Arsenal’s Lukas Podolski is a different player to Germany’s
This week is a big one for Lukas Podolski. For the first time since his move to Arsenal, the homesick son of Cologne has a chance to show the Bundesliga just how much he has grown up, and just how well he is settling in to his new life in London, as his new side face Schalke 04 in the Champions League.
Podolski has been a divisive figure since his explosive arrival on the scene at the 2006 World Cup. In the six-years since he won Young Play of the Tournament at the “fairytale summer”, his international reputation has grown and grown. On the back of strong tournament performances for the national team, he has cultivated an only half true perception of himself as a global superstar.
In club football, though, he has remained an enigma. A turbulent and premature move to Bayern ended in tears, and even his second spell at 1. FC Koeln arguably saw him complete only one season at his very best. And even that wasn’t enough to save his beloved home club from relegation. Instead, Poldi had to console himself with a move to Arsenal – the assertion being that he had finally grown up. The darling of the national team was ready to prove himself at the very highest level of club football.
Now, indeed, the roles have reversed. While Podolski’s impressive early season form in London has endeared him not only to the Arsenal fans, but also to the British press, his influence in the national team is at its lowest ebb since he first fought his way into it. After defeat to Italy at the Euros, coach Joachim Loew was faced with a barrage of criticism for his decision to play Podolski over Marco Reus in the semi-final, and since that fateful evening, he has appeared to have obliged his critics. Poldi has been demoted to the bench. It is Reus’ twinkling toes and brilliantly bleached quiff which light up the left side for the Nationalelf.
Few could argue against the decision. Podolski’s motivation and technique were never in question, but his ability remains limited by his famously volatile mentality. He has a penchant for disappearing in games, for wasting possession and opportunities in a manner which is distinctly English, and for failing to adapt his game to similarly physical forwards such as Mario Gomez. Reus, meanwhile, is everything Podolski is frequently not. Imaginative, intelligent, patient and entertaining.
Against Sweden, it was Reus who led the charge as Germany destroyed their opponents for the first hour. His passing dazzled and his changes of pace left even his most faithful supporters gasping in amazement. If there was one criticism to be levelled at him, it was that he exposed Sweden so comprehensively that he convinced his team mates that there was no way their opponents could come back from a four goal deficit. The complacency, as we all saw, was fatal.
Meanwhile, Podolski’s cameo in the game coincided with Germany’s capitulation. For a man who has more than 100 caps, his inability to inspire his team back into action was striking. The German public is convinced that their side lacks enough leaders to be as strong psychologically as they are technically. It is an accusation of which Podolski is a primary target.
Once again, the Cologne boy made good is leading a double career. Where previously, the national team was a glorious refuge from the turbulence of his club career, Podolski now finds himself looking to Arsenal in a bid to restore the unconditional favour he no longer enjoys from an under pressure Loew.
Perhaps, though, it is the English game which suits him after all. In Cologne, Podolski was always destined to shine, as a player too strong for the perpetually relegation threatened 1. FC Koeln. His physicality and shoot first ask questions later mentality though, is more suited to the Premier League than it ever was to the upper echelons of the Bundesliga.
One thing is certain. Arsenal’s Podolski is a different player to the national team’s. And while Reus’ career accelerates with such vigour that he is even being linked to Real Madrid, Podolski has a long hard slog ahead of him to make sure that the old criticisms, the old limitations, don’t finish him off before they should do. On Wednesday, he will have a point to prove.Tagged in: Arsenal, Champions League, football, Lukas Podolski
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