By James Goldman
For all his abiding qualities as a manager, Arsene Wenger has never been one for pro-activeness in the transfer market but confirmation of Lukas Podolski’s imminent arrival may signal a welcome and much needed sea change.
In spite of being hamstrung by the astromincal cost of moving to Emirates Stadium, and possibly hindered by a board apparently more interested in profit margins than margins of victory, Arsenal continue to rub shoulders with the European elite, but that privilege is under significant threat.
Last summer, the club dawdled when it became abundantly apparent that both Samir Nasri and Cesc Fabregas were unsettled and paid a heavy price. The last few hours of the summer transfer window, which followed the nadir of the 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford, represented an undignified and unsuccessful trolley dash.
Of the rag-taggle group who arrived on deadline day, only Mikel Arteta can be said to have enhanced Wenger’s squad and despite his influence this season, £10m hardly represented market value for a 29-year-old with no international caps and a chequered injury record.
STRIKER | KOLN
It is a scenario that Arsenal cannot afford a repetition of this summer and with the futures of Theo Walcott and Robin van Persie uncertain, Wenger has seized the initiative and swooped for a player of undeniable talent and experience.
Whether the Koln forward will represent a replacement for Arsenal’s leading goalscorer matters little at this stage.
If anything, with the Gunners’ presence in next year’s premier European club competition far from assured, it indicates the club’s pulling power remains strong despite having achieved nothing but upper class mediocrity since the move from Highbury.
|THE VIEW FROM GERMANY
|Goal.com International German Editor, Clark Whitney:
Podolski is a fast, powerful striker who can also play on the left wing. His pace makes him a threat to play in crosses, but he is most naturally at home in the centre, where his cannon of a left foot and lethal finishing can best be showcased. He failed at Bayern when he was younger, and it is quite clear that he needs motivation and emotional investment to succeed: it was his love for his hometown of Koln that made him a massive success. But with his side struggling and his age only increasing, the 26-year-old had little choice but to move. Arsenal are a good fit for him, and he could be a great success there. And for Arsene Wenger, the move is perfect: the trainer gains just what he has been looking for in a versatile attacker who can serve as a reliable secondary scorer alongside Robin van Persie.
In playing terms Arsenal have signed a man equally suited to leading the line, playing as a support striker, or cutting in from the flanks and utilising his jackhammer of a left foot.
Indeed, he offers the sort of versatility and quality that makes you wonder why Wenger was reluctant to dust off the cheque book in January considering his two most recent imports from France – the hapless Chu-Young Park and Marouane Chamakh – have plundered a mighty two goals between them all season.
Arsenal’s season has, in part, floundered as a result of a chronic over reliance on Van Persie. Had the German been around when Arsene Wenger looked at the bench with 20 minutes remaining of their Champions League second leg against AC Milan and been able to summon a player with 95 international caps they, rather than Chelsea, may have been looking forward to a trip to Munich next month.
Still, Van Persie will still need significant persuasion if he is to remain in north London beyond the end of this campaign and Podolski’s signing will not be enough on it’s own to convince the double footballer of the year Arsenal finally mean business.
However, with Chelsea already having bolstered their ranks with the addition of Podolski’s precocious compatriot Marko Marin from Werder Bremen, it is clear the European heavyweights are already cranking into gear and Arsenal must keep pace.
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