Arsenal

Why Lukas Podolski Is Arsenal's Answer to the Transfer Window

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24:  Lukas Podolski of Arsenal celebrates as he scores their second goal with a header during the FA Cup with Budweiser Fourth round match between Arsenal and Coventry City at Emirates Stadium on January 24, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Charlie MelmanCorrespondent IIFebruary 6, 2014

So, unless you've been living under a rock for the past week, you know that Arsenal did not sign a striker during the January transfer window.

In fact, they did not sign any sort of attacking player, much less Schalke's much-hyped wunderkind Julian Draxler. Instead, Arsene Wenger opted to sign an injured Kim Kallstrom to provide midfield cover when the Swede returns in six weeks.

Unsurprisingly, the media reacted with a flurry of scornful columns:

Arsenal's big regret will be not signing a striker in January, writes @jamesmcnicholas http://t.co/UP8mJHKTOB #AFC

— B/R Football (@br_football) February 1, 2014

Kim Kallstrom will give #AFC a boost, but they still need a striker, writes @johncrossmirror on #TransferDeadlineDay: http://t.co/fNIKRWcJGF

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 31, 2014

Yet it is easy to forget that Arsenal are top of the table and, as such, have more than one quality option in their squad to fill their needs.

Any team that wishes to push for the title must have a number of versatile players who are capable of filling multiple roles, both in the starting XI and off the bench. Tomas Rosicky has filled this sort of everyman role for Arsenal for several seasons, and it is one that Arsene Wenger has always attempted to overfill.

A couple seasons ago, he obtained Yossi Benayoun on loan from Chelsea and played him either on the flank or in midfield against elite opponents. Freddie Ljungberg filled a similar role during his last year or two at Arsenal, although he was more of a squad regular.

These are the sorts of players whom Wenger can trust against teams that pose too much of a threat to risk young talents like Serge Gnabry against.

Both Rosicky and Lukas Podolski are trusted servants who offer different sorts of threats and are needed in different circumstances.

Podolski is just the sort of direct, no-nonsense goalscorer whom many were hoping Arsenal would purchase in January.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 26:  Lukas Podolski of Arsenal celebrates victory after the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at Boleyn Ground on December 26, 2013 in London, England.  (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
Ian Walton/Getty Images

While he has not been very successful in the middle for Arsenal, he is absolutely capable of playing there on a short-term basis. On the wing, Podolski does not dawdle in possession like the club's midfielders sometimes do; rather, he always tries to drive forward or exchange a positive pass to advance the attack.

Draxler is a winger, too, but he is more midfielder than striker. Podolski is the reverse.

While it is impossible to predict for sure, one can reasonably assume that, for the rest of the season, the German Arsenal have would have outperformed the German Arsenal currently don't have.

Podolski already knows his teammates and seems to be one of the most well-liked members of the squad, integral to team chemistry. The importance of having such laid-back players during a title chase to bond the players and keep morale high cannot be overstated.

The argument for purchasing a striker—or Draxler, who does not even play up front—was that Arsenal needed someone to supplement Olivier Giroud's goalscoring. Podolski, who scored 16 goals last season and has five in 10 appearances this season, obviously does that from the wing.

No one is asking him to be the the club's main striker; Giroud and Nicklas Bendtner would both have to go down for that to happen. We should instead appreciate his unique skill and recognize his importance to Arsenal's title chase.

 

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