Lukas Podolski’s timely intervention against Anderlecht on Wednesday evening may just have rescued Arsenal’s flat-lining season, but perhaps it will not be enough to revive his career with the club.
Podolski smashed in a last gasp winner for Arsenal to ensure they recorded an underserved and unexpected victory in Brussels, having been a goal behind with only a minute of the regulation 90 minutes remaining.
It was a reminder for Arsene Wenger, who was celebrating his 65th birthday, of what Podolski can produce if given the time, even if it was just six minutes on this occasion, and the Arsenal manager maintains the German is part of his plans.
Wenger waxed lyrical about the striker’s experience and goalscoring prowess following the triumph over Anderlecht, but his decision to replace Danny Welbeck with Joel Campbell is a pretty good indication of Podolski’s long-term prospects.
If Wenger really values Podolski as highly as he suggests then he would have been introduced sooner against Arsenal’s Belgian opponents, rather than being thrown on in desperation with all other plans exhausted.
His lack of match fitness following World Cup winning exertions in the summer was cited as a reason for Podolski playing less frequently than he would like, but there have been no such problems for the other Germans in the Arsenal squad.
This week Podolski responded to a link to Tottenham by claiming “hell would freeze over” before he would leave the Emirates Stadium for White Hart Lane, which is certainly the right retort to appease supporters.
He won’t join Spurs, fine, that’s understandable, and for a player who spends most of his time on the bench, Podolski would seem to be incredibly loyal.
But, as Wenger likes to point out, he is a veteran of 115 appearances for Germany. Perhaps he ought to have greater ambitions than to watch from the sidelines and entertain fans with his antics on social media. He’s not Emmanuel Frimpong, for goodness sake.
Podolski’s goalscoring record for Arsenal, albeit not spectacular, is acceptable at 29 strikes in 75 games and should be enough to earn him a move to a side of similar standing. His time in north London is heading towards a natural end, even if Wenger suggests otherwise.
He will be 30 next summer and his career will be in need of a new direction, and he unquestionably deserves a role of greater prominence. A regular starting place at Arsenal is beyond him, and pastures new surely await.
Podolski has been a solid performer for Arsenal but, when he does leave, will be regarded as yet another player from which Wenger has not been able to extract his best form. There aren’t many clubs where someone with his body of work is third or fourth in line for a starting role, which perhaps says as much about the manager as the player.
Wenger has never been able to find a role for Podolski and, at best, he has been a dispensable member of the Arsenal first-team. These days he is simply a man made for a cameo appearance, and Arsenal may need one or two more of those before the season’s end. But it should not be enough to prevent his departure.