What Can We Make of Lukas Podolski's Recent Slump for Arsenal?

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What Can We Make of Lukas Podolski's Recent Slump for Arsenal?
Julian Finney/Getty Images

There wasn't a player in an Arsenal shirt more anonymous than Lukas Podolski at Old Trafford Saturday.

It says something about his influence on the game when marauding full-back Andre Santos had more of an attacking impact in the 2-1 loss against Manchester United than his left-sided counterpart.

To have watched him in action throughout September and into the first couple of weeks of October, one couldn't have helped being impressed by his tenacity and dedication to the cause. In recent weeks, however, he has been a mere footnote on some increasingly despairing Arsenal performances.

According to WhoScored.com, in the 81 minutes he was on the pitch, the German forward failed to take a shot on goal, made zero key passes, completed 74 percent of his passing and only touched the ball 39 times (53 less than Santi Cazorla and nine less than Aaron Ramsey, who only played 52 minutes of the game).

If one compares these statistics with his performance in the 3-1 win at West Ham, where he took three shots, made six key passes, completed 89 percent of his passing and touched the ball 55 times, the drop in form is quite incredible.

The numbers only tell half of the tale, of course.

He has been a completely different player at the Emirates to the one that some Gunners fans expected when he signed in the summer. But can those who have followed Podolski's career in Germany really be surprised by his latest slump?

Often accused of disappearing for long spells, the German forward has enthralled and delighted in equal measure during his career. A true enigma, his best season to date came during a term in which his beloved club were relegated.

On the international scene, he has often been world class, and yet when his country needed him most in the recent Euro 2012 semifinals, he was nowhere to be found. His desire to win isn't in question here, only his inability to be productive on a consistent basis.

Off the pitch, he is not the barnstorming leader some mistakenly think of him as; he's more a sort of friendly face amongst a crowd in the dressing room. Whilst the Gunners are in desperate need of a strong, Patrick Viera-esque leader, he is unfortunately not it.

He was bought by Arsene Wenger more for his productivity—to supply goals and assists on a regular basis—but at the moment, he is just not delivering.

But why is this? Why does the man who had told reporters less than a month ago that "I just love the job I have, I love to play at the training ground, in the stadiums and on the street with friends," currently look like he'd rather be anywhere else during games (via The Sun)?

I'm inclined to believe his recent poor form isn't as a result of homesickness or inability to adapt to the English game—if anything, the Premier League suits his direct, uncompromising style of football to a tee.

Courtesy of EPLIndex

It's not because he's being played out of position either. Podolski has played many a cracker in the left-forward role he now inhabits at Arsenal during his career.

Rather, this is the player Wenger bought—pure and simple.

This is Lukas Podolski, the man who arrived at Bayern hailed as the future of German football and was eventually sent back to midtable strugglers Koln, having scored only 15 goals in 71 Bundesliga games.

We all marvelled at his 18 goals in a relegation season at the RheinEnergieStadion, but considering that Yakubu scored 17 for the terrible Blackburn Rovers in the Premier League last season, such a stat line should really be taken with a grain of salt.

Football is about team success, not that of the individual.

In a way, he perfectly represents the fortunes of Arsenal. He is capable of playing some sublime football and enthralling fans with his entertaining style, and he's also capable of going on barren runs of form where the casual fan couldn't be blamed for not being aware he was even on the pitch.

Is this the type of character that is going to lead Arsene Wenger's side in that final step back to the top level?

Of course, the Gunners could still succeed with Podolski—and probably will—it just won't be because of him.

 

What do you make of Podolski's recent performances? Is his lack of form damaging Arsenal's chances?

Follow @MaxTowle

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