08 April 2013

"Poldi? Poldi? Poldi? Poldi? Poldi?"

"Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with a girl who saw Lukas pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious."

Speaking of serious, where has Lukas Podolski been? He's barely made an appearance since his goal against Bayern way back in mid-February. Since then, he's played a mere 41 minutes across three matches for us, hardly enough to do much of anything as he's subbed in during the last 15 minutes or so of our last three Prem games. What is this about? Early on, he was an impact player and was forming a strong relationship with Olivier Giroud. There has been some criticism of his work-rate of late, and there have also been rumors of a move from the Emirates to the likes of Juventus, among others. A closer look at his contributions might suggest why we should hold on to him.

After all, with Podolski in, we've gone for 13 wins, 7 draws, and 6 lossesnot brilliant or world-beating, but quite good. If we extend this to a full Prem season, a similar rate of return would essentially match our current haul of points--but this doesn't account for how his relationship with Giroud might have flourished through more time together on the pitch. It's difficult, of course, to predict how Podolski might have performed in longer stretches over the last few games, an even more impossible to predict how his presence might have affected Giroud's performance. We haven't missed him much lately, but could we have done just a touch better against Spurs, a game in which a bit more pace and aggressiveness could have seen us earn a draw? When we hosted them, he notched a goal and an assist. It's hard to believe that his injury and form have been found lacking to such a degree that he barely plays except to relieve another player.

Indeed, his impact in most games has been strong, and he's avoided the prolonged droughts that have plagued other players like Giroud or Walcott. He went through just one dry stretch spell of four games without tallying a goal or assist. Other than that, he's been done pretty well with the chances he's had. Eight goals and nine assists in 21 Prem matches ain't bad, especially when four of those appearances lasted less than 15 minutes, so we're really talking 17 matches. In fact, nine assists is good enough for 2nd-best in the Prem, behind Juan Mata and tied with Rooney, Gerrard, and Walcott.

So what gives? Yes, he was injured for a bit but was fit enough to play 72' in Germany's 3-0 win over Kazakhstan on March 22nd, which seems to put rumors of ankle surgery to bed.  If his ankle injury is severe enough to require surgery, it seems highly unlikely that a powerful German squad would play him for 72 minutes, especially after having gone ahead 2-0 after 22 minutes.

That leaves us with a falling-out with Wenger, which Podolski has addressed by saying that their relationship is "absolutely good and professional. We talk a lot, also in German. He also asks me how my family are." While far from making them BFFs, it's enough to at least paper over a serious rift between the two for now. With Walcott, Wilshere, and Diaby out, we need attacking options as we try to see out the rest of our schedule, and I hope we see the young German return to the squad as soon as Saturday against Norwich. We owe them a solid pasting after the 1-0 loss back in October, and Poldi in particular should want to avenge his sub-par performance in that game. I just hope he gets the chance and is ready to seize it if offered...

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