Interview translation: Arsene Wenger on his German players, his philosophy and developing Arsenal over 17 years
I did not conduct this interview – it was published here on ZDF’s website in German, which I then translated.
Arsène, thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us. You have been the manager of Arsenal for more than 17 years, what has developed in this team during that time?
The development is very very strong, I believe that it is the responsibility of a manager in England to ensure the development. When I arrived, we had no training ground, we had an old stadium, so at the time we built a new training ground, bought the land, built everything, then of course we built a new stadium, which also cost a lot of money – just for the land, for example we paid £128 million. In Germany, for example Bayern Munich got the land for just €1. So you can imagine what kind of difference there is there. Therefore the club had had financial restrictions in the last six or seven years, because we had to pay a lot of money back every year [for the stadium debt]. But despite that the club has developed, for example when I arrived at Arsenal we were 80 – today we have 450 people. A share at the time was £400 – nowadays it is £17,000! So, despite that, you can say that the club has economically developed a lot. On the sporting side, in the first years, of course we won cups, but then we have had a period when it wasn’t so successful. But despite that, we remained in the top four in the Champions League with less money and we were very often there for the championships. We were a bit young to win in championships. But now, we are over the period, I believe that in the position to battle with any other club (to take it up with any other club).
I know how hard it is to talk about yourself, but how would you describe your own development in these 17 years?
Very very difficult for me to decide that, I believe my job is a public job, and therefore I give my best and I let the other people assess how good or bad I am. We have an influence on our careers, on the lives of the players, on the style of play of the team, and the impetus and the idea which we can give to the club, and we try to have an influence on these three levels.
Another question like the last about yourself, how would you describe yourself as a manager and as a person?
A person who loves his job, who has sacrificed his life for football. But that has cost me nothing, because I love it so much. Someone who has tried to have a positive attitude towards people, and to influence their lives positively.
You have said you have sacrificed things. Has it been that you have had enough time for hobbies and your family?
No, of course not, I have to realise that. I have indeed always said that this is a job for people who aren’t married, and of course my family have also sacrificed a lot so that I can do my job.
There have been offers from other clubs – Bayern Munich in 1994 was very close, there were other big names – Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, everything that has been reported… Why have you stayed so constantly at Arsenal? Many people think “I have to change, I have to get a new impetus.” How have you always managed to find motivation?
Only because I don’t think a good manager is connected with a transfer. Always try to develop, and you don’t need to transfer to a different club, because I have always had the feeling of what is important to me in my job – that’s freedom to work, to be able to push through my philosophy and a big freedom. I believe that when you get up, you should think: “Today I can work in a good atmosphere.” For me, that’s the most important thing. I have to say that, but I have also always had the backing from my board, they always stood behind me and have always supported me.
You have spoken about your philosophy. To live your philosophy is important to you – what is your philosophy?
To play a style of football that is built around mobility and technical skill, creativity and also speed, and therefore I have developed many players. You can see in the history of the players that have come to Arsenal that they have developed well and the majority have made a great career with Arsenal. Therefore I believe that the philosophy of a club and the style of a club is very important. The career of a player depends 90% on the club where he is, and I believe that Arsenal is a club that has had a very very big positive influence on its players.
The interest in Arsenal in Germany has grown, because Arsenal have five German players in the squad. When I say the name of the player, could you please briefly describe them. For example as the first we will take Lukas Podolski…
Lukas Podolski – super-talented. He can score goals, can play very well with other players, super-power, sometimes he can score free-kicks, he can score from anywhere. Good crossing of the ball. But he can still improve himself – with Lukas Podolski you always get the feeling that he is playing at 80% or 90%, and you want 100% from him. And the 100% of Lukas Podolski is, for me, world class. I believe that his future is to raise that in the next few years.
What would you say of Per?
Per – super attitude, very intelligent and very respectful, very professional. He has technically developed very well with us, and tactically as well. For me, today he is one of the best defenders in the world.
Then somebody who hasn’t been long with you yet, but surely was able to give you some first impressions, Mesut Ozil. How would you describe him?
