Height: 182cm (~6′)
Weight: 82kg (180lbs)
Foot: Left, left, left
Arsenal confirmed the signing of Lukas Podolski from FC Koln today and by so doing have signaled that the club has shifted direction over last summer in terms of transfer business.
Podolski’s transfer comes on the very day that Arsene Wenger admitted that the team is overly reliant on Robin van Persie to score goals. If you think that’s a coincidence, I have an England National Team managerial position to sell you.
Robin has scored 28 of Arsenal’s 59 League goals this term which is 47% of Arsenal’s offensive output and puts him third in overall contribution in terms of percentage, behind Demba Ba (50%) and Clint Dempsey (59%). Wayne Rooney is 5th in percentage at 38% because his team has chipped in an additional 11 goals over Arsenal.
Podolski has scored 18 goals for FC Koln in the Bundesliga this season and that makes for 53% of Koln’s total output of 34 goals. Podolski’s 53% is tops in the Bundesliga this season. I’m putting this in the “good” category because it means that Arsenal will have two options for players to be overly reliant on next year.
It’s tempting to look at the Bundesliga and wonder why Arsenal didn’t move for leading scorer Klaaaaasss Jaaan Huntelaaaaar. But when you look at the team numbers for Koln you can see that the fact Podolski managed those 18 goals at all is kind of a minor miracle: FC Koln was 2nd to last in possession, took the fewest shots per game (8.9), fewest shots on goal (3.3), were last in dribbles per game (10.8), and 14th in passes per game. Arsenal on the other hand are first in possession, first in dribbles per game, third in shots on goal, and first in passes per game.
|Robin van Persie||36||28||161||17%||10||89||11%|
One last thing I noticed about Podolski is the fact that he’s 82kg. Just to put that in perspective, Podolski weighs 8kg (~17lbs) more than Alex Song. I’m sure Arsene will have him slim down a little but that weight is not fat as far as I can tell.
For once, Arsene isn’t signing a little slip of a lad who will be buffeted about by giant half-orcs like Ryan Shawcross.
Podolski took a whopping 2.9 shots per game which means that he took 33% of Koln’s shots (2.9/8.9). Even Robin van Persie didn’t have numbers that high only getting 4.5 shots per game (2nd in the PL behind Wayne Rooney) which is 27% of Arsenal’s 16.7 shots per game.
This leads me to wonder first if he can adjust to being a wider player in a 4-3-3 and if not, then where will he play?
There’s a lot of confusion about what Podolski’s “natural position” is on the pitch. He’s played as a left sided player for Germany many times, but also as a second striker. For Koln he was a pure forward, though he dropped in to the playmaker’s spot on several occasions.
That said, his 1.5 dribbles per game with Koln in the forward role would be good enough to put him in second on Arsenal behind Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s 1.7 dribbles per game. Podolski’s 41 total dribbles this season would make him Arsenal’s dribble king behind Robin van Persie’s 40 dribbles haul.
Podolski was 20/107 crosses, again, mostly deployed centrally for Koln and that’s good enough for 0.7 successful crosses per game. While Sagna has been great on the right (20/86 on crossing) Arsenal haven’t had a left-sided threat all season in terms of crosses with Santos and Gibbs getting just 5 each and Gervinho successful just three times, for those counting that means Sagna has 7 more successful crosses all season than Santos, Gibbs, and Gervinho combined. Oh, and the three left players have 54 combined appearances whilst Sagna just 20.
As a guess I would say that Arsene will play Podolski in the “Arshavin role”. That is to say on the left but cutting in and providing a second scoring threat. Also lust like Andrei Arshavin I suspect that you are going to hear a lot about how Wenger is “playing him out of position” if he struggles at all with the rigors of the Premier League.
Podolski’s only won 5 aerial duels all season. This was on 32 attempts which means that in 28 games Podolski was lobbed the ball (or defended!) around one time per game. Arsenal aren’t Stoke City but Podolski’s paucity of aerials is a bit disconcerting.
|Robin van Persie||28||27||91||30%|
Obviously, aerial duels aren’t the be-all-end-all of being a forward but in the Premier League they are important and at 27 years old not a skill he’s likely to pick up. When I did a similar column on Per Mertesacker last year, I pointed out that despite being 6’7″, aerially was where he might be challenged.
I still hold out hope that Mertesacker will work on the timing of his jumps and who knows, perhaps hidden inside Podolski is a great leaper ready to burst out.
I’m very optimistic over this signing. Podolski is quantitatively a legitimate goal scorer who is accustomed to carrying his team if (touch wood) Robin van Persie should go down with injury next year. When not deployed up front, he can perform in the wide role either cutting in or providing service, though how well he will do that in the Premier League remains to be seen.
Qualitatively, he’s also got a touch of the Pires about him in terms of goal scoring. I’m not sure if I would quite call him a “fox in the box” but he’s a predatory goal scorer who seems to be in good positions a lot. He will get a lot more chances with Arsenal than he did at Koln and we will have to see if he converts.
Signing Podolski now also sends a message to Robin that the team means business this summer and that they are looking to put players in position around him to help out. Something the team has been criticized for during the Cesc era. Let’s hope that signing him may help with re-signing Arsenal’s top goal scorer, captain, and all around great guy; Robin van Persie.