Before their most recent wins, against West Ham United and Hull City respectively, Arsene Wenger and his Arsenal side could be described as staring down the barrel of a gun; with the potential to drop out of the Champions League for the first time in 16 years, many were questioning the form of Arsenal’s myriad stars and the future of their long-standing manager.
However, with two impressive wins, Arsenal look to have plugged the gaps at the most important period of their season, and in Lukas Podolski—who took two goals in each game—they have a player who is encapsulating their resurrection.
Podolski, a player with a wealth of international experience, is coming up with the goods at a pivotal moment for Arsenal and perhaps persuading Arsene Wenger that, when it comes to strike options, he can do a lot worse than the German.
Prior to this lift into top form, Podolski has struggled to make much of an impact this season and—whilst injuries to the German have had their part to play—this has correlated with poor form across the park for the North London side.
In his previous 15 appearances for the Gunners this season, before the wins against West Ham and Hull, Podolski had contributed to a meagre seven wins, which represents a poor return for a title-challenging side.
As per Squawka, the Poland-born attacker only created five chances for his teammates during that period and—without much of an input in front of goal, hitting the back of net nearly once every four games—this can only be seen as a dismal contribution overall from an attacking player.
Naturally, a large measure of the blame cannot be placed at the forward’s feet, as he is often utilised as a bit-part player by Wenger.
With the Gunners desperate for results in their fight for a place in the Premier League’s top four, along with a coveted attempt at silverware with the upcoming FA Cup final against Hull City, Podolski is duly stepping up and out of his spell of poor form.
Arsenal 3-1 West Ham United
With Arsenal facing a tough home game to London rivals West Ham in mid-April, Wenger’s side were looking for a result in order to gain a foothold on a top-four position, with Roberto Martinez’s Everton side—the Gunners’ closest rivals for the final Champions League spot—welcoming Crystal Palace the following night.
With pressure mounting, Podolski scored a brace as Arsenal came from behind to defeat the Hammers 3-1, and the Polish-born 28-year-old was in fine fettle throughout.
As per Squawka, against West Ham, Podolski had a shot accuracy of 100 percent, as well as a passing accuracy of 90 percent, as he looked to keep things clinical.
Hull City 0-3 Arsenal
This form continued last weekend against Hull City, in what could be deemed as a primer for the FA Cup final, to be played against the same opposition.
As Everton faltered at Crystal Palace—in a miserable, late 3-2 defeat—Arsenal are now looking to truly solidify their place in the Premier League top four, and as such three points away at the KC Stadium was to be treated as a minimum.
Much like the game against West Ham, Podolski impressed with another two goals, and his link-up play with Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud was particularly impressive—reminiscent of the high-flying North Londoners of the first half of the season.
Again, courtesy of Squawka, the forward kept 100 percent of his shots on target and, moving into the centre of the attack following Giroud’s substitution on the 74th minute, demonstrated what an effective forward he can be on his day.
This goalscoring run will remind Bundesliga followers of the form of Podolski prior to his move to North London, at previous club Cologne.
In his final season with the German club, the forward finished with 18 goals from 29 appearances—at his clinical best—on par with Claudio Pizarro and Marco Reus as joint-fourth in the league’s goalscoring charts.
Making his interest public in the summer of 2012, Wenger outlined the need of a forward of Podolski’s calibre in front of goal, as per The Metro:
Yes [we want Podolski]. We want to add some offensive strikers, because many times people say we rely too much on Van Persie, which is true, but if we can find world-class players, we will [challenge for the title].
Interestingly, despite following the sale of Robin van Persie to Manchester United, Arsenal still rely arguably too much on one forward—that being Giroud. However, in these past two fixtures, Podolski has perhaps proving to his manager that he is capable of lightening the load placed on the Frenchman’s shoulders.
A True No. 9?
Sporting the No. 9 shirt, Podolski was signed as a natural forward by Wenger, and it remains an enigma as to why the German isn’t given more opportunities in a central role.
As evidenced by his four goals in his last two appearances, and his Squawka-attributed 100 percent shot accuracy based on those two games, when given the motivation, Podolski is up to the task of contributing from a forward position.
His link-up play with Ramsey and Giroud, along with Mesut Ozil, Santi Cazorla and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, will provide Arsenal’s manager with much encouraging going into a tough final stretch of the season, and the Frenchman will be hoping his emerging goalscorer can keep up his form in front of goal to propel his side to success.
Can Lukas Podolski continue his form in front of goal and make himself a regular feature in Arsenal’s attack? Let us know in the comments below.