Thirty-seven goals in forty-eight games. Thirty league goals in thirty-eight league games. Last season, he scored against every team in the league bar two. These are the statistics of a world-class striker. Of a world-class Robin Van Persie.
With him in their side, Arsenal were unstoppable. Throughout a year where they suffered poor runs of defeats, multiple times, they could always depend on one man to score. Not only did the Dutchman win Premier League player of the Year, he also bagged the Golden Boot and was harshly left out of World Player of the Year.
His transfer to Manchester United left a gaping hole in Arsenal’s front-line as well as in the fans’ hearts. The talismanic captain was gone and now undoubtedly in his prime, he’d be scoring goals for fun in a different shade of red. Arsène Wenger had to react quickly and did, signing both German and France internationals Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud.
The Frenchman may still be in a state of transition as he finally looks to be finding his feet, but there’s something about Podolski that is winning over every die-hard Gunner. His sheer attitude and mentality to score goals is unparalleled in the side and can be seen every game. Yes, there is a rumour circulating that he can’t last 90 minutes because of his fitness but for a first season in English football, he has hit the ground running.
Arsenal are a great club and Arsène Wenger has been a very successful coach both in Europe and around the world. I fight for Arsenal, for the club and team and this for me is important.” Arseblog
For too long have Arsenal fans craved a Robert Pires/Freddie Ljungberg type player who can run inside from the wing and find spaces nobody else can. Samir Nasri came close, Andrey Arshavin almost had it and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain needs more time but with 27-year-old Podolski, it’s already there. His 2012/13 stats have been outstanding for a newcomer and the new-found partnership with Kieran Gibbs was starting to reap rewards.
With 7 league goals already in the league and 9 assists, including 3 against West Ham, the German is improving as he goes along. Remarkably, Van Persie only managed five league goals and one assist playing in his first full season with Arsenal and he was playing with huge stars such as Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Pires.
Now I’m not saying this immediately declares Podolski to be better than Van Persie, as he was older than the Dutchman when he came to England but this does provide a platform to build on.
There were remarks of a ‘one-man team’ last year when Van Persie battled admirably to win games on his own but with a new-look Arsenal side, say in a similar mould to the 2004 side the workload appears to be more spread out. Their top-scorers in the Premier League being Theo Walcott (10), Olivier Giroud (8), Santi Cazorla (8) and Podolski on seven. Last season Van Persie finished on 30 and Walcott, on 8. A staggering twenty-two goals difference.
This may not be the ideal scenario for Arsenal fans everywhere but selling the Netherlands forward to Manchester United may prove to have helped Wenger demand more from the squad. Theo Walcott has stepped up considerably this campaign and the three summer signings are gelling together to produce an end result. In fairness, as much as Giroud and Cazorla have added extra quality to the Gunners, Podolski is adding experience above quality, something that has passed Arsenal by for a number of seasons.
You don’t get 106 caps and 44 international goals for nothing and when Podolski adds a high-level of consistency to his game, he is going to be a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunately, not many people gave enough credit to Wenger for managing to sign him at the perfect time.
Without the summer sales, maybe Arsène might not even have signed the German at all but with thirty-three league goals between the front four this season, maybe this is truly the signing every Arsenal fan hoped for.