Podolski: winger, striker or…

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.

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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37 Replies to “Podolski: winger, striker or…”

  1. arsenal formation is very flexible. no player is forced or stationed rigidly in a position. but poldi hardly ever move to the right. even walcott who is predominantly right footed still sometimes drift to the left. especially when gervinho was here. poldi seems never confident of himself playing that position.
    i too would love to see him in that position. i guess wenger would as well.

  2. I think he would flourish in a system where we play with 2 forwards , allowing him to stay in the opponents half while not having to worry too much of tracking back as he has to do now.
    As most of the players are right footed ,it would seem logical that attacks start from that side and the left sided attacking /midfield player is always being kept busy defending.
    When OG was getting ready to come on . I was hoping that it was Poldi going off and not Sanago , who was troubling the Wigan defence .
    But he did redeem himself against West Ham with those awesome strikes !

  3. Podolski is one of the best strikers of the ball in the Arsenal team. He should be playing up front more often than on the wing. If we resort to 4 4 2 then Poldi will find a lot more goal chances.

    Rosicky is another good shooter as is Giroud. However, Giroud rarely turns with the ball and attacks the goal. Rosicky has reduced his shooting to conform to the passing the ball into the net. I feel Arsenal do not practice shooting ‘dead balls’. The technique is simple to lift the ball and then get it to dip. The technique of bending the ball is also simple and the lobbing of the Goalie in one on ones is also easy if practiced.

    The Ox shot that hit the bar (in the FA semi) was good to look at but his technique was what let him down. The ball was bent & rising. It would have gone in if it was kicked without the spin to make it rise.

  4. Menace

    Your talents are wasted on here.

    Get you CV into Wenger quick sticks. I’m sure he’d welcome your input.

  5. I think Podolski benefitted, in the West Ham game, from having a purely defensive left back behind him – taking away much much of the pressure to get back to provide cover necessary for a much more adventurous defender.
    Playing in a more central role either involves being in a more crowded space (he’s not Cazorla who seems to relish tight marking) or involves playing with one fewer midfield players (in a 4-4-2) leading to the possibility of being outnumbered in that area of the field.
    He remains a little bit of a luxury player who is popular with the crowd because he scores, often spectacular,goals.
    He has, in my view, to contribute more than that and do it more often otherwise he becomes an Arshavin type who can get you out of trouble occasionally but into it more often.
    Maybe the impact sub role is best for him but at his salary level it may not be a sensible economic option.
    It will be interesting to see what happens to him next season when hopefully Walcott is back and Gnabry and the Ox considered for selection more often

  6. Poldi is one of my favourites at the club. I love his happy face (when not being a sub or being subbed of course!) I love the way he has embraced living and working in London and all the positive tweets. If Kieran plays, then Poldi plays better. Chasing back? Galloping forward? There seems to be a craze for rubbish pundits to spot ‘x or y didn’t stay with their man’. Zzzzz. With a top quality more mobile striker, Rambo, Ozil and Theo all fit, I’m sure this combination would free Poldi up too. We can’t afford to waste such a clinical finisher. Where does he continue to play for Germany?

    Interesting point Menace about dead ball/offensive free-kick situations, as we are poor at these. We surely have some players with the technique to master this, especially just outside the box. Poldi, Arty, Tomas, Santi…. Other teams it is a possible goal, for us not so likely.

  7. I would love Poldi to play behind Giroud in what is a 4-4-2. But I know this is going to weaken our midfield and our defense, still both strikers will be more free. All i care is we get back to what we used to be, the football team that played the most beautiful attractive football in the world, oh how I miss that. Am sure now the constraints on Wenger are off economically, and hope so from a x years no trophy if we get the FA. Then am sure Wenger will re create a brilliant side that looks like the invincibles. Oh what a joy will I have. COYG. Lets do it.

  8. As far as i can see, it seems that AW wants the whole midfield to become interchangeable, which is good, but takes time for all midfielders to be able to do. We are getting there though.
    This team is good and not even firing on full steam yet. We do see glimpses of it flashing through sometimes, and now imagine them really firing like the gunners they are.

  9. @ Menace,

    I am so pleased to learn that the technique of scoring from a direct free kick is simple. Please be sure to pass this knowledge on to the Arsenal players.

  10. Podolski is so left-footed, he and Gibbs make the left side of any attack extremely one-footed. Podolski can shoot through the eye of a needle but Gibbs needs to use that right boot of his in order to become a two-footed master player.

  11. Nicky,
    during the FA cup semi final there was a moment in extra time when Gibbs made a great run and found himself at the penalty area with the ball in front of his right foot just inside the area. And instead of shooting he passed it sideways and it got lost.
    I immediately was thinking of you and said: if Nicky has seen this he will say he has to use his right boot. And you are so right about this 😉

    You see right footed players use their left foot more often than left footed players use their right foot. Anyone got a logical explanation for this?

    I was right footed when I started playing football. But when I was around 15-16 I wanted to improve myself and I started to practice and play with my left foot and not use my right foot unless needed. In training of course. But gradually I became better using my left leg and after a season I was confident enough to use both feet. But of course in a match I kept turning to my right foot most of the time. But when needed I could use my left foot and kick corners with it.

