Theo Walcott remains the Gunners’ top goalscorer with 14 league goals and 12 assist after starting 23 league games this term. His German counterpart has scored an impressive 11 goals and made 9 assists in the league and has performed well whenever he’s played.
Podolski is invariably deployed as a winger on the left flank with Walcott on the right and Olivier Giroud through the middle but, with Giroud suspended, Podolski played through the middle in the last two games for the Gunners.
Theo Walcott, along with Gervinho, had a brief stint as a striker this term and, in my estimation there is definitely an edge of healthy competition between Walcott and Podolski. In fact, as I watched Arsenal’s 4-1 victory over Wigan I was struck by how hard Walcott worked compared to numerous other occasions this season where he’s had the tendency to go missing.
Podolski works very hard down the left channel – he gets back to protect the fullback behind him and puts in a solid shift making sure he’s giving his team width in attacking areas – he and Walcott together create space in the middle for Santi Cazorla and Giroud to operate in as they grad opposition defenders wide, luring them to the ball.
When Podolski scored I detected a slight hint of envy fro Walcott in his body language in midweek – I’m not suggesting for a moment he wasn’t pleased his side had taken an early lead but he hadn’t scored a goal in months up until Tuesday evening and that must have bugged him at least a little bit.
Walcott had arguably his best and most productive game of the season against Wigan – I have rarely seen him chase back and make tackles the way he did in that game. He was simply superb for Arsenal, outshone only by Santi Cazorla who made 4 sublime assists and deserved his Man of the Match award.
The competition, not for places, but for the headlines between Walcott and Podolski gives Arsenal’s attack a lot more bite and edge to it – the healthy competition between the pair vying for a role through the middle does the team the world of good.
When Giroud plays, both of them revert to type, fulfilling their obligations on the flanks but when Podolski played as striker on Tuesday, Walcott kept stealing his thunder, coming inside off the right channel to operate as a second striker.
You see the way both of them react when the other scores their goal(s) against Wigan and it’s plain to see there is some underlying rivalry between them, which, for Arsenal, is a very good thing indeed.
image: © Ronnie Macdonald