One would definitely rate a striker highly, if he is scoring at a rate of 1 goal every two games. Add to that, a definitive number of assists and a cult status in the Bundesliga, one would surely take notice. Somewhat similar had been the story for Lukas Podolski in 2012, having enjoyed 3 very productive seasons at FC Koln and close to reach the coveted 100th international cap. So much so that, in the summer of 2012, he made a £12m move to Arsenal, under the, then excited, Arsene Wenger who was sure it was a coup to have secured the prolific German for such a modest fee.
Fast forward 3 years, and it seems the fairy tale story has gone horribly wrong for the player and club. International caps have dried up, so has the club appearances. In fact records suggest, in an English season of 70 games, the German has only managed a mere 30 games in both the two seasons. So where has it gone all wrong?
Well, a number of reasons, actually. Coming from a club which literally worshipped him, the stocky German had got more of a shock to understand and adapt to the rigors of the Premier League, being no more than one among many. In addition, having been deployed essentially as a wide player at Arsenal, Podolski has been required to double up as a defensive winger to cover his defense, make wide runs to stretch the play and even drop deeper to retrieve a ball; tactics which obviously demanded extreme stamina levels. And the physical demands have since proved too much for him, with most of his league appearances restricted to 60 minute games, or as a late substitute.
There’s no wonder that the German has been one of the most lethal finishers of the game, and has an infinitesimal back-lift compared to such shot power. However, the Premier League has always been a different ball game. Podolski’s inability to hold up the ball as well as his lack of intent to go after the lost ball has not gone down well with the manager, over the years. In fact with the hassling involved in the English game, podolski has lacked the physical presence and the strength to hold off his markers. And with coach, Arsene Wenger, a strict disciplinarian of the game, lack of these aspects of a player’s game coupled with weak training ground showings, mean getting reduced to a fringe player at the club. In fact, Wenger has been critical of the striker’s inability to take up the role of a target man up front, a role extremely essential to the French manager’s style of play. Before we know it, it was ‘déjà vu Andre Arshavin’ for him.
Lack luster performances at the club haven’t helped Lukas with his international career. The inflow of truly talented young blood to the German team, with the likes of Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Marco Reus and Mario Gotze meant an astronomical competition for places for Podolski. Incidently, once a regular in the German team, the former Koln man has been reduced to the bench warmer in recent years, occasionally featuring in largely inconsequential, international friendlies.
It’s not all that gloomy though, for the striker. Despite his troubles, Lukas has managed quite some number of goals at the club coming on as a late substitute. However, there’s always a punch line. Most of his recent goals have come against easier oppositions, both in the domestic as well as in the international sphere. It must be taken into notice, that Wenger hasn’t preferred the German in any of the big league matches at the premier league, leaving him as an unused substitute.
So what’s next? At 28, age is definitely not his best pal at this moment. Although his off field antics and his vocal support for the club have gone down pretty well amongst the gunner faithful, little looks rosy for Lukas, career wise. Maybe the less rigorous French and German leagues hold his next possible destination. Arsene may have denied his suitors a chance to sign the striker in January, but a player on low morale is never good for a manager and the team. It’s clear that Podolski is still a power house of talent, maybe it is time he applied the right facets of his game, elsewhere.