    If I would be a manager of a football team I would use one day in the week to practice with the weaker foot. I would call it weak foot day. And then the players would be fined for using their better foot. So they would use their lesser foot and would improve on it. Practice your weaknesses and you will improve.

    But I’m not a manager and probably would get laughed away by the players. Till they see the fines. Nah.

    Got to find a solution for Cazorla though…. 🙂

  12. Lets begin by saying that Podolski seems like a good guy, BUT he is also a massive liability. First of all, he leaves the full back way too exposed, our left wing is a disaster area. You would expect him to be able to do a Rooney like gut busting run, then set off his cannon, but he seems not to be able to dribble very well. Only results in him giving the ball away leaving the full back with 2 players bearing down on them. I guess his nearest equivalent is a stand up shooter in basketball. Stand in one spot, get the ball, shoot the ball and that’s it. I believe that the only place to play him is in the box, with limited defensive responsibilities. The big question is can we afford to carry him. You will need to play with two strikers and a left winger. Might be better options…My hope for this transfer window is Danny Welbeck…left wing/Centre forward…pass the message to Wenger…smile….

  13. Or we can bold and make that Danny Welbeck, Jordan Rhodes and Ravel Morrison…cost half of a Diego Costa and I am betting more goals.
    Calling Arsene Wenger, come in Arsene Wenger…..

  14. Very well written article.
    I never doubt Poldi’s quality and believe he could do better. I just worry about his effort and concentration.

  15. @john I tried but they apparently have enough coaches. It must be obvious by the number of rugby conversions these highly paid players make.

  16. As for red-hot transfer tips, why stop at Welbeck? Why not go for Nani, Young, Cleverley and Jones from MU?

    Also, what about Grant Holt?

    Shame that we never followed the expert advice to buy Samba, not forgetting Schwarzer etc. If only Moyes had been appointed as our manager………….

  17. Walter, your 3.25 was so right about Gibbs. If only he could use his right boot, what a wing back he could be for Club and country.
    Better than Cashly Cole for a start!
    In my youth, I was mainly a right-footed striker but always used my left to shoot if the ball was on my left-side. I wouldn’t have risked taking a corner with my left though.

  18. nicky/Walter.

    When I played, although Right footed, I always played Left wing. Then later in my career as a defender I always played Left Back.

    I had no issue using my left when it was ‘instinctive’. You know, to shoot, to pass, to control, to tackle, etc. etc. But there’s no way I would take a corner, free kick or a Penalty with it.

    So, definitely Right footed with a hint of Left thrown in !

  19. @Jambug,
    Agree entirely, as I was the same.
    I would always prefer to cross from the left using my right boot, because there was always the chance that a SHOT at goal was on at times. This situation is so unfortunate with Gibbs at the moment. He cuts in so well moving right, but has to continue to pass with his left boot (nearly always further right, away from goal), because he cannot use his right.

  20. My word it is encouraging to read the words of such experts as Menace….he is right you know. I been pinging my son’s footballs into his bedroom, through his bedroom window, which is on the first floor, whilst in the garden some 50 yards away. Easy, peasy….

  21. Practising.

    As much as I believe you should never stop practising I do believe that 95% of your fundamental skills are already in place by the time you are 17 or 18.

    In short, if you can’t control a ball by then you never will. Similarly if you can’t use your ‘wrong’ foot by then you probably never will.

    Okay you can work on it, and perhaps improve it a touch, but not much.

    After 18 you’re building on things such as stamina, consistency and gaining experience.

    Most skill training once you are over that age is just repeating the same things you can already do, again and again and again so as to make it as instinctive as you can for when you are under the pressures of the real thing.

    For example a snooker player will go to the practise table between nearly every session. A darts player similar between each visit to the ‘oche’. A golfer the same between rounds. Non are really expecting to ‘improve’ there game, rather to just maintain it at it’s peak.

    In which case I think all is already lost as far as Gibbs and the use of his Right foot is concerned.

  22. For Arsenal to Win the league we need
    this squad…
    GOALIE : Superman
    RB – Batman, CB – Thor and Incredible
    Hulk, LB – Wolverine
    MIDFIELD – Iron Man (DM), Merlin
    (CAM), Jet Li (LM),Rambo(OM) Jacki Chan (RM)
    STRIKER- Hancock
    SUBS – Bruce Lee, Spidey, Harry Potter,
    The Thing, Conan the Barbarian, Darth
    MANAGER – Professor X assisted by
    Count Dracula

  23. Seroti

    Can I just suggest that ‘Menace’ as the coach would be the icing on the cake !!

  24. Hahahaha, Walter, I was thinking exactly the same thing about Podolski. Just like Vermaelen played a bit of a “wide central defender” against West Ham, Podolski is the best when he plays a “left central attacking midfielder” or a “left striker” in 4-4-2.

