22 April 2014

Apparently, Poldki didn't get the memo RE: Pack yer bags.

Well, this is all a bit awkward, isn't it? There we were, comfortably advancing through the usual stages of jettisoning a bit of dead weight. The rumors had been started about the player's impending transfer away from the club. Unnamed sources were mentioning friction between the player and club. The player's playing time or lack thereof, as well as his body language when subbed off, was magnified, scrutinized, and analyzed, and then submitted as evidence that he, like others who had not been up to snuff, were moved along to some other club elsewhere. Well, somewhere along the line, Lukas Podolski didn't get the memo or failed to read it, because he's been playing like a man determined to prove his worth.

Cutting a fine figure now...
After all, it was just a few days ago that I was pondering "angry Podolski" after his brace against West Ham, which he celebrated with a grim scowl rather than a joyous smile. I wondered if that was what his game was missing; maybe a sharper edge should replace the locker-room cut-up if Poldi was to be the kind of player we need. Before the West Ham match, the rumors had started to circulate and proliferate: Arsène is dissatisfied with his training and his attitude. He's superfluous to our needs. He doesn't track back adequately. Poldi will be moved on in the summer. And so on.

For lack of a more-direct comparison, it has seemed at times as if he's been Arshavin-ed, getting shifted (if not shafted) from his preferred, more-central role to play wide or as a second striker. Some of the criticisms sound familiar: disinterested performances. Reluctance to track back. Occasional spurts of dynamism. However, in the few times that he's been played through the center, he's failed to impress, failing to tally a single goal or assist in four appearances there (including against clubs like Cardiff and Fener, against whom we played quite well, scoring five goals almost despite Poldi's presence, or at least without much in the way of contributions). Between the injury that kept him out from September through most of December and his own inability to reclaim a starting role upon his return, it was starting to look as if Poldi's time was running out. After reacting with some petulance after being subbed off against Wigan, the writing was on the wall as well as a numerous websites.

What a difference a week makes.

Four goals and 177 minutes of match-time later, Poldi looks rejuvenated. The grim, cold responses to his goals against West Ham have melted away to be replaced by the warmer, enthusiastic glee we've come to expect from him. Scoring a second brace against Hull evoked smiles, thumbs-ups and actual celebrations from the man. He played to the crowd, pumping his fists in an ecstatic display. I do believe he touched his fist to the crest. As much as we might appreciate the goals themselves, don't let them hog the limelight. Just as notable, if less noticeable, have been other statistics. For one, 177. Normally, Poldi might need three or even four appearances to get to 177 minutes. In his last two, he's played a full 90' (something he's only done seven times) and almost did again, going for 87 minutes before coming off to give Sanogo a chance. Now, he's still not registering tackles or interceptions, implying that he's still making only dilatory attempts at defense, but that's an area we can overlook for now, chalking it up to who we were facing and how we were doing just as much to Poldi's own proclivities. Heck, if he's going to go ahead and keep scoring braces, I think we can forgive the laxity in tracking back. Despite all the time he missed and the struggles he's faced, he's now notched 12 goals, third-best behind Giroud and Ramsey, and he adds that lethal left-foot along with a willingness to stay wide that we don't get when Cazorla plays on the left. There's something to consider.

Now, this could all add up to quite the opposite conclusion, that is, instead of playing to prove that he deserves to stay at Arsenal, he could very well be sprucing up his resumé ahead of the summer transfer-window. An in-form Poldi can market himself to a different echelon of clubs, after all. In either case, it's a win-win: we get Mjölnir, hammer of goals, back, and Poldi gets his recognition and perhaps his reward. It may be too late for Poldi to match of better his numbers from last season when he chipped in with 16 goals and 12 assists. He's got 12 goals and three assists to this point. I don't think he has quite enough time for nine assists in four matches, but there might be just enough time for him to find four more goals. That'd be fine by me.