Why isn’t Podolski playing through the middle at Arsenal?

Mertesacker Podolski Giroud

Amidst the noisy contract saga of Theo Walcott, the form and fitness concerns over Olivier Giroud and the transfer rumours of David Villa one minute and Wilfried Zaha the next, one player prefers to do his talking on the pitch.

Lukas Podolski is a striker, in case you didn’t know. The German has over a hundred for his country and came to Arsenal as the replacement for Robin van Persie – a striker with a quality left foot.

However, for all but one of his appearances this season, he’s played on the left flank for the Gunners where he’s spent large portions of games tracking and chasing back and compensating for Kieran Gibbs’ underwhelming defensive displays.

What a waste of such a clinical finisher’s energy it is to be tasked with defensive duties that should be the jurisdiction of a left-back along with the crossing ability and pace required to whip balls into the box, where Theo Walcott is an ineffective target-man and Olivier Giroud is mostly just ineffective.

Why is Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger deploying his best finisher by far in a wide position where his effectiveness too is compromised? Theo Walcott has been throwing his toys out the pram in an effort to make his central role permanent, whilst Giroud is still yet to adapt the English game and is inconsistent in his performances.

Podolski, however, has kept his mouth shut – he’s barely spoken about his desire to play through the middle publicly when, as his exquisite finish for his goal against Swansea in the FA Cup proved, he is by far the most qualified to claim the role. That goal was his 10th of the season in all competitions.

Walcott has four more than his German counterpart, while Giroud has one less but neither of them have been as efficient in front of goal, in my estimation, as the German. He’s the closest thing to van Persie they currently have within their ranks.

Should they bring in David Villa or Wilfried Zaha this month, I would expect Podolski to remain a winger but I still find it puzzling and rather bizarre that Wenger has barely explored the possibility of the ‘Podolski option’. Perhaps it’s a case of if you don’t ask you don’t get but the German’s patience is undoubtedly a virtue.

Coming off the bench on Sunday in the 72 minute, he took just 9 minutes to score Arsenal’s leveller and get his team back in the game. That may be the closest Wenger will get from the modest German in the form of a plea. That goal said loud and clear, “what about me?"

image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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