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Running the rule over Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski

The Good

Age: 26
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.

GP Goals Shots G/S AST KP A/KP
Robin van Persie 36 28 161 17% 10 89 11%
Lukas Podolski 28 18 81 22% 6 38 16%
Clint Dempsey 35 16 138 12% 6 47 13%

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.

The Bad

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.

The Ugly

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.

Games Played Won Attempted Percent
Peter Crouch 29 139 215 65%
Robin van Persie 28 27 91 30%
Lukas Podolski 28 5 32 16%

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.

Conclusions

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.

Qq

42 thoughts on “Running the rule over Arsenal signing Lukas Podolski

  1. Vote -1 Vote +1scruzgooner

    tim, i think he’ll still take the same number of shots per game, and hopefully make the same percentage. that won’t take away from robin, but from gervinho, theo, or the other wingers or midfielders. having him as an option will open up space for robin, either to score or to assist. i expect him to go deeper into double-figures next year with podolski on the pitch.

    even if he goes to robin’s g/s percentage, if he plays 30 games (not being over optimistic!) he’s a 15 goal scorer. if he keeps his current rate, he’s bagging 20. that certainly takes off the robin reliance.

  2. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Carson Wells

    I keep waiting for the rest of the page to load.

    Or is dark grey on red the new white on black?

    Either way, Podolski will be our new Marc Overmars.

  3. Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

    I didn’t really want to say it but I feel like I should – the red is more similar to Utd’s than Arsenal’s. Sorry, I’m sure you’ve put in a lot of work on the site and it looks awesome overall. Just that bit is bugging me. I’m sure I’ll get used to it though.

    Psyched about Podolski!!

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tim Post author

      Still working on things. Different monitors show colors differently so sometimes I’m not sure what the site looks like!

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

        There are quite a few color optimizers out there Tim which you can use to standardize the color from your point of view. Like you said, other monitors will show differently.

        BTW, shows as Arsenal Red on my monitor.

  4. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Sahil

    Fantastic news about Podolski. Now, I’ll be a little more selfish and hope that we can sort out the futures of the Denilsons & the Bendtners before the beginning of the Euros? That’d be fantastic but I won’t hold my breath for that.

    I’m probably getting a bit ahead of myself with the season not having finished yet but i think the team still needs atleast one midfield re-inforcement especially if, as it looks likely, Benayoun may not be offered a permanent deal. And a backup keeper, ofcourse.

  5. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

    Love the Podolski signing and have watched him many times over the years for Germany, Bayern (lost his form completely one season) and koln. Personally don’t see him as a central striker as he likes to run unto the ball especially when he is cutting in from the wings and therefore don’t see him as RVP replacement but more as a complement. He is comfortable on either wing, fairly fast and extremely strong on the ball with a wicked left foot.

    Will be a great addition to the team but definitely think we need another goal scorer in case of injuries up front as Chamakh and Park are definitely not cutting it. We may have a chance to see Campbell next season if he gets a work permit but still thinks he needs loan spell in the EPL to see if he can hack it.

    Even someone like a Raul or Defoe would fit the bill although Cavani or Falcao would be the bomb. OK, I know, wishful thinking :)

    1. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

      You know, I wanted him for ages now. Probably three seasons. But after seeing the way that he’s talked himself up to a variety of teams… he has a bit of the Nasris about him, doesn’t he? Don’t know if I can stomach that.

      Not that we’re getting him. That’s not happening. Also not to say that if he was amazing immediately, I wouldn’t forget my suspicion and immediately sing his name.

  6. -1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s our major transfer business done and dusted, with the exception of some departures (Denilson, Bendtner, Almunia, etc.), of course.

    I’d love a couple more players (I’ve never seen play) like M’Vila and Goetze or Hazard, but I can already hear Wenger’s response: “I admire M’Vila, but we have Song, Coquelin, and don’t forget Frimpong, who will be like a new signing. Also, I admire Hazard, but we have Wilshere, Ramsey, and Rosicky, and don’t forget Diaby!”

    Mind you, by that logic, Wenger could also have said no to Podolski because “we already have Walcott, Ox, Gervinho, Chamakh, Park, etc.” SO… maybe this really is the germ of a different kind of transfer window for Arsenal? The kind where we say, yes, we have plenty of players in every position, but can we get even better?

    Hmm….

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        Huh? Where’s the hate? I prefer to call it a bit of informed conjecture (based on past interviews with Wenger–and past transfer strategies) followed up with an admission that Podolski’s arrival throws a spanner in my logic so there’s reason to be optimistic.

        Optimistic I tells ya!

        Geez, Tim, why are you such a Bunburyist hater all of the sudden? Is it because I spurned gay sex with you???

        Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

      2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

        just to be clear, I wasn’t hating on Burnburyist or Tim. just applying a grammatical correction to a slang language that was, i believe, once taught at the university level.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1nycgunner

      Don’t why you got a thumbs down for that but your fears are not at all unfounded. No further activity wouldn’t surprise me one bit either but I think our incoming transfer largely depends on our outgoing transfers. This isn’t enough to convince me there has been a shift in our transfer policy – maybe we are looking at more experienced players but to me that’s just half the story. The other half of the story is identifying weaknesses in the squad and addressing those early. The most glaring weakness in our team was the lack of depth in the goal scoring position so I think that rightly got priority. That’s a good sign and a step in the right direction but we need more.

