How do you solve a problem like Podolski?
I’m talking about my attendance at the Arsenal FA Cup Presser. You’re bored I hear you cry! Well, tough biscuits people. If you had been there it would not only be the thing you write 3 sketchy blogs about, but it would be what you daydream of as another humdrum work day drags, as you attempt to scoff another substandard sandwich that claims to have at least 20% chicken but is about 95% reconstituted cat parts.
It would be the thing you tweet about (constantly, sorry), it would be the only topic of conversation you were interested in exchanging with colleagues, or indeed family. To cut this meandering paragraph short, it would be the Mesut Ozil to your transfer window.
I’ve exhausted all vaguely interesting anecdotes regarding the day, I would willingly tell them again, but no-one likes that guy. He always ends up drinking alone. No, what I’m touching on now is an interview that took place with Lukas Podolski. I have the audio of the interview, I was present when it took place, he looked at me at least five times (maybe because he noticed, along with everyone else, that I was dribbling? Or perchance it was the fact my head size is ill-fitted to my torso?), either way, with those furtive glances in my crazed direction, I knew a rapport had been built. I’m just waiting on the invite to his gaff, I’ll come bearing gifts of sauerkraut, frankfurters and a video of Euro96.
If I figure out how to post the audio file to the blog, or if @FindingCotton manages to dig to the bottom of this particular problem, then you must listen, if only for the Matty Fryatt quote, but I won’t reveal that just yet.
Lukas Podolski is on form right now. 12 goals in all competitions sounds mediocre, but his sporadic appearances puts paid to any hope of a radical goal return. The 12 goals represent, when taken into consideration what I just mentioned, a decent goal return. We know full well that he can score for fun. His shot has been known to decapitate & maim, he has a great instinct for goal and his link up play is sublime at times. So why hasn’t he had a long run in the side? Why isn’t he one of the first names that Arsene jots down when musing on his team for the biggest game we’ve had in years?
I’ll tell you why. His movement is poor and his general lack of interest when it comes to covering Gibbs/Monreal is sometimes disenchanting. So why is he still eyed by a huge portion of Gooners (including myself) as a fan favourite who deserves to play? A fair share of players have been discarded to a footballing version of The RaggyDolls due to a lack of tracking back. Why hasn’t Poldi been shown the door? Does Wenger realise the huge part camaraderie has to play within the balance of the team? Does he listen to the fans and their opinions? Does he see it for himself? When I was watching the training from a very privileged position, most players lightly jogged to the training pitch past me, maybe a nod, most just heads down or deep in conversation with a colleague. Not Podolski. I could hear him minutes before he appeared. His bellowing, hooting laugh could awaken people from cryogenic induced slumber. He then appeared, gave me a salute and continued to cajole and exchange BANTZ with The Umlauted One. He is as infectious as gonorrhoea. He appears to be someone who you know would make coming into work that smidgen easier. That helps. He’s the oil that soothes the engine. Santi and BFG also appear to be of that ilk, but lack a bristling vibrancy that Lukas has. When being interviewed, his eyes are centred, his body language never distracted, complete focus. You have his attention, now don’t waste his time or he will show you the meaning of pain.
Getting back to why he only features in fits and bursts, last season he had a troublesome ankle niggle that even Joachim Low acknowledged. This season, he is free from that hindrance but still hasn’t featured prolifically. Only 19 starts this season though? Rotation has come into play to be fair. Rosicky, Santi, The Ox, even Jack has played on the left this season. Tactics are another issue. If we are on the road, maybe against a top half team, we need to keep it tight, Rosicky would offer more coverage and reassurance so our full-backs can do their signature moves of rampaging forward. Even The Ox, now he’s fit. Think back to the Bayern game, I can’t recall 1st or 2nd Leg, but The Ox lost possession, he then proceeded to harass the occupier of the ball for about 50 yards before reclaiming possession triumphantly. Podolski will get you goals. That’s a guarantee. You want anything more, then put someone else in. That’s exactly what Arsene has done. So it would seem we are at an impasse. Obviously Lukas wants to play more, but if we are away from home, or if the opposition has a speedy little trickster on the right then safety is the best policy. If it’s against a team that looks to sit back, then Lukas is your man. He is an excellent option. But he’s an option. He’s never going to be Ozil or Ramsey. They are musts. I’d still rather we keep him though. Like I proffered earlier, he gets goals.
