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Why Arsenal Must Keep Faith With Lukas Podolski

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Lukas Podolski is the an intriguing piece in the Arsenal puzzle as they fight towards Champions League football next season.

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He is concurrently the Gunner’s most potent offensive threat and biggest defensive liability. Although often slated for neglecting his defensive duties (most currently by captain and peripheral figure Thomas Vermaelen), Podolski has a terrific strike rate of 0.65 goals per 90 minutes this season for an Arsenal side that has been struggling offensively of late.

The root of Podolski’s problems is his stamina, or lack thereof. When he starts, he rarely completes the full ninety minutes. In fact his average appearance length has been a measly 52 minutes. His fitness level does not allow him to track back and provide cover for the full backs nor press the opposition defence at anywhere near the required intensity.

Add to this that his relatively lower technical ability does not allow him to be an integral part of Arsenal’s possession based game and it amounts to Podolski being almost completely anonymous in matches that he does not score in. And yet, it bears repeating that he has a strike rate of 0.65 goals per game.

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The real question of whether to start Podolski then becomes: “What is the net value of Podolski’s time on the pitch?” The answer is definitely context specific.

This Arsenal team does not create as many chances on goal as its rivals (Arsenal’s total chances created is less than Everton, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs, Newcastle and Southampton).

In this context, the plain and simple truth is that Podolski must start for Arsenal in the remaining games of the season, as he remains the only player who looks likely to capitalise on the chances presented to him at an acceptable rate.

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Olivier Giroud has lead the line gallantly for the Gunners this season, notching up his 20th goal of the season with a brilliant touch and finish against West Ham, but even his most fervent supporter will admit that he has cast an exhausted and frustrated shadow for the last couple of months.

Whether this can be attributed to the fatigue of playing almost every game this season and the injuries to key players who run beyond him such as Aaron Ramsey and Theo Walcott is not particularly relevant for this debate. As it stands Giroud cannot be relied upon to provide the goals necessary for Arsenal to guarantee a top four finish – but Podolski can.

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A player that doesn’t track back but is eager to get forward and on the end of moves is often described as a “luxury” player, and the common wisdom is that a team fighting for something in the league (whether it be the title, top four, or avoiding relegation) cannot afford to carry a player such as this.

But this is exactly what Arsenal must do, not as a matter of team spirit, but as a matter of practicality; you must score goals to win games. Others must step up and cover Podolski’s share of the work as well as their own, and in return, the statistics show he will reward you in goals.

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Comments (5)

  1. Great point that u have pointed out. His finishing touch on the ball has been a immense boost to arsenal despite his lacking defensive attribute. I also for one think he must start off, and once he ware off substitute him and play someone else

    • I prefer Podoski to Giroud upfront Podoski lack playing time infact he is a serious player

  2. The idea that Podolski can’t defend just doesn’t get me. The problem with Arsenal is the tactic that does not just exist at the moment in the club. If you see the way Arsenal playing, they all go on the right (passing back and forward between Mertesacker, Sagna and Arteta with nobody hungry to move the ball forward) leaving the left side empty. Thus when they lose the ball and the opponent attacks from the left because it is empty, you have only Podolski there who can’t do everything!!! Same happens when Cazorla plays on that left side.
    At least Podolski can score so the basic logic is to play him, develop a tactic than can get him into the opponent’s defense (because he loves it) and get some goals and win games!!!

  3. always rated podolski. much better than giroud. given a few chances, he will score. it boggles the mind that wenger wants to sell him. if he starts and plays 60 mins hell score

  4. Podolski must start as a CF for me especially with Ozil behind him!!
    Wenger needs to try that…Ozil with his killer pass can easily find Podolski who is much more clinical and fast in front of the goal!

    Ozil and Giroud combination usually dosnt work well with giroud and ozil both staying behind expecting others to go forward!!