Arsenal fans mixed delight and relief on Tuesday night thanks to the powerful left boot of Lukas Podolski, but it will have been hard to quell the feeling that this is something of a swan song for the German and an opportunity has been missed to get the best out of him.
The brace he bagged in the 3-1 victory over West Ham United at Emirates Stadium were his fifth and sixth Premier League goals of the campaign, a number achieved in only ten starts having lost his place in the team early on. He has undoubtedly endeared himself to the Gunners faithful since his switch from FC Koln in 2012, but there is the overriding feeling that his output has not been as lucrative as is could have been.
It became clear quite quickly that Arsene Wenger did not entirely trust the Germany international and that, should Arsenal have their full compliment fit, he will likely only get a place on the bench. Reasons for this became clear the more scrutiny his performances were put under, as there were certainly a few issues affecting the team's game as a whole.
Podolski's defending leaves a lot to be desired and he clearly does not relish the less glamorous parts of the job, often leaving his teammate playing at left-back overly exposed to counter-attacks. However, the two goals he scored against West Ham were the perfect example of why taking such risks have been necessary, as there really isn't anybody else in the squad who can do what he does.
Both goals were scored when 'Poldi' was found in the left of the area just outside the six-yard box and both were clinical finishes with his left boot, giving the goalkeeper little chance. It is this terrific finishing ability that stands him apart from his teammates, as he is imminently more clinical than any of the others.
He plays on the left so defensive duties are always going to be something he must think about and this detracts from him getting into those dangerous areas. This leads some to the conclusion that Wenger should have done more to accommodate him when there was no other options available - they would be right.
The Frenchman is famously stubborn with his tactics, so any major reshuffle of his team was always unlikely, but getting Podolski higher up the pitch and in dangerous areas more often would likely produce more goals. The side could be set up so as to compensate for his poor defensive work and get the best out of his sensational shooting ability - not to mention his dangerous crossing.
Many will argue that he should just work harder, but he has had enough chances to prove he can do it and he just does not seem to have the head for it, so you need to adapt. However, this is unlikely to ever happen as the coming summer will likely see Wenger make the necessary changes to rectify the situation he finds himself in with the current state of the squad.
Another speedy winger will likely be brought in, as should another centre-forward and the necessity of picking Podolski will be lost, so in turn will the chances of getting the best out of his considerable talents. Wenger is s system man, in that he has his system and picks players he believes will be able to adapt to it, whereas Podolski is a player that must be tailored for to get the best out of him.
It would be no surprise were the forward to leave this summer as Wenger makes expected further amendments to his squad so they can maintain a title challenge to the end of the season. Either way, the arrival of the summer will mean it is too late to get the best out of Podolski and that just feels a shame.
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