By Walter Broeckx
Next in our series about last season we move on to the left flank.
A bit of a difficult flank last season. At the start of the season one would have thought that this was the spot of Podolski. But in the first match of the season Wenger started with Oxlade-Chamberlain on the left flank. But then Oxlade-Chamberlain got injured in the first match and missed the first half of the season.
On came Podolski. And he started rather well. Two goals against Fulham, a good performance against Fenerbahce and then….he also got injured and his first half of the season was over also. As if it was a cursed position.
What followed was a bit of Cazorla on the flank but the absence of Podolski was covered with a fluent midfield rotation where players just moved in to that position depending on the match situation.
In a way you could say that we never really had a decent left sided winger in attack. And with decent I mean a player that has been in that position for his whole career.
When Oxlade-Chamberlain and Podolski came back they didn’t really came back to that position at first. Oxlade-Chamberlain played more on the right hand side or central. But the second half of the season he was floating between being fit and having all kinds of small injuries. All a result of his first injury I think.
Podolski also had many ups and downs when he came back. Being impressive in some matches to being completely anonymous in the next. But Podolski is a bit of a strange case as a striker. He isn’t a central striker for 100% but can play there but needs to be given time. But he also isn’t the typical winger. He is half of both.
He is most suited to play with a good, fast overlapping left back. Then he can drift a bit inside and that is where he is the most dangerous. If you can give him the ball in a free position somewhere between the goal post and the penalty area on the left he can be lethal. Something we should try and should have tried to exploit a bit more I think.
I also remember him being overlooked by his team mates when he was in that position. At Stoke I remember him being completely free in his danger area but Cazorla opting to take a more difficult shot that was saved and not using Podolski to have a completely unmarked shot at goal.
What I have noticed so far about Podolski is that when he is on fire he can have an amazing impact on a match. But he can also have matches that you hardly see him. And I don’t know why this is.
He seems to be a lovable person and is always trying to create a positive atmosphere in the team and in his contacts with the supporters. I can understand why he is still so loved in his home town and at his home team FC Koln. But he played in a different role over there and got time to grow in that role as the central striker. Something he never got at Arsenal as there were other central strikers around and he never really set the world on fire on the rare occasions he played there.
But come to think of it it seems to me that since Overmars left us we never really ever have played with a typical left winger. Overmars was the last of them. I think this was down to having Henry who drifted to the left in those days and playing as a false left central striker-winger. Pires? No not really. Arshavin, no not really. We clearly have never played with a real left flank player since the days of Overmars. And with a real left flank player I refer to a player like Giggs in his best days.
At Arsenal with all the rotation around the central striker this isn’t really needed of course. But I have always loved that type of player but it seems a dying breed in football these days. The fast and tricky left winger with a deadly pass. Come to think of it they have been extinct on the altar of win at all cost-football.
So if you would ask me one position I would like to see something change it would be the left wing in attack. Or we should change the system or we could buy such a left winger like in the old days. If you can still find one. Or is it just me being driven by some kind of nostalgia? Hell, I’m not even sure if such an old fashioned winger would be useful in our system that is based on movement all over the pitch.
Or is it just Podolski staying in his comfort zone that holds him back a bit? More and regular switches between the right flank player (Walcott) and the left flank player in matches could make them more dangerous and make it more difficult for the opposition. I once heard Wenger say that you could use Podolski coming in from the right flank. But somehow this has never been tried in matches. Maybe it was tried in training and didn’t work of course but surely something that I would try if I would be Wenger.
But then again I am not Wenger. I can only see what I see and somehow the left side from our attack is where I would try to do something if I had the money sitting in front of me. Draxler might have fitted that bill but he won’t leave Schalke is the story now so maybe Wenger thought the same as me?
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