Mesut Ozil is a dream, because he was born for football. Everything that he does is class, he makes it look simple, and yet he works very hard, very good physical qualities. A natural world-class player. And I believe that in the next few years he will be recognized by everyone as the top top top player in the world.
Serge Gnabry has massive potential, I believe very strongly in him. I have already shown a lot of trust in him, he can play behind the striker, on the wings, he can be decisive, score goals, dribble, has a lot of power. Very intelligent as well, and now the first phase of his development is to find his position in my team and I think he can manage it.
Finally, Thomas Eisfeld. He’s already scored a goal in the Capital One Cup against West Bromwich…
Thomas Eisfeld is a very talented player who came from Dortmund as well – a very intelligent player, very good technically. I believe as well that he will develop well in the next two years, because he is a little bit behind the others in his physical condition but I believe he has developed well in the last six months, and every time he has played, he has played very very well.
I have to ask you: in a few days you will play Borussia Dortmund, how do you rate your chances and how must your team perform in order to beat Dortmund?
I think firstly we have to play our best level, with a lot of rhythm, and we must of course keep Dortmund’s best players quiet. That means Lewandowski, Reus and other players who are dangerous at the front. But the most important is to play to our level, and we will have a very good chance.
Last question: what are your goals for the future, both in terms of career and private life?
Privately to make my family happy as often as possible, and in terms of my career, Arsenal is a big club and our responsibility is to bring joy to all those who love Arsenal.
So, first game of the season and Arsenal draw 0-0 with Sunderland. This means we’re in crisis, wasted money on two strikers who are useless, will never win a game again etc.
Anyone drawing radical conclusions like that from one game – the first game of the season at that – is quite frankly a moron. If the first game of the season dictated everything, we’d see Swansea and Fulham in the Champions League next season, Liam Ridgewell would end up in the team of the season, and Tottenham would finish somewhere in the bottom half. Although…
Compulsory Tottenham insults aside, the performance yesterday isn’t anything to be fretting about just yet, considering the circumstances. We had no Sagna, Wilshere, Oxlade-Chamberlain or Rosicky, so it wasn’t a full-strength Arsenal on paper. You also have Alex Song departing, so we had neither he nor his potential replacement available. The transfer window hasn’t even ended yet – we look set to get Nuri Sahin on loan, and, unless he’s Song’s replacement, a defensive midfielder. Maybe even another signing. Who knows.
Beyond players that weren’t available and that might be in the near future, let’s look at the players who did play. Considering Santi Cazorla played for Spain in Puerto Rico three days before the match, and had pretty much no pre-season, he had a very promising start to his Arsenal career, buzzing all over the pitch, eager to receive the ball, quick to release it again. He was billed as the typical Spanish midfielder and he certainly lived up to that reputation.
Lukas Podolski, by all accounts, struggled a little. While he did play as a lone striker last season in the Bundesliga, that was for a side who didn’t look to dominate possession and instead often scored from counter-attacks, meaning Podolski had quite a bit of space to exploit when Cologne attacked. That wasn’t often the case on Saturday, and he didn’t get a lot of joy.
Replacing Podolski in the second half was the third and final signing we’ve made so far, French striker Olivier Giroud. Our new number 12 is the one who provided the sensationalists and reactionaries with the moment our entire season fell apart, missing a chance when put clean through by Cazorla. “Van Persie would have scored that!” is the general reaction, and maybe he would have. So what? Giroud probably would have scored that open goal that Van Persie missed against Manchester United. I would have. My missus Sandra would have scored that.
Judging a striker on one miss is ridiculous. It was his weaker foot, his first real chance as an Arsenal player, and he hasn’t had a proper pre-season. Giroud deserves the benefit of the doubt before being written off – one miss means absolutely nothing until we see more from him. If that miss happened in the middle of the season, and Giroud had scored a lot of goals, would people be saying we miss Van Persie? No. Comparisons like that just can’t be made from one tiny incident.
