon his tally this season.
One facet of Podolski’s game other clubs will undoubtedly be targeting is his renowned temper. Surprisingly, he’s seen very few red cards, however, his tendency to become involved with opponents, and to retaliate, is sure to draw attention from some of the Premier League’s finest wind-up merchants.
However, Podolski is likely to settle in easier than some imports to the Premier League, as there are already several players of Polish heritage, as well as international team-mate Per Mertesacker already in the fold, and this should enable Podolski to both fit in, and have some knowledge of the players he’ll be facing come August.
Tony Woodcock, who played for both Arsenal and FC Köln, has little doubt Podolski will make a positive impact, and most observers – including former players, managers and analysts – share the belief that Podolski has the potential to be an instant success.
Arsenal fans everywhere will be eagerly awaiting his debut, and doubtless shirts and souvenirs bearing his name are set to be big sellers. What they will be awaiting even more, however, is who lines up alongside him come the first day of the new campaign.