Let’s get things straight though. He IS NOT a STRIKER. He will score, but we’ve tried him central, Germany have tried him central. It just doesn’t work. He prefers the left anyway, let the happy German play there, he looks so happy.
Back to the interview. His answers dictated to my brain that I MUST LISTEN. His voice is direct, much like his shooting. He is also a tad more pertinent in his answering. Thomas was more evading the answers he clearly wanted to say, but Lukas just answers affably. It’s not until you listen back do you realise he’s not really answered the question properly. His English is quite superb really, but it’s his accent that really holds you. It’s in the same mould of Rainier Wolfcastle, the Arnie-a-like in The Simpsons. Not as gruff, but just as hammy. It’s just a joy for your ears to behold.
I’m not going to transcribe this interview like I did with TV5’s. One, it took me too long. Two, it looked boring to read. Three, I can’t be arsed. It’s already half 6 and I’ve got an early night waiting.
The interview started with Poldi being asked what it would mean to end the 9 year wait, zzzzz, insert patronizing Arsenal slur here. Poldi to his credit gave a straightforward answer, also comparing the Cup to the German Cup he won when at Bayern. He realises the importance. He also gave a nod to the Premier League, saying that it’s the biggest competition in the world. He loves it here in blighty, you can tell.
In response to another question, he was quick to dodge the label that the press were so willing to give, in regards to us beating Hull handsomely twice. He batted it back, mentioning the one-off nature and then seamlessly started talking about how the fans are representing the club so strongly with a fantastic number at The Emirates on Saturday. I think I’m falling for you Lukas.
When a journo said that Podolski had mentioned he was unhappy last month, Lukas cut in swiftly and surely with a cracker of a line, “I’m never unhappy, I’m always happy”, alluding to the known fact that he is the joker in the ranks.
He touched on the fact we were top for so long but finishing 4th is Ok, if we win the Cup alongside it, then it will be a good season. That might be twisted a tad there Lukas, maybe cut back on the candid nature!
Once more on the subject of the immense pressure Arsenal are under and the fact we are favourites, Lukas buts in quickly, reiterating the one-off nature comment and saying that there are no underdogs in a Final. Lukas saying the word underdogs is frankly hilarious as well. He did concede that we were favourites though, because we are “the better team”. Some hacks will use this as pool-hall talk, but if you read David Meyler’s interview, then you’ll realise that is a drop in the ocean. Meyler is a bellend that even Alan Pardew couldn’t abide, so make of that what you will.
In response to a question regarding whether the squad work on penalties after the fantastic spot kicks displayed in the Semi (ha!), Lukas simply states that they don’t want it to go that far, they want it finished after 90 minutes. Attaboy.
A few routine questions, nothing of note, aside from Lukas stating that the FA Cup is the biggest Cup in the world and the oldest, which is always nice to hear from a foreigner plying his trade on these shores. A humorous moment then occurs in response to a question as to why he thrives in the FA Cup (he’s scored one less than Giroud in the Cup apparently), his answer was “To score two on Saturday”. I don’t quite think you got that right Lukas, but what a herald it would be if you did. You heard it here first folks, get down to your bookies and put a note on it. He eventually answered with standard footballer answer fare. Good recovery Lukas.
When asked if Matty Fryatt is the dangerman on Saturday for the Tigers, Podolski glibly asks “Who is this?” Everyone, surprised by the frankness in his answer, imagine headlines of ‘Matt Who?’ in the back pages and laughter abounds. Lukas, you are a card my friend.
A couple of questions, some more effortless returns by the German. Some questions in Deutsche follow and we are done. Lukas Podolski, biceps rippling, gets up, says goodbye which startles everyone out of their woolgathering and ambles out. I just wish I had had the balls to pull out Lukas’ signature move, the double-thumbs-up. That would have been a cracking photo opp.