Last season, Arsenal’s squad was desperately lacking in attacking options. This time round, it’s all changed. If anything, the Gunners may be a little top heavy. One player may have to leave to balance the squad. At the moment, it seems likely to be one of Joel Campbell or Lukas Podolski.
The pair of forwards have both been linked by the Daily Star (h/t Liam Prenderville of the Daily Mirror) with a switch to Galatasaray. While it’s hugely unlikely that both will depart, it’s easy to see why one could become surplus to requirements. Neither player is at the front of the playing queue when it comes to attaining a starting place. Wenger will be assessing both men to see who can offer the most to his squad across the coming campaign.
When Podolski does play, he invariably makes an impact. His goals per minute ratio is outstanding. There is no more lethal finisher in the Arsenal squad. The German international possesses a hammer of a left foot, as precise as it is powerful. When the ball drops to him in the penalty box, he invariably dispatches it with dispassionate ease.
However, Podolski has never quite carved out his own niche at Arsenal. Despite his obvious talent, he never seems to have quite won the approval of Arsene Wenger, who seems to prefer to use him as an impact substitute rather than regular starter.
One of the issues is that Wenger never seems quite sure how to deploy Podolski. When given opportunities to play as a centre-forward, he has invariably disappointed. The only spot where he seems to flourish is on the left flank, where his defensive contribution can leave something to be desired.
Campbell, at least, offers greater positional variety. Although he played predominantly as a centre-forward during the World Cup, he is also comfortable on either flank. Wenger is a huge fan of versatility, hence his decision to sign Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona this summer. Campbell’s adaptability gives any coach plenty of options.
His talent is not yet as refined as that of Podolski. Campbell can appear raw and a little hot-headed when it comes to his decision-making. However, he is still young. At 22, he is seven years Podolski’s junior. When making his decision, Wenger may take age in to account: Should he wish to cash in on Podolski, this is probably the manager’s last chance to do so. Once he passes 30, Podolski’s value will decrease dramatically.
In terms of reliability, Podolski seems the obvious choice. Sticking with Campbell would be a significant gamble. However, when it comes to making predictions, it’s important to remember that Wenger loves to embrace potential. He would rather mould a player to suit his purposes than persist with a square peg in a round hole.
Wenger has a choice to make. Podolski offers ruthless efficiency, whereas Campbell can provide youthful exuberance. Given the manager’s predilection toward versatility and Podolski’s significant transfer value, Campbell might prove to be the winner in this closely fought duel.