According to Wenger, the German forward’s fitness levels have been a concern for the manager in the player’s debut season in the Premier League, due to the advantages of the winter break he enjoyed previously in the Bundesliga.
“He had a good start [to the season], a very strong start,” said Wenger.
“After that, he suffered a little bit physically and mentally because in Germany they have a break in mid-season.”
“We have seen with many German players that when they come in for the first season, mentally they suffer a little bit. Now he has recovered and is getting stronger again,” he added.
The Gunners’ boss has long been an advocate of the winter break and has asserted his belief many times over the years that, especially in the Champions League, the German sides enjoy a physical advantage over English teams.
We have seen some evidence to support that claim in recent weeks after La Liga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid were thoroughly embarrassed on the pitch by their Bundesliga counterparts Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund who will partake in an all-German Champions League final this term.
There is no doubting the reasoning behind Wenger’s adamant belief – the winter break offers players a chance to rest and recharge both physically and mentally before the embark on the ‘business-end’ of the season both domestically and in continental competitions.
The notion that German players who arrive in England ‘suffer’ from their lack of respite is something to be taken into consideration. Looking at the form and fitness of Arsenal’s Per Mertesacker last season, which was his debut, the German giant came in for criticism for his lack of consistency as he adapted both physically and mentally to the demands of the Premier League.
With Podolski this term, the German international has made 40 appearances in all competitions for the Gunners this season. However, only four of those were for a full 90 minutes, meaning he’s been substituted on or off an astonishing 36 times in his debut season for Arsenal.
When he has played, in general he’s performed well – he’s scored 14 goals and made 11 assists, which is a very good return. Looking at the improvement in both form and fitness this term with Mertesacker, there must be hope that next season Podolski will play a much more integral role with the Gunners – especially if he gets a decent pre-season under his belt.
Wenger may well have a point in general about the fitness levels of debutantes in the Premier League arriving from the Bundesliga – the likes of Shinji Kagawa whose fitness has been a concern this season for Manchester United. There is certainly something to Wenger’s claims.
image: © sdhansay