At the end of April, Arsenal formally announced the signing of German international striker Lukas Podolski from Bundesliga outfit FC Cologne. The Polish-born forward joins up at the Emirates this summer and may arrive on the back of a potentially successful Euro 2012 campaign, with Germany already in the last four and preparing for a clash against Cesare Prandelli’s Italy on Thursday evening..
Arsene Wenger is delighted to have finally secured the services of 26 year old Podolski, on a four-year deal with a transfer fee reportedly worth around £11m, telling Arsenal’s official website:
We see him as an important part of our future. He is a top-class player, a very good finisher and a proven performer at club and international level. He is a very strong player and will provide us with good attacking options.
At international and, most recently, club level, Podolski has excelled. For the national side he has made 100 appearances, scoring 44 goals and assisting nine times since his debut as a 19 year old in 2004. During his already-glittering international career he scored three goals at the 2006 World Cup and a further three at Euro 2008. He celebrated becoming the youngest ever European player to reach 100 international caps by notching in Germany’s 2-1 win over Denmark in their final Group B match of Euro 2012.
Podolski joined the youth set-up at FC Cologne in 1995 at the tender age of just 10 years old. In 2003, he found himself fast-tracked into the first team as the club battled to avoid relegation but, despite an impressive 10 goal haul from the-then 18 year old, Cologne failed to beat the drop. He stayed with the club for a further three years, making 81 appearances and scoring a further 36 goals.
With such a goals-to-game ratio it was inevitable a larger club would come calling and, ahead of the 2006/7 season, he joined Bayern Munich for a reported fee of £8m. Podolski enjoyed mixed success at Bayern, scoring 15 goals and assisting a further 15 across 71 appearances during his three years at the club. Much of his game time in the league at Bayern was reduced to substitute appearances from 2007, however, when the purchase of Italian striker Luca Toni saw Podolski pushed down the pecking order.
He returned to his childhood club FC Cologne in 2009 and, after a patchy start – where he notched just twice in 27 league appearances during the 2009/10 season – Podolski once again showed the promise of his teenage years. During the 2010/11 season he registered 13 goals and four assists over 32 appearances, while the 2011/12 campaign produced his best top-flight haul in a season, with 18 goals and seven assists in 29 league appearances.
Of Arsenal’s 74 Premier League goals during the 2011/12 season, Robin Van Persie scored 30 and assisted 13. To say the Gunners are overly-reliant on their skipper is something of an understatement; Wenger has been all too aware of the campaign Arsenal could have had if Van Persie had been injured and has targeted Podolski, in addition to Montpellier’s Olivier Giroud, to help alleviate this problem.
Podolski is capable of playing anywhere across the three attacking midfield slots in addition to the lone frontman role. This is likely to see him deputise for Van Persie in the middle should the Gunners skipper succumb to injury, though if the Dutchman rejects a new contract offer and leaves the club this summer, Wenger also has a ready-made replacement in Podolski. His talent on the wing does, however, places a question mark over a regular starting 11 place for Gervinho and Theo Walcott, who have played on the flanks for much of the season.
According to an interview with Wenger on the club’s official website in May, it is perhaps Walcott, on the right, who has most to worry about next season.
He (Podolski) is technically gifted, he can play through the middle and through the flanks, he is very adaptable, can create goals and make goals. That for me was an obvious choice. He is left-footed as well and that for me is interesting. It is sometimes interesting to have a left-footed player on the right flank, especially a guy who can give assists.
Alternatively, Podolski would be a natural fit on the left. Gervinho has failed to impress since his move from Lille last summer and lost his place to Yossi Benayoun over the latter part of the season – with the Israeli now back at Chelsea after the end of his loan deal, there’s a position vacant for the new boy.
According to an interview with Podolski’s former manager at FC Cologne, Stale Solbakken (who is the new Wolves boss), Podolski’s versatility also extends to being able to play behind a striker. His recruitment also gives Wenger the option of playing a front two, something he has not been able to do in recent years, Solbakken suggests:
He (Podolski) can play in either of the forward positions up front. If Arsenal play their usual 4-2-3-1, he can play in all of those four forward positions.
With such an impressive scoring track record, experience of the football’s biggest stages and attacking versatility, Podolski looks nailed-on for selection throughout the 2012/13 season and an enticing prospect for Fantasy managers. The one downside, in a sense, is Van Persie – with Podolski set to be classified as a forward in the Fantasy Premier League (FPL) game, and many choosing to opt for the Dutchman in light of last season’s performance, he may initially struggle to pick up suitors. If the pair’s respective prices vastly differ, however, snapping up Podolski’s services could be a viable tactical alternative and, if the new boy hits the ground running, his impact on how we view Van Persie next term will be intriguing.
Anyone want to hazard a guess at the Portuguese or German lineup?
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Team of the Season 2012/13
- van Persie
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