      1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Bunburyist

        Critic, you’re a one-trick pony, aren’t you? If I say something negative (actually I said something positive in my comment, but you didn’t bother reading the entire post) you say “normal service” or some such shit.

        Change the record. I share my opinion here just like you do, and, like you, sometimes I say really sweet lovely cherry blossomy things, and sometimes I say debatable things, etc.

        So why not quit being a self-righteous prick?

  7. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Gerry Lennon

    Yep, that’s another one off my ‘personal’ shopping list… Thanks AW. Move on to No2 and No3 please, … oh1, No4 wouldn’t be a bad idea either?

  8. Vote -1 Vote +1GoonerNC

    I’ll admit I’ve not been too excited about this signing. Mostly because of what happened with him at Bayern. And because I don’t really understand how Arsene will use him or if Podolski will accept where Arsene would like to use him. However, this write-up is encouraging, as well as an interview I read with a Koln supporter. I’m very happy to see, once more, how much smarter Arsene Wenger is compared to me.

    Now… the midfield…

    1. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

      He was only 21 and inexperienced when he went to Bayern and had to sit beside Klose for long periods of time. Even during that period he showed his class for Germany at the international level.

      With his size, strength and pace he’s a natural for the EPL. Work rate can sometimes be his problem when on the wings but don’t think he will be allowed to slack off at Arsenal.

  9. +2 Vote -1 Vote +1jaymin

    Failing at Bayern, like failing at Madrid, is not a sign of bottling it at a “big club.” they are both gargantuan enterprises who make more money, and not from benefactors (okay,the German taxpayer for Madrid : ) than any clubs in the world. failure at Bayern marks Poldi no more than failure (relative failure there, just a league title, and letting Casillas know how to block what would have been the winning goal in the 2010 WC Final!) at Madrid marks Arjen Robben. This is an immense signing, whatever he did at club level, at international stage he is a stud, and Arsene always gets the best out of players, diamond merchant rather than gaudy diamond princess like Madrid and Bayern.

  10. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    We know Poldolski can score goals and what will be refreshing is that he will shoot from anywhere if he gets a sight at goal. Compared to our present corps of strikers, he’s a burly dude with pace. What we don’t know about him is his work ethic, his help defense and his passing vision or even if the word pass is in his lexicon of football actions :) All we can do is hope and pray that Wenger has unearthed another gem at the ripe old age of 27.

    Once Arsenal make a purchase then comes the clamor of questions about who will be our next purchase. Remember the clamor last season for Marvin Martin who came off a 4G, 17A (41 games) season. This season, he’s 2G, 5A (31 games). Not good. Mata who some thought might be a little fragile coming from La Liga, came in and had a good season 6G, 16A (33 games). Now let’s get Shinji Kagawa’s name out there after his agent announced that he was not going to extend with Dortmund (13G, 10A in 30 games). Has anyone seen or heard from Nuri Sahin since Madrid scooped him up after a 6G, 8A (30 game) season for Dortmund? Oops.

  11. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Marriner gets the game today. Interesting selection there. Not the usual Man U homies. Hopefully the linesmen can actually see and have the ‘balls’ to make the big calls.

  12. Vote -1 Vote +1ctpa

    Real Madrid would not park the bus.
    Barcelona would not park the bus
    Why is Man U parking the bus?
    0-1 Man City as they dominate possession.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1BrkiMarin

      Cos they have inferior squad and they know it, and City is more or less
      invincible at home.

      regarding Podolski, very excited, a player that actually shoots at goal
      from outside of 16 yard box. And is strong as buffalo, i think that he has
      better presence when compared to all of ours cf. Very impressed whenever i watched German manschaft.

      Park looks like a dud of the season. He must be really bad if he cant even get on bench…

    2. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Tee Song

      It seems to me that ManUre always go defense first against big opposition and quite frankly, it’s often worked out quite well for them. We certainly haven’t been successful against them over the past several seasons. Real park the bus when they must. They had 28% possession in the last El Clasico, defended deep and scored from a set piece and a counter. I’ve often wished that Arsene would embrace a more pragmatic approach in big games. Still, I think Fergie tried to get one last big game from Scholes and Giggs and they didn’t come up with the goods. Carrick and Scholes were simply a step too slow and Park, while his usual energetic self, didn’t provide any kind of guile in possession.

  13. +1 Vote -1 Vote +1Masterba...ker

    Wow – what a boring summer it’s going to be then. Our one and only transfer signing is done with!

    All those who think we’re signing someone else (Hazard for example) give your head a shake. We have a LOT of players if you consider Wilshere, Diaby, Coquelin, Frimpong and Miyaichi coming into the first team potentially.

    I take that back – we might sign a back-up goalie. But if Jens replaces Pat Rice, I guess we could save some money there and kill two birds with one stone.

