Lukas Podolski Is Shaping Up to Be an Ideal Signing for Arsene Wenger
The immediate reaction to Germany's hard-fought 2-1 victory over the Netherlands on Wednesday was mainly concerned with two plot lines:
This new Dutch incapacity to display any measure of cohesiveness, and the superb play of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mario Gomez.
The new Arsenal signing had been rather muted offensively, overshadowed by the likes of Schweinsteiger and Gomez, who were involved in both goals. Schweinsteiger provided the assists, Gomez the tidy finishes (the Bayern Munich forward has scored all three of Germany's goals thus far in the Championships).
And thus, Podolski—with 43 goals to his name in 99 appearances for the Mannschaft—was left to look as if he is hardly carrying his weight on offense for Joachim Low's side.
Which could not be further from the truth, as only his teammate (soon to be for both club and country) Per Mertesacker knows.
Mertesacker has not featured for Germany yet, with Low opting for the central defensive partnership of Holger Badstuber and Mats Hummels as opposed to the tall Gunner, but that doesn't mean he hasn't kept an eye peeled on Podolski's play during these two games.
And it was Podolski's performance against Holland—a muted one at first glance—that most impressed Mertesacker.
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Speaking to Arsenal's official website, Mertesacker explained Podolski's play on the day, and the key role it had played in helping Germany sweep to victory.
"[Lukas] had to cover for [right-back] Philippe Lahm, with Arjen Robben on his flank, and he did it very well. Especially in the first half, he covered him all the time and it was two against one on Robben. Defensively it was a great game from Lukas. I think that was more important than his attacking qualities."
Podolski's offensive output could perhaps best be summed up by missed chances in front of goal, seen most glaringly against Portugal last Saturday when the forward sent a clear-cut chance 15 yards out from goal skying above the crossbar—but Mertesacker remains confident that the German No. 10 will come good in front of goal.
That will likely happen—Podolski is too good to continue this struggle.
But until then, Gunners fans can take heart in his selfless contributions. At no point could they be appreciated more than against the Netherlands, whose attacking front four have looked anything but selfless in their own start to the competition.
Whether it be a staunch refusal to track back with any consistency, or in Robben's case, putting individual glory ahead of the team, Podolski has been a breath of fresh air.
Podolski can score—his record for club and country attest to that—but he has shown during these first couple games in Poland (his birthplace) and Ukraine that he is willing to sacrifice his personal attributes for the good of the team.
It's helped Germany leap to the head of the fabled "Group of Death." With six points through two games, they are well-poised to finish first after their final match against Denmark.
And that is yet another glaring difference between Podolski and one of the men he's poised to replace at Arsenal, should he filter toward the left wing as many expect.
For all his individual excellence for Russia (he had three assists through his first two games), Andrei Arshavin was yet again culpable for lapses in concentration that cost his team dearly.
For the Gunners, it had been a refusal to track back against Manchester United on Jan. 22 that led to the Red Devils' winning goal in a 2-1 victory.
For Russia it was a costly loss of possession that led to the Czech Republic counterattack that leveled the scoreline at 1-1 and helped lead to the Russians' eventual demise. (Their fate was sealed when they lost 1-0 to Greece on Saturday.)
Any number of reasons have been put forth that might help explain Arsenal's failure to nab silverware in recent seasons.
But now, with additions like Podolski filtering into the club, things are looking up.
One need only look to his play at the Euros to see why.
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