Taking the positives, it was a great bit of movement from Giroud and superb vision from Cazorla to poke it through for him. If we see more of that, there’s no doubt we’ll see goals. It just wasn’t to be that time.
Through-out the game we seemed like a team who are still gelling – sorry for the cliché but it stands up on this occasion – with important members still requiring time to work on their sharpness before fully firing. It’s not surprising that we seemed like that, because it’s exactly what we are at this moment in time. Rome wasn’t built in a day, in the same way this team won’t start firing instantly. It’ll take a bit of patience and it’s foolish to write them off after one game.
Gervinho was lively, and was one of the main dangermen from what I saw (I was on a plane during the game, surrounded by the worst people in the world) and it seems like he’s going to be less of an enigma and more of a consistent thorn in teams’ sides. His directness will help us, as he’ll look to take players on with his superb close-control. He just needs to improve his decision making, which was by all accounts a feature of his play at Lille. He does like that cut-back from the byline, and it’s had some success at Arsenal.
At the end of the day, it was one game. We’ve drawn games before, we’ll draw games in the future. It’s not the end of the world. Our team is nowhere near hitting its stride, so until we have more to draw conclusions from, let’s be patient and wait and see what the team, and indeed Arsene Wenger, has in store for us.
Despite the fact that I’m in Turkey, the Arsenal bug has followed me and has bitten, so I’ve been unable to resist posting my thoughts on the recent goings-on at the club.
Recently the main talking point, other than you-know-who (I’ll get to him/it later), has been the friendly against FC Köln; Lukas Podolski’s former club of course. Our new German forward started the game alongside fellow new signings Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, and all three stood out for differing reasons.
Podolski started on the left wing, and at first wasn’t involved all that much as he got to grips with our style of play, but after a brief lack of involvement began to see more of the ball, as he drifted in from his wide position; Kieran Gibbs’ overlapping allowing him to do so.
This feature of their link-up play – Podolski coming in search of the ball and Gibbs taking up the vacated space out wide – saw Lukas score our third goal, and his second; he dropped deep centrally, looking for the ball, and got it, before sending a probing, lobbed ball over the defence. Gibbs chased after it, and Podolski continued his run, converting the pull-back with the type of efficient finish we’ll surely come to expect from the £11 million man.
Earlier the 27-year-old had converted a penalty to make it 2-0, after Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been fouled. It was a confident finish, and perhaps Podolski might be our penalty taker for the new season, depending on the situation with *ahem*… All annoying speculation aside, Lukas had a good game, and looked comfortable out wide and later in a central berth in the second half, before being replaced by… erm, before being replaced.
£12 million man Santi Cazorla (I know, I can’t believe it either) lined up in between Podolski and Theo Walcott in what has been referred to in recent seasons as ‘the Cesc role’. But if his performance today was anything to go by, we might be calling it ‘the Santi role’ for years to come. He did everything required of him in the position – creating in advanced positions, pressing alongside the centre forward, and dropping deep to aid transitions from defence to midfield as well as ball retention.
He looked assured on the ball, and showed the degree of technical ability you tend to expect from a Spanish midfielder. It seems as if he’ll follow in the footsteps of Juan Mata and David Silva in becoming a Spanish playmaker integral to his side. He was at the heart of a lot of good moves yesterday – always offering an option, playing several key passes as we had hoped, and also sending in the corner for the first goal, which was flicked on by Per Mertesacker and nodded home by Thomas Vermaelen. As many said, it was the typical Steve Bould goal.
One of Cazorla’s excellent passes was a simple ball that was played easily between two defenders and into the trajectory of the run of a certain Olivier Giroud, whose shot was saved well by Timo Horn. Giroud had four efforts in target during his first-half appearance, all dealt with well by Horn, and it was the goalkeeper who came out on top of the duel. Still, Giroud can be pleased with his showing. He made good runs to help forge those chances – firstly one in behind the defence to be found by Francis Coquelin; Giroud then sprinted onto the ball and from a tight angle fired a snapshot low at the near post, only for it to be turned around by Horn. The resulting corner led to the first goal anyway, so the missed opportunity didn’t mean much.
