Arsenal: The Curious Case of Lukas Podolski

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Arsenal: The Curious Case of Lukas Podolski
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Displays of passion for his club at White Hart Lane have endeared Lukas Podolski to Arsenal fans.

Beloved by fans, celebrated by his team-mates and a known troubler of the scoresheet: by all rights, Lukas Podolski in an Arsenal shirt is a sight relished by Gooners worldwide.

Yet, the Polish-born Germany international has found himself linked with a permanent move away from north London throughout this, his sophomore season under Arsene Wenger at the club.  Despite an injury-plagued campaign, wherein he has still managed to record a perfectly respectable nine goals from 19 appearances in all competitions, he remains a much-discussed figure in the rumour mill.

Recent months have seen Jack De Menezes of The Independent, The Mirror and Charles Perrin of The Express coin reports linking the forward away from the Emirates in various guises—from an exchange deal for Schalke 04's Julian Draxler to moves away to old-timer's haven Inter Milan

Yet, his excellent goalscoring record, especially recently with four strikes in his last four appearances, combined with his theatrics at White Hart Lane endearing him to the Arsenal faithful, make him a particularly odd choice to leave the club—at least on paper.

So what gives?

Certainly, since recovering from the injury that laid him off from late August until a blistering return in a cameo at Upton Park on Boxing Day, Podolski's form has been hit and miss to say the least.  His first goal in 2014 had to wait until the middle of February, in the crucial FA Cup fifth-round tie with Liverpool, and his difficulties to find the net came both in starting and substitute appearances.

One game in particular sticks in the mind: the New Year's Day win at home to just-relegated Cardiff.  Starting alone upfront, he seemed unable to make the vital run or create the buildup play that would allow him to utilise his greatest threat, that, of course, being his powerful, clinical shooting ability.  His movement and anticipation seemed rusty and certainly not razor sharp; his keen eye for goal blinded and his vibrancy and power in the box dulled.

You might chalk that up to a distinct lack of game time following a lengthy treatment-room layoff, but this was a pattern that continued well into February and March, through a series of fixtures that saw him unable to record a single assist and only two goals.  Until, at least, the late March clash at home to Swansea where his introduction into the game set Arsenal alight.

Since then, the German has arguably been one of Wenger's most reliable performers, both in the starting line-up and off the bench, with worthy contributions coming in spades.  Yet, speculation continues to linger regarding his supposedly imminent exit from the Arsenal setup.

He more often than not features in Wenger's plans as a left-sided advanced midfielder, in the advanced trio behind Olivier Giroud in Arsenal's tactical setup.  His lack of instinct and hunger a classic centre-forward possesses make him somewhat unsuitable to unseat Giroud spearheading Arsenal's sieges on opposing defenses, but his powerful, incontrovertible shooting makes him perhaps Wenger's most lethal finisher.

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His performances in the aforementioned recent games have come at a time in which Arsenal have been able to rely on Aaron Ramsey once more.  The Welshman's return has certainly lifted Podolski's own performances, but does this suggest the German struggles without the most stellar of supporting casts alongside him? 

The constant presence of Santi Cazorla in weeks past would dispute that, but it's still worth considering.

As such, despite the mounting evidence that Podolski is a player worthy of donning Arsenal red and white, he still remains without the offer of a new contract, per Jack Pitt-Brooke of The Independent.

His unique characteristics of being essentially a wide forward with a colossal finish provide Wenger with interesting dilemmas come naming his team on matchday.  Podolski's link-up play, too, despite not being at the level of Giroud, has also improved in recent weeks, especially with the return of Mesut Ozil.

There is certainly a place for Podolski in an Arsenal starting 11, but his presence does not mean Arsenal do not need another centre-forward—they still do, desperately.

So next year, Podolski should be looking toward training with Giroud and the rest of his team-mates at London Colney; however, one or two newer additions, in the vein of Mario Balotelli or Diego Costa, would be a welcome sight alongside the much-loved Poldi in Arsenal red and white.

 

Stats via WhoScored unless otherwise noted. 

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