If the 3-3 draw with Norwich at the weekend revealed anything about the work that still needs to be done by Arsene Wenger in the transfer market this summer, the midfield was once again overrun by technically inferior opposition, and the defence continues to have the kind of soft centre forwards are only too willing to expose.
So it comes as something of a surprise that the first area of the team Wenger chooses to address is adding more firepower to his forward line by securing the services of Lucas Podolski for a rumoured £10m.
Arsenal fans will of course be quick to look at his much-lauded international goalscoring record and the fact that Podolski has scored 18 goals in the Bundesliga this season, but when Arsenal need players to totally transform the fortunes of the club, the signing of Podolski seems no more than a great addition to the squad and that simply is not enough.
The facts don’t lie. Podolski may have been the standout player at Cologne, but his boyhood club were relegated from the German top flight and while he turns his attention to preparations for Euro 2012, his former Bayern Munich teammates still have a Champions League final to look forward to in their own backyard.
Podolski will no doubt take some of the goalscoring burden off of Van Persie’s shoulders should the Dutchman stay put, but it is crucial that Wenger nails Podolski’s best position. This could prove difficult with a player who has excelled on the left of a midfield three for Germany, but has also shown his ability to play more centrally and assert more of an influence in matches.
If the manager doesn’t get it right, there is every chance Arsenal fans could have another Andrey Arshavin scenario on their hands. It still seems startling to think that the Russian who starred at Euro 2010 and was one of the hottest properties in the game could not recreate that form in front of the Arsenal faithful on a consistent basis. Podolski is a player that needs a system to accommodate his strengths, so Wenger will need to decide whether he alters with the team’s shape to get the best out of the forward.
Tactically fitting into a new team is one thing but questions must be asked why a player who has had no problems performing on the international stage, did not flourish at the biggest club in German football. Three Bayern Munich managers failed to get the best out of Podolski, but it was his differences with former Bayen coach Jurgen Klinsmann that perhaps speaks volumes about the type of player that Wenger is inheriting.
When Klinsmann spoke to the BBC back in 2009 prior to Bayern’s Champions League quarter-final tie with Barcelona, the manager revealed that he had a mixed response to his unique coaching methods admitting that he had ‘lost a couple of players’ and one of those players to reject the new methods was Podolski. Despite playing an integral part in Klinsman’s Germany side in the 2006 World Cup, Klinsmann remarked, “Sometimes you get a player who cannot deal with the expectations. You may lose a player who’s highly talented.
“He struggles with the day-in day-out pressures at Bayern Munich. He has been unable to take Luca Toni’s or Miroslav Klose’s place in attack so he asked the club if he could go back to his hometown team. Losing players is a natural process in football.”
Klinsmann talked about the player’s unwillingness to work harder to dislodge Klose and Toni, but of course there are two sides to every story and from Podolski’s point of view when Klinsmann arrived he was told he would be the number three striker, “(I was told) my development here would last one or two years before I can get past the two (Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose).”
Since confirming his move to the Emirates, Podolski has remarked that the transfer to Arsenal is the perfect fit and that he moved to Bayern when he was too young. At 26, the stage is set once again for a player who has enjoyed the kind of international career Lionel Messi would be envious of, to match those starring World Cup performances with the kind of domestic honours that the diminutive Argentine has already achieved. There’s still work to be done by Wenger to help make this a reality, but if players the likes of Yann M’Vila and Jan Vertonghen cannot be convinced to join Podolski, the German may be once again pining for the comforts of his beloved Cologne.