Having had another shot saved by Horn after being found by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cut-back, Giroud was slipped in on goal by Cazorla. After sticking out a leg to control the ball well, his powerful curled effort was saved well again by Horn, and was denied for a third time. His fourth missed opportunity was a powerful header from a corner which was tipped over nicely by the goalkeeper, a chance which few could begrudge him for not scoring.
All in all it was a good performance from Giroud – while the finishes weren’t perfect, his all-round play was impressive, as he linked well with his team-mates, acting as a good foil for the likes of Walcott and Cazorla. Indeed, he linked up with both at one point to almost assist a goal, nodding down Walcott’s cross for Cazorla to fire a low driven volley against the legs of Horn from a decent position. Giroud’s hold-up play was excellent too, as he kept the ball well, putting his physique to good use, as well as acting as a reference point for the entire team and pressing well.
So we saw three very encouraging performances from the new signings, with the trio all impressing on their debuts for different reasons, but Francis Coquelin also caught my eye. He was tenacious and good going forward, but was sloppy in his own half – basically everything we see from Alex Song. He was careless on the ball quite a bit last season, against West Brom on the final day in particular, and we saw it again at the Rhein-Energie Stadion. It’s disappointing because he’s a precocious talent, yet, like Song, seems prone to complaceny. Let’s hope it only crept in because it was a friendly.
I must also touch on Gervinho, who put in a good second half performance. The decision making issues are still very much there – he failed to spot Lukas Podolski in a perfect position to complete his hat-trick early in the second half, and later delayed too long before shooting – but it was an encouraging showing from our Ivorian winger. Our fourth was an excellently taken goal by him; he received the ball on the left, deftly nipped past his man, before beating him again and slotting home at the near post with a clever finish. As I said recently, I’m expecting a big season from him, so let’s hope he doesn’t disappoint.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also put in a good shift, with some powerful runs and some clever passes. He played deep in midfield alongside Coquelin, and the two of them often combined well with Cazorla as a triangle. It had seemed a curious midfield three at first, but it seemed to work, with a lot of fluid interchanging of positions. Chamberlain has been ruled out of England’s friendly with Italy (Joleon Lescott has been called up instead – why is nobody tweeting #InRoyWeTrust?) with an ankle knock, but it doesn’t seem anything serious. Hopefully it’ll mean he’s more fresh for the Sunderland game, or at least avoids a worse injury on international duty.
Sadly I feel like I have to touch on the more negative points raised from the 4-0 victory, and for me, the main one was the handling of the captaincy. Personally, I don’t want van Persie being captain at all, but I can understand Arsene not wanting to officially strip him of the armband, as it might lower his value. Still, the situation was handled poorly – no captain was selected for the second half, meaning when van Persie came on, he was already donning the armband.
If, say, Koscielny had been given the captaincy at the start of the second half, the issue would have been avoided, because van Persie wouldn’t have been expected to take the armband when he came on. Instead, it seemed as if Wenger was sure to make a statement by giving van Persie the armband in a situation where he normally wouldn’t have had it anyway. It’s hard to tell what that move meant – or if it was actually down to poor planning, although I don’t think Arsene would have fallen foul of that with such an important issue – because it could be one of a few things. Perhaps Wenger was trying to keep van Persie’s value high, or perhaps he was trying to warn off potential bidders and make a statement.
For me, I don’t think that little stunt – if it was one – would do anything for van Persie’s value, as he surely wouldn’t be expected to take the captaincy from a player already wearing the armband if he came on. Furthermore I’m completely against van Persie being captain in any situation – it’s not just that a captain is supposed to be a leader on the pitch, but an ambassador for the club. Van Persie can no longer do the latter, and there must be question marks over the former too, given his desire to leave the club.
However, I can see Wenger’s point of view – the media would blow it out of proportion if he didn’t receive the armband from whoever might have had it at the beginning of the second half, which might have some effect on van Persie’s value. It sounds a little silly, but perhaps Wenger was right to be cautious. After all, he knows a lot better than I do.
