Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Is Lukas Podolski Good Enough for Arsenal? An In-Depth Scouting Report
There's been a lot of speculation recently that Arsenal are going to sign German striker/attacking midfielder Lukas Podolski in the summer.
I don't have any information to add over whether this deal might happen or not. My only source of information is the article which appeared in yesterday's Bild - a German newspaper which, unfortunately, might be equated to The Sun.
The article says that Arsenal will have to pay at least 18m euros for the player, and that Koln may hold out for a fee upwards of 20m euros.
Instead of adding to the speculation, I thought I'd write a report on his abilities as a player, to try and flesh out whether he is someone who we should be trying to sign.
Podolski's well known around Europe, and indeed the world, due to his excellent performances in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, and the 2008 European Championships. In particular, a memorable performance in Germany's demolition of England in South Africa means he is a well known figure among the English press, making them more likely to listen to rumours about any potential move to an English club.
Yet, his performances on a week-by-week basis in Germany are a bit more mixed.
As a young player at Koln, he scored a hat-full of goals, although the 24 he bagged in 2004-05 were during Koln's stint in the German second division. On promotion back to the first division, Podolski's tally immediately halved to 12 league goals.
Still, he did enough to earn a move to Bayern Munich in 2006 - and this is where my concerns begin. Podolski scored only 15 league goals in 71 league appearances during his three years at Bayern, although is record of 8 goals in 23 European fixtures is more impressive. Due to his indifferent form, Bayern eventually bought Luca Toni, which significantly reduced Podolski's playing time, causing him to move back to Koln in 2009.
In his first season at Koln he only scored 2 goals in 27 appearances. He was hardly much better at creating chances for his teammates, with only 4 assists and an average of only 0.7 key passes (creation of a goalscoring chance) per game. So, in his first season after Bayern, he didn't score many goals, he didn't have many assists, and he didn't create many chances. And to give that 0.7 key passes stat some context - 14 players in the current Arsenal squad have an average of over 0.8 key passes per game this season. His main facet during his first season back at Koln was his dribbling - his average of 1.1 succesful dribbles per game would be the fifth highest in the current Arsenal squad. During this season, he mainly played as one of the two attackers in a 4-4-2
Things improved during the 2010-11 season, where he played just behind the lone striker in Koln's 4-2-3-1 formation. In this position, he got 13 goals and 4 assists in 32 league appearances. Tellingly, in this slightly more withdrawn position, his key pass rate also improved, and Podolski averaged 1.7 KPs per game during this season.
The current season has probably been his best in the German first division. He already has 15 goals in only 18 league matches, probably explaining the large transfer fee that Koln have apparently requested. Podolski has seemingly interchanged between playing up-front on his own, or as a support-striker. His ability to create chances has ostensibly fallen a little bit, however - he does have 4 assists, but his KP rate has fallen to 1.1 on average, per game.
So what to make of all this?
Podolski is clearly a talented player, and has a track-record of scoring goals. He can play as a support-striker, up-front, and also on the left of an attacking three in a 4-3-3 formation. He does also create goals, but not, perhaps, quite as many as he should do. His KP rate has been lower than I would expect for a 20m euro player during his last three seasons at Koln.
Buying him for around 12m euros or less would probably represent a decent deal. Anything above that and I think the risk is too high. While he certainly represents a better option than Chamakh or Park, and he would add some versatility to our strike-force, I still think there are certain question marks about him as a player.
So, good enough for Arsenal? Probably - but only at the right price, and only as a squad player.