  14. Vote -1 Vote +1ak47

    great write up. great signing. what a balanced threat we have now not to mention combinations galore and cover. i 2nd kagawa and pray wilshere makes it back for at least 20 games. that’l be three quality signings to add to a team that could challenge without them if everyone stayed fit (i know) but you get my point.

    i thought the red was maroonish on purpose to hail the original colours?
    personally id make the title white and jobs a good en.

  15. +6 Vote -1 Vote +1JimPossible

    A few years now I’ve been reading this blog, probably my favorite. The new changes are in good taste, as I believe with any product it’s good to mix it up from time to time. It is taking some getting used to, but I say that only because I WAS VERY USED TO the old format. More directly, thank you for the years of quality journalism from an ordinary sports fan to another.

    On another note, the match today between the Manchester neighbors, to me, shows that we really only are a decent striker and some good luck in the health department away from competing in some very meaningful Spring matches. And just like that, a new striker…

    I always say, if you’re not optimistic about things you can’t control (like your favorite sports teams) why follow at all? Being hopeful costs nothing, and whatever happens is going to happen. Things are looking up…

  16. Vote -1 Vote +1Caribkid

    Would love to see us add Vertonghen and another AM. Would drink a few rums to celebrate us acquiring Kawaja, Goetze or Hazard in that order but would settle for Dembele or Sigurdson.

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

      Vertonghen could be a great signing, but the question is, what would that mean for our current crop of centre backs?

      A lot of people are talking about the all-Belgian combo of Vertongen and Vermaelen, which rolls off the tongue beautifully. Except that Koscielny looks to have firmly established himself as our first-choice defender. Assuming he remains so, it means that one of the Belgians has to be content with a place on the bench. Whichever it is, can their ego handle it? And will Mertesacker be content to be 4th choice? I won’t shed too many tears if big Per ended up leaving (he’s all right, but hasn’t totally convinced me yet), but I’m not sure Arsene will be ready to write him off just yet.

  17. Vote -1 Vote +1Ssinderias

    I really don’t think we need anybody else. Maybe backup goalie if Fabianski leaves and no, Almunia doesn’t count. We couldn’t possibly have as many injuries as we did this year, could we? Wilshere out all season, Frimpong out half season (while on loan), Sagna and Santos out three months, Gibbs (you never know when he’s out or in), Mertesacker out for a chunk of time, Diaby (see Gibbs). I think we have a really strong team on paper, perhaps even the strongest team in the league. Don’t think we need anybody else, just keep RvP and Theo (yeah, Theo)

    1. Vote -1 Vote +1amishhaircutters

      I still feel we need a good squad utility player in the ray parlour mould. Someone who can come-in and do a job in multiple positions when the inevitable injuries strike.

    2. Vote -1 Vote +1BrkiMarin

      Strongest team in the league? With our injuries and reliance on couple of
      players to score all goals, and a certain play style that relies on vital cogs
      of our passing game to be sharp and on fire.

      ehm, City has strongest squad hands down in the league. They have 1 weakness, and that is on cb position where if Kompany gets injured Savic is next, the rest of the squad is basically 2 quality players per position.

      In my opinion we need a creative player who can play all positions in midfield 3, and a utility player that has defensive tendecies and can play dmc, and 3 positions in defense. (so we can actually at least partially replace Sagna if he gets injured)

      Because if u look at our squad, there are to many players that are inconsistent in creative department.

      1. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

        Yeah I have to agree with BrkiMarin. We have lots of good players, but Citeh is man-for-man the best squad hands down.

        We have a good squad, but it’s permanently built on potential, rather than players who actually deliver.
        Theo, Gervinho and Oxlade, for example, are all cracking players in their own way, who should all improve. But Ox is still raw, Gervinho can’t seem to get his massive head sorted when it’s time to shoot or deliver the final ball, and Theo doesn’t deliver on a consistent basis.
        Our midfield is rich with talent, but it lacks one singular individual to give it direction, in the way that Vieira and Fabregas did. And we don’t have a reliable goalscorer coming from midfield as yet.
        Likewise, all of our defenders are fantastic on paper yet our team still concedes preventable goals all the time.

  18. Vote -1 Vote +1craig

    Loved yesterday’s post and today’s. I think 18 goals on 81 shots shows he can work with RVP. He is efficient and has the ability to score effectively from the wings, as he has shown for the Germans. Watching him play he does remind a lot of RVP. Good movement, decent first step but not great pace (although he used to have wheels), and the ability to blast great goals with his left. Clearly he is bulkier and probably more powerful, while RVP’s technique is easily among the best in the world, but still… watching Poldi’s goals reminds me a lot of RVP. Of course, he isn’t the brilliant provider RVP is, but I’m excited. This guy has been on the shopping list for years and its great he’s coming now.

  19. Vote -1 Vote +1Eurazian

    How the heck does Song only weigh 74kg? The guy looks like a fecking powerhouse.
    I weigh 73kg, am about 4 inches shorter than Song, and don’t have much fat… and believe you me, I ain’t no powerhouse.
    I get that pro athletes run a helluva a lot and thus burn fat very easily… but muscle weighs more, right?

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