Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud Have the Makings of a Dynamic Duo
Lukas Podolski was in a bit of a quandary.
One of the most seasoned international players currently playing football—at age 27, he's already passed 100 appearances for Germany—Podolski, who only signed for Arsenal this past May, had expressed (via Arsenal.com) mixed emotions about returning to Cologne this weekend, which he had left for London.
But the trepidation about returning to the club of his youth was juxtaposed with a desire to score in his first game for Arsenal.
It turns out he was able to, as a somewhat ignominious former French queen once professed, "have his cake and eat it, too."
Score he did—twice, in fact—as the Gunners powered to a 4-0 victory in their final preseason tuneup ahead of their Premier League opener against Sunderland on Aug. 18. And when he departed from play, it was to a resounding chorus of cheers from some 32,000 fans, who had gathered to watch their former hero.
This year's trip was certainly a bit of a shift from last year's preseason trip to Cologne, when another new signing (Gervinho) had notched a brace on the way to a 2-1 Arsenal win.
Podolski, then with the hosts, had failed to score in that match.
In a stadium he knew in and out, Podolski followed Thomas Vermaelen onto the score sheet when he converted a penalty in the 15th minute.
He would record his brace 28 minutes later after a run that must have had his lungs fit to burst.
After passing to Kieran Gibbs, Podolski raced to the penalty area, where Gibbs found him with a cut-back that the German coolly slotted away to make it 3-0.
Richard Clarke, sent by Arsenal's official website to provide the recap, said that a healthy number of the 32,000 fans gathered at the Rhein Energie Stadion wore jerseys bearing the name of their departed hero.
That Podolski was the only Arsenal player not substituted at halftime was likely attributed to his former star status at Cologne. He would stay on until the 69th minute, when he was replaced by Robin van Persie.
It was a fantastic debut from Podolski, who had said that after the taxing Euro 2012 campaign, Arsenal fans could expect to see him at his best in the coming weeks.
He was joined by Giroud in making a terrific impression.
The Frenchman, signed from last season's Ligue 1 winners Montpellier, showed the kind of incisive movement and sixth sense around the penalty area that have made him one of the revelations of French football in the past calendar year.
Giroud's finishing touch—he tallied 21 league goals last season—is a foregone conclusion at this juncture, but it is his ability to link up with teammates and bring attackers into play that could well become his most distinguishable characteristic—not to mention greatest contribution—as a forward.
His chested control set up Santi Cazorla with a golden chance to send a searing volley into the goal.
It was a vestigial imprint of Giroud's exhibitions ahead of the European Championships with France, when the striker had tallied an impressive three assists in three games, often doing just as he'd done against Cologne.
Arsene Wenger will have taken many positives from this performance—Cazorla was a revelation in midfield—but the impact of Podolski and Giroud, and the way they were able to insert themselves into the fluid attack with impeccable ease, will have been one of the highlights.
That Cologne have been relegated to Germany's second division, and opted not to start many of their best players after already playing two league games this season, is a minor plot point. Wenger needed to see what his new charges could bring, and he has to have been happy with their play.
Podolski and Giroud showed an ability to be dangerous when they're on the field together, and while Wenger has said they may not be ready for the league opener, when they finally do make their first league appearance, it will be with great anticipation from the global Arsenal fan base.
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