At the time of writing, Galatasaray are due to announce the signing of Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski in the next few hours. After three years at the Emirates, the German’s journey with the Gunners is coming to an end. Considering how the last 12 months have gone for him, it’s safe to say he left with more of a whimper than a bang. A little less than 12 months ago, Podolski was celebrating winning the World Cup. He was a bit part player in Germany’s victory, but winning the World Cup is still the high point in any players career.
Podolski missed preseason due to Germany’s progression in the World Cup and started his season a couple weeks late. Even if he had played pre-season, he found himself behind quite a few players in the pecking order. With the acquisition of Alexis Sanchez and health of Theo Walcott, he found himself rooted to the subs bench more often than not. He ended up playing only 335 minutes of first team football and was loaned out to Inter Milan on the fifth of January. He didn’t exactly flourish in Italy scoring only one goal in 18 games. After such a high of the World Cup, this terrible season seems to have brought an end to Podolski’s time playing at the top level of club football.
There are a number of different reasons that the World Cup winner never really established himself at Arsenal. One reason is that he never really found a place in Arsenal’s 4-2-3-1 formation. Podolski was primarily played as the left winger. Now, before anyone says that Arsene Wenger should have played him at striker, he was given a couple games there and his performances were borderline depressing. He provided no focal point to the attack, didn’t stretch the defence, and didn’t make enough runs to get himself into dangerous positions. When played as a lone striker for Arsenal, he was somewhere between a ghost and a lost puppy. At left wing, he did provide a threat going forward at times, but was often too uninvolved. He also left his full-back exposed far too regularly, making him somewhat of a liability when Arsenal had to defend. His best position is probably as a second striker playing off another striker, but he wasn’t good enough for Arsene Wenger to change his formation.
The last sentence leads to the second reason; that Lukas Podolski is a player that only really flourishes at club level when a team is built around him. His two most successful spells have been his two at Köln where he was the main man. Those teams were built around him and played to his strengths. There he was the big fish surrounded by a bunch of small fish. But when he has tried to make a move to a bigger club and has been surrounded by other big fish, he hasn’t been able to stand up to the challenge. He moved to Bayern Munich, but ultimately moved back to Köln after failing to break through in Munich. Now he has failed to leave a real mark on Arsenal. He’s a player that needs a team built around him but, ultimately, he’s just not good enough for a top club to build their side around.
The ultimate reason and most simple reason is that Arsenal out grew his level of contribution. When he came to Arsenal they were in flux. They’d lost Samir Nasri, Cesc Fabregas, and Robin Van Persie all within the space of a year. Arsenal needed a clinical player that could step in and score goals right away.
As the Sky graphic above shows, if there is one thing the German can do it’s finish. But really Podolski was a short term fix; a band aid. Eventually people rip band aids off and move on. Since he’s arrived Arsenal have bought more complete players that contribute more, like Alexis Sanchez, and players have developed to pass him in the pecking order, like Theo Walcott and Alex Oxlade Chamberlain. Podolski is a limited player that is great at finishing chances, but has deficiencies in other parts of his game. In the end, those deficiencies and those limits have spelled the end of his Arsenal career.
Podolski is an extremely likable character that genuinely seems to have taken to the culture and to the fans. There will be plenty of people that will be sad to see Lukas Podolski the person leave Arsenal. At this point though, there won’t be too many people that will miss him from an on the pitch standpoint. He’s got a rocket of a left foot, a bubbly personality, and a smile that would fit in in Hollywood, but in the end he just didn’t contribute enough to make it at Arsenal.