I like Lukas Podolski, a lot. He is a Polish-born German that claims “there are two hearts beating” in his chest. He runs in straight lines quickly and has fast feet. He is confident but not arrogant, marketable with his handsome good looks, and deserving of a transfer to a major European team again. He is able to drag the ball back from a defender and draw fouls in dangerous areas. Not only is he professional enough and focused to play on the left of a 4-3-3, with all the tracking back that entails, but he has the intrepid power and pace to play as a centre forward. More than anything else; he is built for the counter attack.
You can see Podolski starting lightening fast counters and running 65 yards to finish it himself. His technique and left footed power is akin to Robin van Persie’s. This is one reason people compare them. The Dutchman leans back more when he strikes the ball, with his unusual urban technique; whilst Podolski is what I call a ‘laces’ shooter. The ball explodes of his boots with little back spin callously across the keeper.
Podolski fits the current model. The way Arsenal play this season in accelerating the ball forward faster is a product of not having the natural ball carrier that Cesc was. Ramsey is a carrier, sure, but his strength is in attacking the box with endless fiery runs. Arteta does not dwell on the ball, he has become something of a tempo-building and mixed distance passer-quarterback. His creative talents are used more centrally than much of his time at Everton and certainly in a deeper area. The Everton style and limitation in talent meant they would play their best creative talent where he could hurt defences most. In truth; Arteta, Ramsey and Song rotate their roles and responsibilities – always leaving one 10 to 20 yards ahead of the centre backs. Wenger has found success with this trio by finding the right blend of possession game play with early passes to the pace-masters wide. This creates one on ones – which Walcott is having devastating success with at the moment. Podolski could sink into the ‘9.5’ role and unleash them with accurate passes or burn past fullbacks when out wide, from either flank.
Why did Arsenal not spend more and recruit a strong centre forward this summer? Wenger appeased his unerring weakness – his desire to ‘make do’ with a perceived bargain (Park). If Park were the answer, what is the question? He has not played a minute of Premier League football yet. The reason Wenger obtusely chose cheap could be that Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela were not sold. Podolski lacks the Latin flicks and caresses that Vela has, but he has far more cut and thrust. Bendtner looks like two different players and is achieving neither. Whether the fractious Dane is a powerful target man or someone who wants to drop into the attacking midfielder zone and be part of the build up – I don’t know and I never will. He should model his game on Ibrahimovic, who is nearer the former of the two attacker identities but with the touch to lay off cute passes on the edge of the box. Bendtner’s height and clumsiness work against him, for he could not achieve the completeness that van Persie does in having the technique to form part of every cog of a goal being created or scored. Ibrahimovic has a greater physicality and balance that he may have attained away from the pitch through his martial arts.
If Wenger could enhance Arsenal’s forward line with a productive, multi-positional attacker such as Podolski then we could win the FA Cup or finish 3rd. Either would be a momentous achievement based on the way the season began. A careful examination of van Persie’s and Walcott’s injury history would endorse the move to secure a top talent. Furthermore, if Wenger can push aside his innate predilection for a project rather than the finished article, the promises made during contract negotiations for both would carry greater weight. In form and the talisman for Cologne, I anticipate a £15-20m price tag. A £12m on the 20th January 2012 would be a good negotiation starting point. Clandestine enquiries and scouting visits, are – I am told, ongoing. Watch this space.
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