    It’s interesting that you mention a possibility of switching Poldi to the right wing. I can recall of only one goal that he has scored from an inside forward position – it happened against Norwich last season, he scored a Robben-esque goal to seal our 3:1 victory (though that one shouldn’t have stood as Walcott had been offside prior to goal).

  25. Seroti.

    Keeper: Jabba the Hut.

    LB: Buzz lightyear.

    RB: Atom Ant.

    CB’s: Godzilla, King Kong.

    Midfield: Road Runner, Top Cat, Dick dastardly and Mutley.

    Strikers: Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble.

    Subs. Pew, pew, barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grub.

    Manager: Geoff Tracy

    Coach: Brains

    We’ll take you on any day !!

  26. Very glad the site is back! I’m sure it took a lot of hard work, so thanks!

    I feel very positive about how the team is going. I’ve now caught up with the Untold articles and am looking forward to the next one.

    The newspapers still manage to doctor the headlines, but who cares? And Gary Neville has definitely gone down the pan as a pundit. What a team – him and Paul Merson!

  27. When we got Poldi, I wrote a commentary saying that he has the ability to play across the field but tends to drift into the centre, as a winger. I also mentioned that he has a wicked shot outside the penalty area and is even more dangerous inside it. I saw him play with Koln over two seasons when they were the 2nd worst team in the Bundesliga behind my hometown Stuttgart. He singlehandedly kept Koln out of the relegation zone AND was a team scoring leader as well. His shooting ability, his mobility and his strength really impressed me so when Arsenal bought him I predicted great things for him. I don’t feel he’s enjoyed being subbed so often or not starting and is a mood player, meaning he plays according to his mood. However he is a dedicated professional and has tremendous team spirit.

  28. It is a good article and makes a fine point. I think Podo offers more off the left, though.

  29. Walter and Nick,

    I can understand your points on stronger and weaker foot issues. However, I think its not about the strength or the competant of the foot, but rather how comfortable the players are in using them. For example, most people are naturally right handed and a few are left handed. Both handed people are not natural as they practise and practise. One handed people use their stronger hand to do basically everything one hand work, thus builds the muscle and confidence and eventually the sub conscious and comfortability in the usage. Our feet are not the same. We dont see one footed people walking funny because both our feet are equally stronger. (Though our right foot is slight larger because of the location of our heart but both are equal built because we all walk straight, I suppose). Im naturally right footed but naturally left footed, I have no clue how it came up to be, I just enjoy playing football so much that it never mattered from the beginning. The point is, during active gameplay, I use both my feet equally and competantly. I just dont put a mental block on myself that im naturally left footed. I always take stationary balls on my left foot but never minded using my right foot either. Perhaps im very confidence or just being casual. A very good case study is Oliver Giroud in the West Ham game, his miss in the first half and his goal in the second half. A weak left foot attempt and a glorious right foot shot. Van Pussy too. I have seen many defenders wrong directed because he decided to use his right foot suddenly. Perhaps Podolski should more be casual and less concern in his mind in restricting himself. Should just concentrate on the direction of the attempt towards the goal. By the way, he can learn a lot from the best two footed players I have seen, Paolo Maldini, Andriy Shevchenko and Marc Overmars.

  30. Seroti and jambug,

    People were laughing at me when I said that in order to win the league we need Wolverine. 😉

    But then, Champions League is still a dream.

    I think the solution is the cure – for everyone who is a bad mutant, that is.

  31. Podolski’s right-footed goals – I can recall that one against Liverpool in FA Cup this season. It was an instinctive first-touch finish.

  32. @jambug You are absolutely perfect in your approach and understanding of the use of the wrong foot. Beckham and Ian Wright were babes when they learned to use theirs. You are obviously management material and England needs you.

  33. Menace

    I may be wrong but I get the distinct impression you are being a wee bit insincere in your praise !

    Still, gratifying to know I touched a nerve !!

  34. @Seroti and Jambug

    Nice idea about the lineups. Brought back some memories. Here is my lineup. My back 4 are by far the oldest back 4 you could ever imagine.

    Keeper: Conway Costigan

    LB: Drounli

    CB’s: Brolenteen, Nedanillor

    RB: Kriedigan

    Midfield: Lyman Cleveland, Frederick Rodebush, Dronvire, Tallick

    Strikers: John K. Kinnison, Mason Northrop

    Subs: Cooper, Adlington, Spencer, Dutton

    Manager: Virgil Samms

    Coach: Roderick K. Kinnison

  35. The way Arsenal set up offensively, similar to most tactically progressive teams,is with both FB’s playing high up the pitch as virtual wingers.

    Players selected in the wide MF areas MUST come off the line to allow the FB the space to attack.

    Podolski does not find this natural (unlike Theo or the Ox), he certainly does better with Vermaelan who is not as gifted offensively as Gibbs.

    The idea of paying Lukas on the right may well lift his contribution as he would be more inclined to come off the line to use his favoured left foot, obviously leaving space on the flank for the best attacking FB in the PL

  36. @Gord

    I’m sure I’m going to embarrass myself with my ignorance, but I don’t recognises ONE of the names in your line up.

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