The final talking point before I lift myself from the metaphorical pool of speculation and dive into the very-real pool of the villa in Turkey where I’m staying – yes, that’s my commitment, writing before relaxing – is about Nuri Şahin. We’ve been linked with him for a while, and now AS are saying that his loan move is expected to be confirmed this week – with the Turk most likely coming here to Arsenal. I’ve spoken on Twitter about this, but I have to re-emphasise how thrilled I would be at the signing.
Real Madrid want to loan him for a reason; he’s had fitness problems, and they want him to regain his sharpness and match fitness so he’s ready to play next year for them, so it would be unwise to expect his Dortmund form straight away. But wow, if we could harness that form during the season, he’ll be a brilliant addition. He was superb for BVB in his final season there, as they won the title with him at the forefront, and on that form he would have walked into almost any midfield in the world.
Sadly, Madrid’s is not included in that enormous list, and he suffered there. But his lack of game-time shouldn’t put us off too much – he’s a fantastic talent with the potential to really make a difference for us. He has the clichéd ‘wand of a left foot’, which he uses to spray passes across the pitch – his range of passing is almost Cesc-esque (what a word) – and he’s composed on the ball. He’s not afraid to get stuck in either, so he should be able to adapt well to English football if he does come here. Let’s just hope it’s the Emirates he’s plying his trade at if so.
That’s all from me, although I imagine Saurabh might have something soon-ish for you to feast your eyes on. Enjoy fantasising about Cazorla, Giroud and Podolski firing us to a long overdue trophy…
For once, Arsenal fans have come into the summer transfer window with optimism. There were plenty of encouraging performances, some befitting a side challenging for the title, although they were too few to mount a serious threat to the Manchester clubs, especially considering the Gunners’ awful start.
Having tied up an impressive deal for Lukas Podolski – £10.8 million, an absolute bargain by all accounts – speculation was ripe that Yann M’Vila, the Rennes centre midfielder, was also on his way. M’Vila is incredibly highly rated in his native France, despite an apparently unimpressive 2011/12 season with his club, and has been compared with Patrick Vieira.
It had seemed as if M’Vila was practically a done deal, but the talk slightly died down in the build-up to Euro 2012, and it seemed like respected French journalist Lauren Juliens was off-the-mark when he tweeted that the move was 99% done. Never-the-less, Arsenal seem to be the only club properly in for M’Vila, despite tentative rumours linking him with a move to Italy, so the move still seems fairly likely.
There had also been talk of an Arsenal move for M’Vila’s France team-mate Olivier Giroud, but it had only seemed like an initial interest from Arsene Wenger. However, suddenly the move was on; Jeremy Wilson and David Ornstein of the Telegraph and the BBC respectively, two of the most reliable Arsenal sources, confirmed the move was as good as done, prompting wide-spread excitement among Arsenal fans.
With it looking as if Arsenal will start next season with Lukas Podolski, Yann M’Vila and Olivier Giroud added to the ranks – as well as perhaps one or two others – the discussion among Arsenal fans has centred around how Arsene Wenger will fit them into the side.
The North London side have been loyal to a 4-3-3/4-2-3-1 formation since the 2009/10 season, and despite the absence of the previous playmaker, Cesc Fabregas, have continued playing with the same system, so it seems like they’ll persist with it.
The majority of the questions have been about how Wenger would fit Robin van Persie, Podolski and Giroud into the same team. Some have suggested moving van Persie out wide, or putting him behind Giroud, with Podolski on the left wing. However, van Persie has had his most successful season as the lone striker, the talisman of the team, scoring 37 goals in all competitions and winning various player of the year awards, so it would be foolish of Wenger to change his captain’s role.
It seems likely that Podolski will play on the left wing; it wouldn’t make much sense buying Podolski and Giroud for over £20 million between them just to keep them on the bench for the majority of the game, and the ex-Bayern Munich man has had success from the left with Germany over the years.
