Lukas Podolski scored a brace this weekend in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over Fulham at Craven Cottage, but suffered an injury one game later against Fenerbahce which will cause him to miss three weeks of action.
Podolski has yet to play a full 90 minutes for Arsene Wenger’s side this season, after being replaced by youngster Yaya Sanogo after 81 minutes on Saturday. He played 9 minutes in Arsenal’s 3-0 win at Fenerbahce last week and just 1 minute in their opening day defeat to Aston Villa.
He lasted just 49 before being stretchered off with a hamstring injury against Fenerbahce. So how much of a blow is it for the Gunners?
I have asserted my firm belief several times over the course of last season that the German is Arsenal’s best finisher and most dangerous forward – Olivier Giroud looks sharp after a good debut season last term and an impressive pre-season tour but Lukas Podolski is the closest to a genuine replacement for Robin van Persie that Arsene Wenger has.
Last season Podolski featured in 33 Premier League games, of which 25 were starts and just two were for a full 90 minutes. That’s quite incredible for a German international with more than 100 caps for his country and undoubtedly the finest left foot at the club. He was the most substituted player last season.
He played 1,983 minutes of Premier League football for Arsenal which sounds like a lot until you compare it to Santi Cazorla’s 3,297 minutes or Olivier Giroud’s 2,333 minutes. There is something very strange going on with Podolski, whichever way you look at it.
There is, of course, the argument that Podolski may not have been at optimum fitness last term and Wenger does have a point when he compares the Bundesliga’s intensity to the Premier League – there may be an argument to be made that imported German players struggle with fitness in their debut seasons in England due to the German top tier’s winter break.
However, Podolski had a decent pre-season this summer and prior to last night - his fitness can’t be the only concern, especially when you consider how fatigued Santi Cazorla must be after playing for Spain in the Confederations Cup this summer after a full season club football. If it’s not his fitness, perhaps it’s his form?
Except, I can’t see how his form is a cause for concern either – his brace on Saturday showed the kind of attitude, determination and quality the player possesses. He said post-match that he just wants to do his best for the team and fight for his place but I still wonder why he has to fight so hard.
He and Giroud both scored 11 league goals last season, despite the German playing far fewer minutes in fewer games and he accounted for double the amount of assists as the Frenchman (10 compared to Giroud’s 5). Some of his goals were mouth-watering – his finishing can’t surely be in doubt.
The only reasons one could even begin to ponder are that perhaps he has fallen out with Wenger behind closed doors. On paper his exclusion from regular first-team football (especially when Arsenal have such a threadbare squad at present) is incomprehensible. The only conceivable reason would appear to be that something has gone awry in-house.
Now Arsenal will have to learn how much they really miss him. It doesn’t bode well for Lukas Podolski’s future that he’s spending so many minutes of so many games on the bench – especially with a World Cup coming up next year and abundance of German attacking talent coming through.
But the fact the Gunners now have to cope without him, they might just realise what a lethal threat he provides - as an option at least.
But if the injury further forces Arsene Wenger out into the transfer market, when Podolski returns, he may find his task to break into the starting line-up regularly, tougher than ever before.
image: © sdhansay