By Walter Broeckx
Despite me not being the tactical wizard that will give you all the pro’s and the con’s of a 4-4-2 compared to a 3-5-2 or a 4-5-1 formation I do like to throw a stone in the water from time to time and give you something to think about.
I want to talk about Lukas Podolski in this article. And I must say that he is one of the players that can frustrate you in one game and then the next he shows what he can.
I was at Wembley last Saturday and when Giroud was getting ready I thought that Podolski would be the player to make place for him. I know there was some booing from within the Arsenal supporters as they couldn’t understand this substitution. Being behind and then taking off a player that can score goals is sometimes hard to understand.
But let’s be honest about it. Podolski was having a bad game at Wembley. It just didn’t work for him. And as a result too many lost balls, too many times even making silly mistakes. Misplacing easy passes. So despite him being not that good in the match I can understand some fans who didn’t understand the change made. We improved after Lukas leaving the field with hanging feet.
It was obvious he was unhappy being subbed and it took him far too long to leave the field. I can understand him also because he is a player that can finish off a good chance or score with a distance shot but at some point in a match a manager has to make a decision.
And then only a few days later in the match against West Ham it was Podolski as the one we love to see. Using his lethal left foot to kill off any shooting chance and blast the ball in the net. As only he can do it. He surely loves to play against West Ham. Last season he did what he did this season (score goals) and in the match at West ham this season he made his come back after an injury and his work lead to us scoring and he certainly was very good when he came on. I think he came on for the injured Ramsey if my memory doesn’t let me down.
So after the West Ham match we get again the cry from some fans to put Podolski in the middle. But in his press conference Wenger said that he sees him more as a winger. Who am I but I just feel that he is neither of them. Podolski isn’t the typical winger we know. And he isn’t the typical central striker we know. And in fact on the few occasions that Wenger put him deep up front his impact in matches was rather small. Lukas is Lukas, a case on his own.
He is half central striker, half winger.
In fact Podolski is probably the best in this that I know. He operates at his best close to the left of central striker. In the area between the penalty point and penalty area. In fact when he goes outside the penalty area to the side line he loses his effectiveness a bit. Well that is what I think of it.
In fact when you look at where he is when he scores most of his goals it is in that channel.
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Playing in that position it is important that you have a striker who can put it in your path (both goals against West Ham) or that you get a full back coming from the side line and with a cross to the first post area. I remember him scoring like that against Cologne when Gibbs made that overlapping run and then a ball cut back to him and a simple finish.
Podolski a player that drifts in and out matches. Always has been and always will be as this is part of his personality. Making himself a bit invisible and then trying to strike suddenly when the opposition forgets about him.
He also is very much left footed and rarely uses his right foot. Something we see more often with left footed players than with right footed players.
So when you play Podolski I think it is important to have a full back that joins the attack and you must give him the chance to lurk around and wait for the ball to fall kind to him and then he will score his goal.
We also know that Podolski has a thunderous shot in him. A shot that he has shown a few times before. Last season he had such a shot from outside the penalty area against West Ham that took us back to 1-1 at the time. And for those who have seen him play in Germany and for Germany know that he can really score from outside the penalty area.
That made me think that to use this better it might be an option to use him on the right hand side. That way if he gets a ball played in his feet he can turn inside towards the penalty area and has both sides of the goal open for one of his thunder shots. Coming from the left the only real option he has is to shoot to the right side of the goal and this makes it a bit easier for the keeper to defend.
The problem is of course that if you play him on the right wing you know that you will not get many crosses from that area as his right foot isn’t that good. An overlapping right back could help him there and Sagna can be that back. But it also would leave a gap open if Sagna does the overlap and then Podolski has to come back to defend. And I rather have Podolski not in our own penalty area too much.
Now I must say that on paper (or on screen to be up to date) this all looks rather simple and you get the feeling: hey why don’t Wenger tries it out? What do I know. Maybe it has been tried out at the practice field a few times but it didn’t work out at all. So maybe I could be talking rubbish and that would not really be a big surprise as I had admitted before that I know as good as nothing about tactics. But if I would make an unorthodox change in the way we set up a team it might be that one.
But it would be a difficult change to force as Podolski will look for that space he is best in on the semi-left flank whenever he can as that is where he feels most in his comfort zone.
Come to think of it…let he manager decide on it. No use in me getting a headache about such things.
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