This spells the end of Gervinho’s stint as a first choice for Arsene Wenger – the Ivorian winger came from Lille with fairly high expectations, but struggled a little in his first season at the Emirates. The African Cup of Nations disrupted his progress, but he still seemed to lack confidence during his performances – although there were several promising ones.
Giroud will most likely step in as the lone striker if Wenger cannot or decides not to field Robin van Persie. He had to use his captain in every Premier League game last season, bringing him off the bench once and starting him in the other 37 games due to the apparent failures of Marouane Chamakh and Park Ju-Young, both of whom seem set to leave this summer.
As for Yann M’Vila, who still may not come in, he will be one of Wenger’s first choices in central midfield, behind the playmaker. Although Mikel Arteta and Alex Song both had good seasons, there were still flaws with the partnership, and when Arteta was absent the Gunners suffered massively without the protection he provided. Song was also at times far too casual, seemingly a little too comfortable with his position under no threat, so M’Vila would also provide fierce competition.
Furthermore, it would allow rotation: this will be key for Arsenal next season, as there isn’t one starting eleven which is clearly the best. Wenger will be able to select his side based on form, fitness and opposition, a luxury that hasn’t often been afforded to him recently, and this will also help to fend off injuries you’d imagine.
In any case, Arsenal are shaping up well for the new season, and it’s looking like the squad will be strengthened significantly. A couple more additions still seem necessary – a creative midfielder may be required, as may a back-up defender & back-up goalkeeper – but it’s definitely so far, so good for Arsene Wenger.
Last summer Arsenal’s signings departed from the apparent “norm” – the five players that Arsene Wenger snapped up on deadline day had almost 250 international caps between them, while the experienced Mikel Arteta was also brought in, who has never played for Spain, simply due to the brilliance of the likes of Xavi, Iniesta et al. Arteta has surely been the most important of those signings to Arsenal, but the rest of them have also made contributions (admittedly this sentence, like Wenger has this season, blatantly ignores the existence of Park Ju-Young).
In the recent past Wenger has opted to sign younger, less experienced players – this strategy is explained wonderfully by the man himself in quote number 56 here, although they’re all superb. Before the move to the Emirates, Wenger frequently signed older, experienced players – Wiltord (26), Pires (27), Gilberto Silva (26) and so on. And the signing of 26 year old Podolski signals that last summer’s trolley dash into the aisle marked “experienced” wasn’t just a one-time thing. Perhaps we’ve seen the end of Wenger’s “experiment” with signing players young and developing them as the basis of his transfer policy – the apparent failures of Denilson, Nicklas Bendtner and Carlos Vela among others certainly would have helped him make his mind up if that’s the case.
Podolski brings with him a wealth of experience; almost 50 goals for Germany in nearly 100 games give him a ratio of nearly a goal every other game. Between two spells at FC Cologne, his boyhood club, Poldi played for Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich from 2006 to 2009. The move seemed to come too soon, and didn’t work out, with the striker managing to secure a move back to Cologne after three years in Munich.
Most people have put his failure there down to being too young and inexperienced – the player himself has cited that as the reason too, and certainly seems more level-headed than previously. His story is slightly reminiscent at first to that of Robin van Persie – a young, talented forward who, having made the move from his home-town club to a massive one, didn’t quite seem mentally ready for the challenge. Perhaps the difference was that van Persie had Wenger as his mentor, not to mention his hero Dennis Bergkamp to learn from at training.
Whatever the reasons for Podolski’s lack of success at Bayern, he seems to have matured now, and has 18 goals in 28 starts for FC Cologne. It may not be enough to stave off relegation – the Billy Goats lie in the relegation play-off spot with a game to go, and could easily be sent down automatically on the final day; they host Bayern while fellow strugglers Hertha Berlin are at home to Hoffenheim – but Podolski has scored around 50% of his club’s goals in the league. I thought it would be best to get a view from someone who sees Podolski week in, week out, so I spoke to Sebastien of Positions Spiel to get a better idea of his qualities.
