Why Striker Lukas Podolski Must Remain at Arsenal

James McNicholasFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2014

HULL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Lukas Podolski (C) of Arsenal celebrates with team mates Olivier Giroud (R) and Bacary Sagna (L) after scoring his sides third goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on April 20, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Arsenal forward Lukas Podolski has been extensively linked with a move away from the Gunners this summer. However, the German international has four goals in his last two appearances. His recent form suggests that Arsene Wenger should do all he can to hang on to the player affectionately known as "Poldi."

Podolski himself is acutely aware of the intransigent nature of football. Speaking to Sky Sports, he refused to rule out an eventual return to the Bundesliga:

The Bundesliga is one of the best leagues in the world and therefore, in principle, is always interesting.

In the Bundesliga, my thoughts naturally turn first to [Cologne]. That is much more than a club for me, this is my home.

Maybe I'll return one day; that is, for me, always an option and matter of the heart.

I would also like to meet my Arsenal contract. But as I said, yes, you never know in football. Sometimes everything happens very quickly.

Podolski is a passionate Cologne supporter and will doubtless return to the club of his heart at some stage. Arsenal fans will be hoping he delays that inevitable homecoming so that they can enjoy watching him in London for a while longer.

For much of the season, Podolski has not been a starter for Wenger. He missed much of the first half of the season due to a bad thigh injury, but even upon his return, he was only used sparingly. However, with Theo Walcott cruelly sidelined by a cruciate ligament injury, the Arsenal manager has been forced to make use of the German's predatory intelligence and finishing prowess.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 15:  Lukas Podolski of Arsenal in action during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at Emirates Stadium on April 15, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

The results have been good. Podolski's goalscoring record this season is mightily impressive. He has only made 16 starts and yet already has 12 goals to his name. That ratio is not hugely distorted by substitute appearances: Podolski has only come off the bench seven times, and some of those cameos have been very fleeting. If you add up his total minutes played, those 12 goals have come in little over 14 full 90-minute periods. That represents astonishing levels of efficiency in the final third.

In Olivier Giroud, Arsenal have a centre-forward who is not particularly clinical. According to Squawka, his shot accuracy is just 40 percent. That means he needs to be surrounded by players who require less chances to score. Podolski provides a pleasing contrast, hitting the target with 73 percent of his attempts.

HULL, ENGLAND - APRIL 20:  Lukas Podolski (C) of Arsenal scoring his sides second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Hull City and Arsenal at KC Stadium on April 20, 2014 in Hull, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Podolski is not perfect. His defensive work is often lacklustre, and he can drift through games while waiting for the chances to come. However, when an opportunity does present itself, there's no Arsenal player you'd rather see with the ball at his feet inside the opponents' penalty area. Podolski only needs a moment to turn a chance into a goal.

Finding players with that kind of hit rate is no easy task. With Bacary Sagna and Lukasz Fabianski both set to leave the club on free transfers, Arsenal are already set to have a busy summer ahead. Finding a replacement for Podolski would be a difficult and unnecessary task.

Podolski will have his emotional reunion with Cologne at some point in the future. This summer, however, is simply too soon. The man with the explosive left foot still has plenty to offer the Premier League.

James McNicholas is Bleacher Report’s lead Arsenal correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here.