In my opinion, Lukas Podolski is a great signing from Arsène Wenger. The Frenchman has bought a player who, despite only 26 years, is one of the most experienced but also most promising players of the Bundesliga since he has never been able to tap the full potential. He was actually not ready for Bayern Munich in 2006 and his team mates in Cologne haven’t allowed him either to play as greatly as for the German national team. Apparently the better his team mates are, the stronger Podolski is performing.
Since his team mates have never even been at eye level, not to mention better than Podolski, he has had to decide entire seasons for Cologne on his own. The native Pole has always scored and assisted, no matter on what position he was playing; either as left winger, false nine or offensive midfielder. Liberated from any defensive task (his only weakness) Podolski’s high speed, stunning left foot and impressive ability to dribble have made him to FC’s key player more than ever. It isn’t for nothing that “Prince Poldi” has scored 47% of his club’s goal in the current season. The former manager Stale Solbakken recognized that Poldi is a great counter-attacking player. But considering his performances for the German national team, I am sure Lukas Podolski will perform very well for the Gunners. He is actually able to create chances and play combinations in a localized manner.
During his last three years in Cologne, Podolski hasn’t only been outstanding on but also off the pitch. Despite the disappointment of many false promises, Poldi immediately accepted responsibility and was appointed captain. He lead his love to success by Cologne’s standards but wasn’t afraid to declare his opinion in public for what he was fined several times. As Cologne’s hero and undisputed key player, he didn’t have to fear much, though and even barged in rather political club affairs. Fact is that Lukas Podolski has become to someone who won’t shy away from responsibility at a big club such as Arsenal.
To sum up, I’d say that “Prince Poldi” is a great buy whom Arsenal’s supporters will surely enjoy on and off the pitch. He unites everything to become to one of the best offensive players of the Premier League and I think that Arsenal’s way of playing accommodates Lukas Podolski. I’m convinced that his transfer fee is a bargain; you rarely get one of the best players of the Bundesliga for such little money. Less is actually sometimes more.
His maturing into an exceptional professional seems similar to that of, again, Robin van Persie, and the similarities don’t stop there. As well as being left-footed, Podolski is naturally a second striker, but has been asked to operate as a lone front-man, and is growing into the role at the RheinEnergieStadion.
He can also play wide on the left hand-side though, which is one of the things which will have convinced Wenger to pay the rumoured £12 million to sign him. As well as being a first-class back-up for van Persie (I can’t imagine there are many others available who would be able to duplicate the role as well), he’s an option out wide. While he’s a direct option, similar to Gervinho and Theo Walcott at Arsenal, he guarantees quality finishing from the left, and would allow Wenger to play the three-striker formation with which he experimented at the beginning of the season.
Podolski will give Arsenal’s front three a great variety – he can lead the line in case van Persie is absent, and as a wide player would help to unsettle and get at the central defenders on the opposition. Wenger likes to rotate his front line more than any other position, and with Gervinho, Walcott, Podolski, Oxlade-Chamberlain and potentially another signing (a wide playmaker is still imperative, as Arsenal have often faced similar problems to Manchester United at City), he’ll be able to choose his attacking trio based on form, fitness and opposition, rather than being forced to play the same duo out wide with Robin van Persie in between. The competition can only be good, and more rotation will naturally lead to less injuries.
It’s also an excellent sign that Podolski’s signing has been secured so early – while the early announcement, which was simultaneous with the re-opening of membership renewals, was perhaps done with marketing in mind, the early signing will help Arsenal integrate their new German forward into the side, and he’ll have plenty of time to prepare himself for what lies ahead. Furthermore, if he has an excellent Euro 2012 (which I’m confident in predicting Germany will win) his stock will rise, and Arsenal won’t have to pay that higher fee. All in all, as Raphael Honigstein said on arsenal.com, Podolski seems to tick all of the boxes for Arsenal. Let’s hope his signing helps van Persie to decide to tick some boxes on a piece of paper regarding a new contract at the Emirates.